Strong Justice by Jon Land (Review #2)

Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

Strong Justice by Jon LandFifth-generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong is back on a mission to see justice done for Las Mujeres de Juarez, over four hundred dismembered and mutilated women found murdered along the border between Texas and Mexico, in Jon Land’s suspenseful thought-provoking mystery thriller, Strong Justice. In the first book featuring Ranger Caitlin Strong, Strong Enough to Die,Jon Land took a close look at government-sanctioned torture and the degradation of civil rights. Besides the action-filled, tense, page-turning plot of Strong Justice, in which Caitlin also has to go head-to-head with Colonel Montoya, a terrorist determined to bring America to her knees, I like that Jon Land incorporates the news headlines into his novels, like the often ugly and brutal reality of the cruel fates that Mexican women forced into prostitution sometimes face, of young lives cut short way too early and nastily. Strong Justice is that rare type of book that will live with you long after you have finished reading it, and it’s one that both those who love the Western and Mystery genres should heartily embrace.

She teams up in San Antonio with Cort Wesley Masters again, whose wife was murdered in Strong Enough to Die. Caitlin has had a romantic relationship with Cort, despite his criminal past, because he wants to become a better father for his two boys. There’s a tension created by this complication, also, both wondering if they can reignite their relationship, or if violence and guns are the only things that they had in common and that brought them together. They head to the town of Nuevo Laredo to try to find the evil, bald-headed steroid freak Marcerio, whom some call El Demono, a man it’s rumored cannot be killed. Besides being involved with a sex slavery ring, he also might be “the worst serial killer in history,” the person who murdered the Women of Juarez. Maria Lopez, a young woman who’d been forced into prostitution by Marcerio and his men – and whom he will do anything to get back – draws Caitlin Strong a crude map in black marker to Nuevo Laredo and the house she and other women were held at, one with “birds on it big enough to house a lot of people.”

Cort’s older son, fifteen-year-old Dylan Torres, had meet Maria on a day he skipped school. She told him her story, and that Marcerio was still after her. They are spotted by the police, and run for it, but the police catch Dylan and hold him on suspicion of possessing drugs, even though they find none on him. They reason, erroneously, why should he have ran, if drugs weren’t involved. He uses his one phone call to phone Ranger Strong, and she has him released into her recognizance. .

At the time, Cort is in New Orleans, trying to get money he’s owed from Frank Branca, Junior. Cort had done some jobs for Frank Branca, Sr., who’d suffered a stroke and now was wheel chair bound, and Junior doesn’t want to pay Cort what he’s owed. He finally takes it from Junior’s wallet, after saving him in a bloody shoot-out by killing members of a rival gang with Frank Branca, Sr.’s pistols. He believes he needs the money to help prove to social workers, who seem bent on taking his boys away from him, that he can provide for them economically. He and Caitlin have to demonstrate that he is a good father to Dylan and his younger son, Luke, or the social worker in charge of his case will recommend that the boys be placed in foster care.

As if this wasn’t enough for Texas Ranger Strong to deal with, she’s also called out to the small town of Albion, where a man is holding hostages inside a convenience store. He’s killed some of the people already, and no one is sure how many are still alive. Caitlin enters the store through the back, and sees the man with a gun held to the head of a young girl. She can’t get a good shot at him without putting the girl’s life in jeopardy, so she talks to the man, who claims that he had to kill the other people in the store – and his own family, earlier – because they had spiders living and breeding inside them, and he had to stop the spiders from spreading and doing the same thing to others. He asks Caitlin if she can see the spiders all over the shop, on the walls, in their webs, dangling from the ceiling. She goes along with him, and humors him, and rescues the girl, but something tells her that this incident is just the tip of the iceberg of the weird accounts of violence that are occurring in the town of eight thousand.

Billionaire Hollis Tyree has been drilling wells on land he owns in Tunga County, and a whole town has sprung up to satisfy the needs of the men working for him, complete with stores, a doctor, a church, and prostitutes, some of them the same women that came from the house with birds painted on it that Maria mentions to Ranger Strong. His own children disappeared two years previously on a trip to Mexico, and despite his willingness to have paid any ransom anyone responsible might have demanded, no one does demand a ransom, and he now thinks his kids have likely been murdered there. He’s not been drilling for oil, but for water, because he realizes that water in Texas, California, and other Western states is becoming more scarce, and he doesn’t want to see the results to America’s prosperity and way of life if water there suddenly ran out. However, there’s something besides water in the wells he’s having dug, something dangerous that’s getting into Albion’s water supply, twenty miles away…..

Strong Justice is one of the best books I’ve read this year. Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong’s attempts to bring justice to the more than four hundred women raped and murdered along the El Paso/Juarez border is torn from today’s headlines. I’d heard of the Women of Juarez before, and hoped that whomever was responsible for their deaths would some day be caught, and I still hope that one day, that will happen. The story about their plight and the fictional Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong trying to find the man who killed them made for fascinating reading that kept me awake late into the night to read more. It’s a haunting novel, one that combines scenes from the past, 1931, and the events of Caitlin’s grandfather, Texas Ranger Earl Strong’s, fighting to keep Al Capone’s gang out of Sweetwater, Texas, with Caitlin’s struggles to put a stop to a terrible serial killer and terrorists. If you like either Westerns, Thrillers, or both, you owe it to yourselves to pick up a copy of Strong Justice today!

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