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Strong Vengeance by Jon Land – Review – Douglas R. Cobb
Fifth generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong is back with a vengeance in thriller/mystery author Jon Land’s edge-of-your-seat novel, Strong Vengeance. As in all of Land’s Caitlin Strong novels (Strong Vengeance is the fourth one, after Strong Justice, Strong Enough to Die, and Strong at the Break)the haunting memories and events of the past live on and continue to influence the present. Usually, the past lives on in flashbacks to the time of Caitlin’s grandfather, who she looked up to for his bravery and heroism, and quick thinking and action in the line of duty. She both takes comfort from these memories, and wishes she could be more like both her grandfather and father, in many ways. She blames only herself, though, for any all-too-human failings she might exhibit, as lives are potentially on the line. That’s not so with the past, as it is set in stone, and cannot be changed. But, it can, and often does, effect the present and the future.
In Strong Vengeance, the past of others, unrelated to Caitlin, plays an important role, though her memories–and those of others, like her boss, the Texas Ranger Captain Tepper, about her father and grandfather–are also still there. The events of the year 1821, in the Gulf waters off the coast of Texas, in the prologue sets the stage for the rest of the novel.
The combined actions of the unlikely historical duo, the pirate Jean Lafitte and James Bowie, reverberate down the decades and centuries and are felt even in the present.
Both men are often considered to be heroes at different points in their lives, but both have their more notorious moments, as well, that people sometimes overlook when thinking about them. There’s some evidence that they once worked together, with Bowie aiding and abetting Lafitte’s criminal enterprises. This side of them is focused on in the prologue, when they and Lafitte’s men stop and board a four-masted schooner that’s smuggling slaves and something more, something invaluable that’s just alluded to, but which drives much of the plot of the book. I won’t reveal what it is, but it’s something that men have fought and died for to obtain. The crew of the schooner is slaughtered and the vessel is pillaged and sunk.
Then, we find ourselves in the present. Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong finds herself in the unusual role, for her, of being a surrogate mother for her erstwhile love interest and friend Cort Wesley Master’s two teenage boys, Dylan and Luke. This is because he is in a Mexican prison, literally fighting for his life, as we learn about in sections of the novel that are written from his perspective. He killed a man in a shoot-out in a previous book in the series who had powerful friends, and instead of serving time in an American prison in Texas, he had to be transferred to one of the worst ones in Mexico, in Nuevo Laredo, called Cereso.
These sections of the novel were some of my favorites, as Cort must participate in bare-knuckle fights with some of the baddest men around–and beat them–or be killed, in turn. The only things that keep him going are thinking about Citlin Strong and his two boys, and wanting to survive and get back to them alive. The fighting is described very realistically, and these scenes and others, where Strong engages in armed confrontations with terrorists, are guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat with the suspense that Jon Land creates.
Strong is relieved of her gun temporarily by Tepper, after she prevents a columbine-like disaster and hostage situation from exploding into what could have been a potential massacre. It takes place at the same school that Cort’s boys are enrolled in, so she takes what happens there very personally. She seems to be taking too many risks, and acting too much like a cowboy, in the eyes of some.
However, when she takes Dylan and Luke on a fishing trip in the Gulf with a guide, and they come across a dead man in a life raft who had worked on an oil rig, the generations of Texas Rangers in her and her own stubbornness and guts demand that she investigate the oil rig the Mariah he came from and see if there was anyone left alive there. She boards armed with a .40 caliber Glock that Cort had given Dylan to protect Caitlin and Luke should the need ever arise. The twenty-four dead bodies she discovers there have all been executed, may shot between the eyes. But, she asks herself, why? Why would anyone want to kill everyone aboard that particular oil rig?
Strong Vengeance by Jon Land is an excellent addition to his Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong series of books. It’s a Must-Read if you’re already a fan, and it can be enjoyed as a stand-alone read if you’re completely new to the series. I have had the immense honor of reviewing other books Land has written, and interviewing him on two previous occasions. The interviews appear elsewhere at this site, and are worthwhile reading, if you would like to learn more about Jon Land and his books. This is an action and thrill-packed novel, and I highly recommend it and the other books in the Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong series.