Renegade SS officer exacts vengeance on the cop who gave him so much trouble during the war.
Leaving his earlier Twin Cities settings, Thayer (Saint Mudd, 1992, etc.) returns to little Kickapoo Falls, Wisconsin, and to Deputy Pennington, the WWII sniper who starred in Wheat Field (2002). It’s now 1963, and Pennington is running for sheriff—tricky, given that he’s a Catholic in an overwhelmingly Protestant region and also that he drags more than a few rumors behind him—just as a sniper takes out two local residents. The first is a railway engineer, shot in his train from such a distance that sharpshooter Pennington is the prime suspect. Next is the engineer’s wife, a lonely beauty who used to invite Pennington over for canoodling (also tricky, since Pennington has been unable to, well, function since the war). Though he takes his sweet time saying so, Pennington is sure who the shooter is: Colonel Wolfgang Stangl. Your prototypic aristocrat SS sadist, Stangl imprisoned Pennington after he’d been parachuted into Germany to wreak some havoc with his sniper rifle on the critical rail junction of Wolf Pass (his first kill was an engineer on a train), which was under Stangl’s purview. Nobody, of course, believes that an SS killer is really stalking Pennington, especially not his opponent in the sheriff’s race, who’s backed by the Gunn Club and its wealthy German-American—and Nazi-sympathetic—followers. Add to all this the gorgeous female Scotland Yard inspector who shows up to help Pennington, and Pennington’s suspicion that Stangl is leading up to an assassination attempt on President Kennedy, with whom Pennington is soon to attend a Mass in St. Paul. Thayer puts his usual mix of whipcrack pacing and sexual obsession (“It seems like all the women in Kickapoo County had big tits”) to fine use in this local noir.
Well-researched, violent as always: an excellent addition to what’s becoming a promising series of thrillers.