Strong as Steel

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There are many secrets buried in the desert. One has just been unearthed after more than 20 years, and it could put countless lives in jeopardy.

Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong finds herself on the case when a massacre occurs at a covert intelligence and data-mining site on the payroll of shadowy government agent Jones. Caitlin is no stranger to Jones’s clandestine machinations, but this time around, he isn’t the only one with secrets for Caitlin to unravel. Her father, Texas Ranger Jim Strong, is connected not only to that unearthed mystery in the desert but to a deadly Mexican crimelord known as the Red Widow.

With plots afoot in both Mexico and the US, as well as a legendary Mexican assassin and a sinister group of religious zealots manipulating events behind the scenes, even the formidable trio of Caitlin Strong, gunman Cort Wesley Masters, and the imposing weapon-toting philosopher Colonel Guillermo Paz might not be enough to prevent a cataclysm unlike anything they’ve seen before.

Nine installments deep, Land is still pulling out all the stops, and Strong as Steel is one of the best entries in the series yet. The mix of personal vendettas and moral crusades at work in this labyrinthine mystery give it an unexpected punch; rather than some James Bondian mastermind plotting doom for the world, the antagonists and rogue agents in this novel feel far more realistic, driven by self-interest, deep-seated grudges, and motives that span generations.

Of course, Land can’t resist throwing a touch of world-threatening danger into the mix, but as MacGuffins go, the one in this novel is easily the most fascinating he’s ever concocted. Various people want it for various reasons, and that makes all of them very, very dangerous.

But the author also knows how to put new spins on some of his favorite storytelling tropes. Although the flashback scenes in this story only date back to the ’90s (rather than decades earlier, as usual), this allows him to intertwine the two narratives more tightly, sneaking surprising revelations into his patented parallel storytelling.

Caitlin’s reactions to some of those plot twists are unexpectedly hard-headed, even for a stern character like herself, which makes me curious if this is her already hardened exterior growing further armor, or if she will soften somewhat in the future. Either way, I want to know more.

And that goes double for developments with her partner and love interest, Cort Wesley Masters. Although Caitlin remains the centerpiece of the series, this installment was completely stolen by Cort Wesley’s storyline. As a man struggling with both mortality and legitimate concerns regarding his sons after several years of harrowing encounters with the criminal element, the outlaw-turned-hero has never felt more intriguing or more human than he does here. A character in danger of growing stale (or worse, not growing at all) is instead revitalized simply by the author cleverly acknowledging the passage of time and the weight of all those previous adventures.

Strong as Steel not only delivers all of the exciting gunfights, twisty mysteries, and engrossing storytelling you’ve come to expect from Strong and Land, but also builds on all that promise with personal angles, treacherous new characters, and a willingness to break his own rules.

When Caitlin Strong hits the road once more, make sure to be right there alongside her.

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Star Count 4.5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 336 pages
Publisher Forge
Publish Date 2019-04-23
ISBN 9780765384676 Buy this Book
Issue May 2019
Category Mystery, Crime, Thriller


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