February 15, 2016

The Sweetness of Revenge

I struggled to write my review of Astride A Pink Horse, Dr. Robert Greer’s eleventh novel and the fourth outside his CJ Floyd series. Greer uses the conventional detective story to explore the hatred of the United States government for its nuclear weapons policy and the taking of land from ranchers. This made it difficult for me to write the review without spoiling the surprise ending.

In the first chapter, a US postal worker finds the mutilated body of African American ex-Air Force sergeant Thurmond Giles hanging by his heels in the access tunnel of an abandon nuclear missile site in Wyoming called Tango-11. Giles was an expert nuclear missile technician and a womanizer. 

Beautiful OSI (Office of Special Investigations) Air Force Major Bernadette Cameron is assigned to investigate the breach but not the murder. She is the granddaughter of one of the Tuskegee Airmen and the daughter of an Air Force pilot who fought in Vietnam. She was reassigned from duty as an A-10 Warthog pilot to OSI because hay fever grounded her. Having to obey the orders of her ambitious superior officer, Colonel DeWitt, rankles her. He orders her to investigate only the breach at the abandon missile site and leave the murder investigation to the civilian authorities. She, naturally, disobeys because she thinks the two are connected.

Any time there is a beautiful woman in a story, you know there has to be a handsome man to romance her. Detective novels are no different in this respect from other genres. Elgin Delonero (Cozy) Coseia, an investigator reporter for the web-based Digital Registry News, which his friend Frederick Dames owns, is her love interest and together they investigate the murder of Giles. Though their relationship is predictable, they are complex characters whose emotional demons evoke just the right amount of sympathy without being sentimental. 

Trying to stop one of the suspects from exploding a nuclear device on Los Alamos briefly distracts Bernadette and Cozy and the reader from solving the Giles murder. To further complicate their investigation even further, one of the suspects is murdered.

Each of the five suspects, two women and three men, has a reason for wanting Giles dead. Giles was the love’em and leave’em type of womanizer. The question facing the two enterprising investigators is was the motive racial hate, antinuclear protest, jealousy, or the US Government’s taking of land to build nuclear missile bases? One of the men is angry that the US Government took his land in Nevada and another that Giles had an affair with his wife. Two Japanese cousins, a man and a woman, are angry that the government dropped atomic bombs on Japan. The other woman is angry that Giles’s affair with her mother might have caused her mother’s death. The relationship among the suspects and their connections to Giles is more complex than I have suggested. Although he is dead, his presence haunts the plot right up to when one suspect tries to blow up Los Alamos. To say more would be a spoiler. 

Astride A Pink Horse is a well-written novel of revenge.

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