"Strong Darkness" (Forge), by Jon Land

In 1883, Texas Ranger William Ray Strong, assisted by the state's famous "hanging judge," Roy Bean, is on the trail of a serial killer who butchers Chinese railroad workers by cutting off their heads and then sewing them on backward.

As if that weren't disturbing enough, the story flashes forward to the present, where we find Strong's great-granddaughter, Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong, hunting a monster that kills his victims the same way.

That's the starting point for "Strong Darkness," the latest thriller in Jon Land's series featuring Caitlin, a sharpshooting, anti-authoritarian, fifth-generation Texas Ranger with a former South American death squad commander for a best friend and a menacing ex-felon for a boyfriend.

The story jumps back and forth in time, following both murder investigations. Eventually Caitlin discovers the cases are connected in a way likely to take readers by surprise. The connection eventually leads her to a high-tech plot by a vengeful Chinese billionaire whose goal is nothing less than the destruction of the United States.

The case inevitably puts Caitlin and those she loves in danger. Despite a plea from D.W. Tepper, her world-weary commander, who urges her to restrain from shooting too many people this time, Caitlin, her friend and her boyfriend respond with enough gunfire and explosions to win a small land war.

The suspenseful, fast-paced story is great fun — just what readers have come to expect from this rollicking, over-the-top series. And as always in a Caitlin Strong novel, Land works in some fascinating, mostly true Texas Ranger lore along the way.


Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award, is the author of three crime novels, including "Providence Rag."