Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mystery Book Review: On Deadly Ground by Michael Norman

Mysterious Reviews: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller and Crime Novel Reviews, edited by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books


by
A JD Books Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-692-1 (1590586921)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-692-1 (9781590586921)
Publication Date: March 2010
List Price: $24.95

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On Deadly Ground by Michael Norman
Buy On Deadly Ground by Michael Norman

Review: John David "J. D." Books returns to his hometown in Utah as a law enforcement ranger only to be immediately faced with a controversial murder in On Deadly Ground, a stand-alone mystery, or possibly the first in a series, by Michael Norman.

J. D. had served 11 years as a homicide detective in Denver, but was forced to resign after an ill-fated incident. When he was offered a job in Kanab as a ranger for the new Bureau of Law Enforcement, he jumped at the chance. But Kanab is a town in turmoil, a community deeply divided over the politics of land management. The Escalante Environmental Wilderness Alliance (EEWA), led by activist David Greenbriar who wants to save what is left of the land for future generations, is opposed by the Citizens for a Free West (CFW), led by wealthy rancher Neil Eddins who maintains the land should be used to support its citizens. When Greenbriar is found hanging from a barn rafter -- after being shot -- Sheriff Charley Sutter turns to J. D. for help in solving the crime. A prime suspect is quickly identified, Lance Clayburn, a man having an affair with the dead man's wife who also happens to own a rifle identical to the one used to kill Greenbriar. And if that weren't enough, evidence places Clayburn at the scene of the crime. But J. D. isn't convinced. Something simply doesn't add up. He has the support of the sheriff, but for how long? Long enough, he hopes, for him to try to sort out some of the conflicting facts contributing to this case.

On Deadly Ground is a perplexing mystery, but in the good way that draws readers into the investigation surrounding the circumstances of Greenbriar's murder. J. D. is an appealing, solidly developed character with something of a mysterious past himself; one isn't quite sure if he's allowing his past to dictate his present train of thought or not. He's quick to point out there were plenty of other people who may have wanted the EEWA leader dead, including any of the members of the CFW who thought him inflexible in his dealing with them, members of his own EEWA who thought him too lenient in his dealings with the CFW, even his young widow who stands to inherit a large amount of money and land ... none of whom seem to be considered by others to be potential suspects. And why are people so anxious to pin the crime on Clayburn? J. D. has been given a short amount of time to offer an alternative to Clayburn, and this factor helps quicken the pace of the story while ramping up the suspense. On Deadly Ground is a real page-turner, to see if J. D. can out-maneuver the person -- or persons -- unknown who seem to be both manipulating the investigation ... and possibly J. D. himself.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of On Deadly Ground and to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Kanab, Utah is bitterly divided by the politics of land management. When environmentalist David Greenbriar is found dead, County Sheriff, Charley Sutter, seeks help from newly appointed Law Enforcement Ranger, J. D. Books. Books discovers that the victim’s widow has been having an affair with Lance Clayburn. Physical evidence links Clayburn to the killing. Books connects Greenbriar’s murder to a corrupt Kane County Sheriff’s deputy and a Las Vegas business conglomerate with ties to organized crime. Enter Peter Deluca, a very dangerous mob contract killer, who will eliminate anyone who can link him or his employer to Greenbriar’s murder.

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