Sean Stranahan is trying to mind his own business, which includes escorting anglers down the Gallatin Valley’s prized trout streams and painting fishing-inspired watercolors. But when two buried bodies are unearthed on Sphinx Mountain, and members of the Madison River Liars and Fly Tiers Club ask him to solve the mystery of two missing – and very valuable – hand-tied flies, he puts his PI skills back to work.
The autopsy reveals that both victims were shot, and each suffered a terminal illness. As Stranahan begins to unravel the connection between the dead bodies, an obscure bullet and a short story by Robert Connell, “The Most Dangerous Game,” the occasional sleuth finds himself stalked, instead of stalking.
Many of the characters who were introduced in Bozeman author Keith McCafferty’s first novel, The Royal Wulff Murders, return for the second installment, including the attractive and irascible sheriff, Martha Ettinger; her part-time boyfriend, Blackfeet tracker Harold Little Feather; and Stanahan’s pal, the foul-mouthed river rat Sam Meslik. One newcomer is the hero’s new squeeze, Martinique, a pre-vet student at Montana State University who pays for her education by working as a sparsely clad barista at Lookers and Lattes.
McCafferty has crafted another fun, fast-paced read that dips into deeper water with its exploration of how a terminal illness can affect a person’s psyche. “When a doctor tells you you have a few months and how it’s going to end, you walk out of the room a changed man. I lost my nerve, I lost my hope, I lost grip of my soul,” says a character, who was on the verge of completing a “terminal arrangement.”
“Think big-city CSI teams have it tough?” writes Kirkus Reviews of the new novel. “Their examinations of crime scenes are hardly ever interrupted by a grizzly bear like the one that sends Deputy Harold Little Feather to the hospital … irresistible.”
McCafferty, who lives in Bozeman, is the Survival and Outdoor Skills Editor of Field and Stream – a vocation that clearly informs his fiction.
– Kristi Niemeyer