Release Date: September 28, 2010
More Info: Amazon The Book Depository
Explosive sabotage and the startling unearthing of a hundred-year-old skeleton on a Nevada ranch thrillingly start off this debut novel in a tail-wagging new series from New York Times bestselling author Rita Mae Brown.
With the ruins of her high-powered Wall Street job now far in the rearview mirror of her rented silver Camaro, thirty-two-year-old Mags Rogers arrives at her great-aunt Jeep’s sprawling Wings Ranch to reassemble her life. In the passenger seat, with his suspicious nose to a cracked window, is Mags’s beloved wirehaired dachshund, the urbane Baxter.
Mags was named for her great-aunt, Magdalena—though everyone calls the spry octogenarian rancher Jeep. From piloting planes in World War II to discovering one of America’s largest gold deposits, Jeep has enjoyed a lifetime jam-packed with love and adventure, and she’s not done yet. At her side—to Baxter’s low-down distress—is Jeep’s loyal German Shepherd mix, King. The growlings are mutual: King sniffs that Baxter is a “fuzzy sausage.”
Meanwhile, someone pipe-bombs Red Rock Valley’s pumping station, endangering the water supply near and far. Deputy Pete Meadows links the sabotage to a string of local murders, but he doesn’t yet know if it’s a corporate plot or twisted eco-terrorism. He’s also called out to Wings Ranch when human bones are dug up in Jeep’s barn; the dead man’s ring identifies him as an elite Russian military officer from the late 1800s, apparently knifed to death. In her search to find out whodunit, Mags uncovers fascinating history about Jeep’s ranch, including an intriguing connection to Buffalo Bill.
Mags and Pete have mysteries to solve, among them why they are so drawn to each other. Baxter and King team up when it comes time to protect their humans. And all the while, Jeep Reed, the sassiest wit in the West, has a bold plan for Red Rock Valley in which they all will play a part.
Over the years, I've read most of Brown's Mrs Murphy mystery series. I'm a cat lover and I enjoy mysteries so the series seemed a natural plus it's set in Virginia. I went to college in Virginia and I have family there so it's familiar and I have a connection to it. I enjoy the series, though it's very formulaic, but it's strictly a library one. I don't like them well enough to spend my own money on them.
So, with all of that in mind, when I saw this book at the library, I picked it up. I assumed it was also a Mrs Murphy book until I read the synopsis on the book flap. It's set in Nevada, and features dogs. I took it home and read it. I kept track of my reading on goodreads and posted this at one point:
"So far enjoyable but it's her Cat series with dogs, set in Nevada instead of Virginia. There's nothing new or different yet."
Sadly, by the time I was done, I didn't feel any differently. There are some differences: Nevada is a very different state from Virginia and it's environment, history and politics are a huge part of the story, almost another character; we don't see any cats :( ; and there's much more politics than I can recall being in her Mrs Murphy books. Brown can never resist the temptation to moralize and preach in her books, and this one was no exception. Honestly, it was that combined with her formulaic stories that caused me slow down on reading her books and wait to to check them out instead instead of requesting them as soon as they were announced.
The mystery in here is good; actually there are two mysteries - a present day one and an historical one. Both are interesting, especially Mags' research in to Cossacks in America and Buffalo Bill. I confess, I didn't figure out who the guilty party was in the present day mystery. I considered him and then rejected him. I was wrong. The two mysteries intersect briefly, but critically, at the end. The end, by the way, felt very abrupt to me. It could have used some detail and some more build up.
The characters are likable though they remind me strongly of the ones in the Mrs Murphy series.The formula is here too - quirky small town characters, emphasis on rural life, rural life is best, a mix of conservative and liberal values, the strong elderly female and the relatives and friends who rely on her, the anthropomorphising of animals, etc. The animal mix is different though. The dogs in the story play a smaller role (though they do find several crucial clues and are vital to the apprehension of the killer) in the overall story. The horses, cows, sheep, coyotes, etc are just your basic background, filler animals, unlike her other books.
So, overall, not bad but nothing special. If you like the Mrs Murphy books, then you will probably like this. Although her website doesn't confirm it, the book flap says it's the beginning of a new series.
I borrowed this book from my public library.