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THE GRAY GHOST MURDERS
by Keith McCafferty
Viking, February 2013
303 pages
$26.95
ISBN: 0670025690


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I was cautiously optimistic as I began this book: optimistic because it was set in Montana, a place that I love, and cautious because it involved fly-fishing, a sport that I know nothing about. My optimism was well rewarded and my caution was entirely unnecessary. McCafferty writes beautifully about Montana, and while there is fly-fishing involved, it didn't overpower the plot.

Sean Stranahan, a transplanted artist, river guide, and tracker, assists Sheriff Martha Ettinger after a search dog indicates a body is buried in the Montana mountains. When another body is found buried not far away and both bodies turn out to have been men diagnosed with fatal illnesses, Ettinger and Stranahan begin to work together to find what appears to be a multiple murderer. At the same time, Stranahan is called upon by a local fly-fishing club to investigate the theft of two highly prized flies. As Stranahan canvases the neighborhood looking for clues in the case of the missing flies, he stumbles upon what could be an essential element of the murder cases.

But are those cases actually murders? A short story about two sick men who decide to die manly deaths by hunting one another has been read by everyone associated with the men's deaths in the mountains. Perhaps the men decided to enact the story in reality. Stranahan uses his tracking skills to find clues to support this theory, and a fly fisherman visiting the area provides crucial evidence.

McCafferty writes equally well about high-intensity moments such as a bear attack as he does about the quiet moments of contemplation while fishing. He has imbued Stranahan with a tough outdoorsman persona, while at the same time allowing the reader to see his insecurity as he takes on a beautiful young lover. Each of McCafferty's characters is an individual, and their interactions are what make the plot work so well. The writing about Montana is evocative, allowing the reader to see the beauty of both the mountains and the streams. The book surprised me, as it turned out to be much more about human nature than about fly fishing. And, at least for this reader, that was a very good thing.

Sharon Mensing is the Head of School of Emerald Mountain School, an independent school in the mountains of Colorado, where she lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, June 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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