The fourth adventure for geologist Trace Brandon, who seeks a gold-bearing vein in Washington state and may have to thwart a hostile takeover of his mining company in Reneau’s (south of good, 2014, etc.) thriller.
Trace and a few friends go in search of the infamous lost mine in Okanogan County’s War Creek. Many have searched for the mine, originally discovered by a guide in 1882, and some have never come back. Trace receives his share of warnings, including one from an elderly Native American who foresees death. Sure enough, someone murders a claim staker. But trouble also brews elsewhere: inmate Anthony Delucia, who blames Trace for his son’s death, has escaped. Meanwhile, New Orleans Mafia don Peter Pantelli may have a sinister agenda now that he’s a major shareholder in Trace’s Ruby Mining Company. The notable protagonist derives his strength from his well-chosen allies; standouts are Marion Thistlewaite, a “former clandestine operative,” and Trace’s cousin and retired sheriff Hank Orvis, who dares anyone to interrupt his Gunsmoke reruns. Despite the Washington setting, the story boasts a bit of Southern flair: Trace and company ride horses to War Creek, and everyone, it seems, drops the occasional “ain’t.” At times, good guys seem to outnumber bad, but the villains are unquestionably formidable. Delucia tracks Trace, et al., a little too well, while Pantelli isn’t just a financial threat; he’ll also hire backup, like a proficient female assassin, to do his dirtiest work. The abundance of subplots is dizzyingly fun but not befuddling, and the novel has a bit of action, a hint of the supernatural, and a few whopping surprises. Reneau’s writing is unadorned but often playful: when pal Cyrus asks Trace what kind of trouble he’s found, Trace replies with a wry, “The dead kind.”
A rousing tale with a good deal of Southern charm in northern Washington.