Reviews by L. J. Roberts

KEITH McCAFFERTY – The Gray Ghost Murders. Viking, hardcover, February 2013. Penguin, trade paperback, December 2013. PI Novel: Sean Stranahan; 2nd in series. Setting: Contemporary Montana.

KEITH McCAFFERTY The Gray Ghost Murders

First Sentence: The hands shook as the watcher adjusted the focus ring of the binoculars.

   Katie Sparrow’s search and rescue dog doesn’t find a reported lost hiker. Instead, they find a buried body which, when uncovered, was a murder victim. And then they find another.

   Fly-fishing guide, painter and PI Sean Stranahan is hired to find a lost tackle box. The box is also an entry to his being introduced to the members of the Madison River Liars and Fly Tiers Club; a group of men who bought a cabin along the river. It is they who really want to hire Stranahan to find two valuable fishing flies which have been stolen from their cabin. The trail turns very dark as Sean is asked to help the police with the murders while still searching for the flies.

   From the beginning, the author’s love of fly fishing is very apparent. Even if fishing and hunting, are not your style, don’t let that stop you from reading this book for it is the characters that carry the story.

   Stranahan may be described as extremely good looking, but that really doesn’t much play into the character. Yes, women are attracted to him, but he is anything but a womanizer, and how refreshing is that. Not only that, there is no profanity in the book; another nice change.

   And although he knows how to use a gun, he doesn’t own one. If anything, it is Sherriff Martha Ettinger who comes across as the tougher character, except where her love life is concerned. Then, she is classically vulnerable.

   Katie, the dog handler, facilitates moments of humor… “Godfrey, a schoolteacher with a scratch to itch and lay south of his belt buckle and a history of women cutting his fact out of photographs….” What’s nice is that are the characters are clearly drawn and distinct.

   McCafferty provides excellent descriptions which help the reader understand the love of fly fishers and give a desire for traveling to Montana… “Above him was one of those summer skies that people who live in the East can’t believe are real, the light over the Gravelly Range lavender bleeding to pink, the clouds rimmed with golden light from the setting sun and the river a study in pointillism, as wavelets bounced colors back and forth…”

   The plot is interesting and compelling. There are layers and twists enough to keep you going. There is a classic short story, “The Most Dangerous Game,” referenced which, if the reader is familiar with the story, gives a hint of the story’s path, but one isn’t certain quite how it’s going to play in. There are characters one suspects, but enough uncertainty to keep one guessing.

   The Gray Ghost Murders is a very good read. It kept me involved from first page to last.

Rating: Very Good.

      The Sean Stranahan series —

1. The Royal Wulff Murders (2012)
2. The Gray Ghost Murders (2013)
3. Dead Man’s Fancy (2014)