Wolves, murder and the disappearance of a gorgeous red-haired guide, Nanika Martinelli, nicknamed the “Fly-fishing Venus,” fuel Keith McCafferty’s third Sean Stranahan novel.
The fishing guide, artist and occasional detective is interrupted from his pursuit of steelhead on the Salmon River by a phone call from Hyalite County Sheriff Martha Ettinger. She’s discovered a dead wrangler on Papoose Mountain, impaled on the antler tine of a trophy elk while trying to track down the missing Venus.
Ettinger has her hands full back in the Madison Valley after wolves are implicated in the young woman’s disappearance, and orders Stranahan to Libby, where he unearths a tragic history. Nanika’s mother drowned years ago when the family’s snowmobile fell through the ice on a Canadian lake, and her father, a government trapper who suffered from asbestos poisoning, had recently “French-kissed his revolver.”
In addition to her fly-fishing guiles, Nanika was involved in a radical animal rights group, the Clan of the Three-Clawed Wolf, and was the favored mistress of its charismatic, red-eyed leader.
Wolf lovers and wolf haters collide, as McCafferty plumbs some of Montana’s hot-button issues in this gripping read. And, like any good painting that emerges from a sketch, the characters in McCafferty’s novels are fleshed out as the series goes on. Sparks continue to flare between unflappable, attractive Sheriff Ettinger and Stranahan; and a soft heart beats within the hairy chest of the burly, hapless angler Sam Meslik (who has Mickey Mouse wielding a fly-rod tattooed on his massive bicep).
“McCafferty knows his country and his characters, who have a comfortable, lived-in feel and yet shine as individuals,” writes Kirkus Reviews. “… McCafferty’s understated prose deserves to be savored.”
In addition to two previous novels, the Bozeman author is survival and outdoor skills editor of Field & Stream, and has written for Fly Fisherman, Mother Earth News and the Chicago Tribune. He shares teaching duties with Danielle Girard at the Get Published Conference for Writes, May 17 at the Best Western GranTree Inn in Bozeman (getpublishedconference.com).
– Kristi Niemeyer