In Gwen Florio’s third mystery/thriller, foreign correspondent and veteran journalist Lola Wicks, cursed with a reporter’s nose for a good story, cannot help but seek the truth behind a startling series of events that occurs when she takes a detour while embarking on a vacation to Yellowstone Park.
Wicks promises to give a young female soldier, Palomino Jones, returning from Afghanistan, a ride home from the Casper, WY, airport. While at the airport, Lola witnesses the suicide of another returning soldier – and Palomino’s reaction to the event. Reading a newspaper story about a violent act committed by two more of the returning soldiers raises Wicks’ journalist hackles and she quietly decides to unearth the truth about what’s tearing these former buddies apart.
Lola is no stranger to life-threatening situations, but this time it’s more complicated due to the presence of her precocious five-year-old daughter, Margaret, and her faithful dog, Bub.
The story is set in rural central Wyoming, near a reservation, where prejudices and stereotypes die hard. “The landscape’s unwelcome resemblance to that of Afghanistan struck her again. She reminded herself of the differences: The luxury of a smooth paved road, a truck that she could drive without hiring a man to do it for her, and the absence of anyone intent upon killing her. Still, the old tendrils of unease, her constant companion during her years overseas, curled insistently around her spine.”
Each interview with a returning soldier ends with a different story about a mysterious tragedy that killed one of their comrades, a Native American, while on a patrol in Afghanistan. Someone does not want the truth exposed and will go to violent lengths to bury the secret, and maybe Lola with it.
Kirkus Reviews describes Florio’s third novel as “a gut-wrenching mystery/thriller that explores prejudice and the incredible stress on soldiers in a seemingly unending war with no clear goals.”
The Montana-based journalist and novelist has reported from the far reaches of the Middle East to a small town in Wyoming. Her work has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and the Pushcart Prize (for her short fiction); her debut novel, Montana, won a High Plains Book Award and the Pinckley Prize for debut crime fiction. Learn more about the author at gwenflorio.net.
– Judy Shafter