A rescue attempt gone wrong teams up a Montana sheriff and a part-time private eye.
Martha Ettinger, sheriff of Hyalite County, is searching for the employee of a local dude ranch when she discovers a member of her rescue party draped over an elk carcass and impaled on one of the antlers. The distraction of the man’s death brings Ettinger no closer to finding the ranch hand, Nanika Martinelli, the Fly Fishing Venus, who’s famous for her coppery hair and her affinity with wolves. Emerging from his tepee to help out with the case, Sean Stranahan—fishing guide, artist and detective—gets shot at when he investigates Nanika’s abandoned home. Even after a long red hair found in wolf scat suggests that a wolf ate Nanika, her sister Nadina, also known as Asena after the legendary blue-furred wolf, hires Stranahan to keep investigating. A biker calling himself Amorak, a woman with orange eyes, a cult centered on a three-toed wolf and another murder lead the tough, laconic Ettinger and the enigmatic Eastern transplant Stranahan on a twisty path toward resolution. The leads’ circumspect dance around each other is only one of the many satisfying elements in Stranahan’s third case.
McCafferty (The Gray Ghost Murders, 2013, etc.) knows his country and his characters, who have a comfortable, lived-in feel and yet shine as individuals. Although the plot takes its own time to unfold, it doesn’t drag; McCafferty’s understated prose deserves to be savored.