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by Shannon Baker
Forge, October 2017
300 pages
ISBN: 0765385473

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

While she's still a rancher at heart, in the second in the series Kate Fox has just been elected sheriff after opposing her husband. She longs for the peace and quiet of a secluded life on the ranch, but what she encounters in her first days on the job in law enforcement are anything but solitary or tranquil. As she is leaving her swearing-in, she is called to the train tracks where a man has been killed. While others seem to want a quick resolution of the "accident," a little investigating on Kate's part makes it clear that it was murder. Baker's writing about the cold Kate encounters on this night and throughout the Nebraska investigation will make any reader build the fire high as the pages fly by.

The characterization (especially Kate's) is outstanding. After divorcing her two-timing husband, the previous sheriff, Kate is living at her parents' house where most of the very large Fox clan congregates. She is still grieving her lost marriage, and while the reader feels her pain, she keeps it professional at work. She doesn't accept easy answers either in her work or in her personal life, though she does allow her intuition to lead her in both. The tiny bit of romance that Baker includes in the book allows us to see Kate not only as sheriff but also as a woman. The other characters are less well developed, but they ring true and their characters add to the resolution.

In the first book in the series, STRIPPED BARE, Baker gave us a detailed depiction of life on a ranch. In this book, she switches settings to provide an equally thorough description of the railroads. While the plot screams toward closure, we find ourselves learning a great deal about the workings of railroad transportation. Because Kate's father has worked for the BNSF for decades, Kate has more railroad background and better connections than the average Nebraskan sheriff, and these combine with her deep roots in the community to provide her with essential insights into the scheme at the center of the plot.

By the end of the book, I found myself emotionally wrung out and physically exhausted. Though I'd simply been sitting and reading, I felt as though I had run a marathon thanks to the intensity of the last hundred pages. The cold, the danger, the suspense…it all wore me out. But Baker manages to bring all the pieces together in a very satisfying manner both in the investigation and in Kate's personal life. Having created two very different but fully realized environments for Kate, Baker has her work cut out for herself in book #3. She has shown herself to be up to the task, however, so I will be anxiously awaiting the new installment.

§ Sharon Mensing, retired educational leader, lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors in rural Wyoming.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, November 2017

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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