The thing that makes Jon Land’s latest Caitlin Strong novel so effective is by the mere plausibility of the events depicted within its pages. What Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong is up against within this fictional setting could be a deadly foretelling of possible terrorist acts upon U.S. soil.
In the wake of 9/11, there have been numerous attempted terrorist attacks against the United States --- both reported and unreported. This has provided much fodder for thriller writers like Land to create terrifying scenarios that frighten readers due to the mere fact that the events described are all entirely possible.
"STRONG VENGEANCE grabs you by the throat and never lets up. The characters are all complex and interesting, and the plot never ceases to keep readers on their toes."
STRONG VENGEANCE opens with a bit of history. The year is 1820 and the location is the gulf waters off the coast of Texas. A ship named Mother Mary is hijacked by a group of pirates that include the infamous Jean Lafitte, and they are accompanied by none other than legendary American Jim Bowie. The goal, of course, is a treasure trove of diamonds that the Mother Mary is carrying. It is the theft of this treasure and its alleged resting place that creates the central point of this novel, and Land continues to step back into the past regarding a murderous act committed because of Lafitte’s treasure.
Strong is a highly original character with far more courage than most of her colleagues. While on temporary desk duty, she is called into action when the bodies of two-dozen oil rig workers are found murdered within the body of their rig. The location of the rig reveals two things --- it may be over the site of the sunken Mother Mary and could possibly lead to the legendary treasure of Jean Lafitte. There are also numerous barrels of oil that appear to be carrying something that looks like waste material. What is actually in these barrels, and why were all these men killed to keep that fact a secret?
A parallel narrative involves a high-ranking member of al-Qaeda who has aligned himself with some U.S. residents of Muslim persuasion who are easily molded into a deadly group of home-grown terrorists. These men have a deadly agenda that would cause far more death and destruction on U.S. soil than the infamous events of 9/11.
Strong and her team leader, Tepper, join forces with her husband, Cort Wesley, who was recently rescued from a Mexican prison by a killing machine rebel named Paz. Paz is working with a group of ex-Special Forces who are now operating domestically under the banner of Homeland Security. They have been watching every mosque and suspected terrorist cell since the 9/11 attacks and are well aware that something big is being plotted.
Add into the mix the legend of Lafitte’s treasure, and STRONG VENGEANCE continuously jumps between a terrorist action tale and top-notch historical fiction. It turns out that a very young Tepper, under the guidance of Caitlin’s father and grandfather, worked a decades-old case involving the brutal murder of five college students who may have found the way to Lafitte’s treasure. Land brilliantly ties in this cold case with the current events that are unfolding in a fashion that will leave readers breathless.
When Strong and company are seriously let down by the allies they thought they had with Homeland Security, they recognize that there is more than one hidden agenda at play. It may be down to her and a few people she can trust to stop a terrorist plot that could kill a mammoth number of Americans. STRONG VENGEANCE grabs you by the throat and never lets up. The characters are all complex and interesting, and the plot never ceases to keep readers on their toes. I can rest easier in the hopes that heroes like Caitlin Strong are out there fighting the good fight to keep us safe and sound.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on July 20, 2012