Strong at the Break
Jon Land

Tom Doherty Associates
Hardcover/352 pages
ISBN: 978-0765323378
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Using current topics to good effect, a new Caitlin emerges.

A fourteen-year-old Caitlin Strong and her father, Texas Range Jim Strong, are supposed to be going fishing when Jim Strong confronts a fugitive cult leader and guns him down. Caitlin and Malcolm Arno, the reverend’s son, are changed that day and the reckoning is at hand.

Working several different cases, Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong finds herself in the midst of a conspiracy that reaches to Canada, Iraq and Mexico and a young army medic whose legs were blown off in Iraq believes the army tried to kill him. With Cort Wesley Masters’ son Dylan in the midst of a child slave ring based in Mexico, Caitlin begins to believe all the events are linked and lead back to a Civil War brewing with Malcolm Arno in the lead. Time is running out to find Dylan and stop a war that will tear the country apart.

Jon Land returns with a new Caitlin Strong thriller in Strong at the Break. Using current events and the political unrest at the heart of America’s discontent, drug and child slave trafficking, and money stolen from Iraq’s reconstruction, Land creates a plausible situation and throws Caitlin, Cort Wesley Masters and Colonel Guillermo Paz into the midst of a meat grinder with serious personal, national and international implications. What is so surprising is that Land pulls it off believably and without exhibiting too much prejudice and authorial intrusion.

One-time enforcer, Colonel Guillermo Paz, doesn’t have as much to do this time around, but, when he does, his intervention is timely as well as ruthless, and congruent with his new ideology. There is, however, a separation of strategies between how Caitlin and Cort Wesley handle the situation and Caitlin emerges as the more mature and cool-headed of the pair. There is still considerable chemistry between the two, but Caitlin seems to come to grips with her past and rises above it, reaching a new level. When she has to deal out justice, she does so with dispatch. She also shows that she is a complex and intelligent woman who can keep a cool head in a crisis.

There is as much blood and gun play as in previous books, but Land gives his characters more latitude and space to maneuver and choose a different course. The characters are gritty and memorable and the action sequences are rapid-fire quick. Caitlin and her father’s history are neatly intertwined in the story and taking out a single element would make the story unworkable.

One character was a surprise in the way he emerged from the shadows, and working him into the story obviously provided a challenge, but ultimately he becomes the final piece in an intricate puzzle that gives Strong at the Break a satisfying ending.

Caitlin and Cort Wesley are gunfighters and no doubt about it. This time, Caitlin uses her head as effectively as she uses her guns.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell