“Striking Range”, “Object Lessons” and more
Regional interest books for September:
“Striking range” by Margaret Mizushima (Crooked Lane)
Things were a bit risky at the end of Margaret Mizushima’s latest Timber Creek K-9 mystery. Raised by an adoptive mother, Detective Mattie Cobb had discovered his long-lost family. But her mother was still in hiding for witnessing her husband’s murder. Now the evil killer is in jail. The day Mattie and California detective Jim Hauck are scheduled to question him, the man is murdered. The only clue to what’s going on is a map of the Timber Creek area in Colorado marked with an X.
Detectives begin their research, only for Mattie to withdraw the case to investigate the mysterious death of a young woman. The day before, when the victim presented to the veterinary clinic of Mattie’s boyfriend, Cole Walker, she was pregnant. Since then, the woman had apparently given birth, but there is no sign of a baby near the woman’s corpse.
Find the baby, and she will find the killer, Mattie thinks. She leaves with her K-9, Robo, in bad weather looking. Meanwhile, Cole disappears and Mattie begins to suspect that there is a connection between the murder of the young woman and the death in prison of her father’s killer.
“Strike Range” is # 7 in the Timber Creek series from Mizushima. We’ve seen Mattie go from an uncertain rookie to a confident detective, and her life shift from loneliness to love. Mizushima, who works with her husband at a veterinary clinic in Colorado, is an animal expert, as evidenced by her lengthy description of the birth of seven German Shepherd puppies.
Readers have come to love Robo as much as Mattie and will be delighted, if not surprised, at the end of the book.
“Lessons of things” by Stephanie Kane (Cold Hard Press)
Trust Lily Sparks to get you involved in big problems. Denver author’s detective Stephanie Kane has left the Denver Art Museum to work as a private art curator. She’s trying to restore a painting she knows to be a fake. But she’s more involved in three murder scene dioramas created by Adam and Eve Castle that are used to train detectives. The scenes look eerily like three Denver murders. It’s as if the killings were inspired by dioramas.
The police, of course, dismiss Lily’s suspicions. And at first, Lily’s boyfriend, Paul, an FBI agent turned lawyer, doesn’t take her seriously. He pushes Lily to find a house so that they can leave her small condo. By the time he returns, will it be too late?
Lily teams up with an expert in unorthodox art to find the killer. Is there a connection between the victims, or is it possible that they were murdered for their way of life?
“Object Lessons” is the third in Kane’s successful Lily Sparks series, and the best to date. Denver residents will appreciate Kane’s many references to restaurants and local neighborhoods, and readers in general will be engrossed in this intricately written mystery with all of its twists and turns. Kane returns with a thriller that is a pleasure to read.
“Bound by steel and stone” by J. Bradford Bowers (University Press of Colorado)
The Colorado-Kansas Railroad was designed as an ambitious project to connect Cañon City to Garden City, Kan. However, after laying less than 2 miles of track, it went bankrupt and was resurrected as a short line connecting Pueblo to Stone City, 22 miles one way. It was carrying stone and clay and a few passengers.
The Colorado Railroad has always been on the verge of bankruptcy, but it lasted 45 years, finally succumbing in 1957. And her survival for the last 17 years was due to a woman, a rarity in the days of the male dominated railways.
J. Bradford Bowers, a professor of Pueblo history, writes a detailed account of the long forgotten railroad, played out against the turbulent days of the American railroad in general. The short track was one of hundreds of small rail lines that connected remote places with main lines. The Colorado Railroad struggled for most of its existence as it faced a myriad of issues: lack of money, poor maintenance, and loss of business. The stone quarry closed, eliminating the rationale for the line, and the growing popularity of automobiles reduced passenger traffic.
In the end, it became the little railroad that couldn’t.
“Ranch without cowboys” by James R. Davis (Sunstone Press)
Kansas farmer Molly O’Reilly accepts a summer job at a bison ranch in Colorado. She arrives with a secret: she was raped by a farm worker and is pregnant. When Molly’s condition becomes evident, she is taken care of by the women at the research center and gives birth to a daughter in her cabin.
Molly stays at the ranch all winter, unable to decide her future. Eventually, she takes the advice of the ranch owner as well as that of Carlos, a local man who has fallen in love with her, to return to Kansas. Her father threw her out when he found out about the pregnancy, and Molly wants to face him. But when she arrives, her daughter in tow, she discovers that her father is dead. The mother and daughter scenes on family secrets are some of the best in the book.
“Ranch Without Cowboys” is the story of a young woman who slowly builds the confidence to face both the past and the future.
“Where do weeds grow”, by Curt Melliger (Ozark Mountain Press)
At the beginning of this book, Colorado author Curt Melliger writes: “Wilderness is everywhere… Wilderness is essential. Indeed, it is the essence the source, the reason of life.
Melliger loves sunsets and mountain peaks, wildfires, meadows and a hippie hotel in San Francisco, “the millions and one shows, miracles and phenomena produced in this singular, Eden-like fantasy world” . He loves weeds because they “are constant reminders that man is not the master of creation.” He even likes arid landscapes, because “Maybe Mother Nature is the prettiest when you find so little.” “
The “Where the Weeds Grow” essays are an ode to the wild. Melliger finds inspiration everywhere: a head-on collision on a freeway that didn’t happen and the fall across a rotten bridge into a canyon that did.
Melliger’s essays on the wilderness are heartfelt and beautifully written, a tribute to the wilderness around us – if you can find it.
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