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Strong to the Bone: A Caitlin Strong Novel

Review

Strong to the Bone: A Caitlin Strong Novel

Over the course of eight prior books, Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong has been put through the ringer. It seems with each successive installment in this stellar series by Jon Land that the suspense, thrills and (most importantly) social relevance is ramped up several notches. Land has a lot of balls in the air right now as he is engaged in a new series with author Heather Graham, as well as taking over the Murder, She Wrote series from the recently deceased Donald Bain. I am proud to say that none of this diminishes STRONG TO THE BONE.

In each Caitlin Strong novel, readers are treated to flashbacks to her grandfather, Texas Ranger Earl Strong. In this latest go-around, we are transported back and forth between the year 1944 and the present day.

For any living soldier who fought in World War II, the indelible memories, horrors and triumphs remain with them to this very day. Much is the same for any of the survivors of the Jewish concentration camps. The horrors those millions of people had to endure, many paying the ultimate price with their lives, still seem to be fresh in the minds of any survivor or their families. The Jewish faith is one based strongly on remembrance, never forgetting and tradition. This is why the events that transpire within the pages of STRONG TO THE BONE are so powerful.

Just this very year, we have witnessed the violence incurred during a white supremacist rally within U.S. borders. At the same time, threats of more Nazi groups have become prominent across Europe. Caitlin is faced with a very real threat with ties to these dangerous people. Along with her concerns, we are able to witness what Earl went through in 1944 when he investigates a triple murder that took place within a Nazi POW camp in Texas.

"Land takes a huge risk with his lead character, and it pays off. He allows her to be vulnerable, which is a risky proposition for a woman who embodies her surname."

One of my favorite cable series airing right now is “Berlin Station” on EPIX. The current season, set in Berlin, Germany, sees the assassination of a German female political candidate who is calling for a change back to the way things used to be in Germany. Many people are able to read between the lines, with great trepidation, and recognize the signs of another Adolf Hitler potentially rising to power. Hate never seems to die. This is at the center of STRONG TO THE BONE when readers realize that Caitlin's case may be tied to the same criminal her grandfather was unable to bring to justice decades earlier.

Earl's case involves a Nazi, Gunther Haut, and begins with the discovery of several bodies slaughtered in a way you typically would find inside a prison. Caitlin finds herself in a situation involving the American Nazi Party or the Aryan Nation and an extremely powerful individual named Armand Fisker. At the same time, she is thrown a rape case to look into.  Normally this would not be a big deal, but the forensics that come back from the victim's rape kit reveal that the perpetrator may be the same individual who raped her 18 years earlier.

While Caitlin is dealing with that, ironically, her partner-in-crime, Cort Wesley, is knee-deep in a situation involving his son, Dylan, who seems to be a magnet for trouble. Unfortunately, he gets on the wrong side of some bad guys who come after him. With Cort and series regular Guillermo Paz involved, Dylan has the best protection available. Things turn wild, though, when the young men who have it in for Dylan come at him with some super-powered weaponry. Among those killed in the fray is Fisker’s son.

Meanwhile, Fisker, who is running an army of gangs that would put “Sons of Anarchy” to shame, is attempting the biggest move of his criminal career. He is working with a hedge fund manager, David Skoll, who may have synthesized a super drug that will more than handle the demand for street-grade painkillers --- a drug that is the biological equivalent of the Manhattan Project.

Some of the best scenes in STRONG TO THE BONE involve Earl Strong and J. Edgar Hoover. Seeing a giant historical figure like Hoover interacting with the fictional Ranger is a sight to see and fully enjoy. Caitlin learns bits and pieces of the encounter her grandfather had at the same time the heat is turned up for her and her colleagues. When she is put on “leave” from the Texas Rangers, she begins operating with a form of abandon the restraints of law enforcement cannot rein in. Land, however, has some whoppers in the revelation department in both the Earl and Caitlin timelines that will leave readers with their jaws agape. Prepare to ride that horse straight through the high-caliber finale.

Land takes a huge risk with his lead character, and it pays off. He allows her to be vulnerable, which is a risky proposition for a woman who embodies her surname. A great Bob Marley lyric is used at the beginning of the novel, and it speaks directly to our heroine: "You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.”

Caitlin Strong is able to rise above nearly every situation, including the seemingly dauntless task she faces in STRONG TO THE BONE. She represents the Texas Rangers, the US and the best of the people she is sworn to protect. She is us, and we cannot fault her for being human. Besides, who else do you want on your side in a battle than the baddest female Texas Ranger on the planet?

Reviewed by Ray Palen on December 7, 2017

Strong to the Bone: A Caitlin Strong Novel
by Jon Land

  • Publication Date: August 28, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books
  • ISBN-10: 0765384655
  • ISBN-13: 9780765384652