Triple Play: Firestorm, Moscow Rules and Shadows Reel

I’m going to quickly blow through a few contemporary mysteries – this type of book is my catnip and I read a lot of them.

by Nevada Barr
Rating: ★★★★
Series: Anna Pigeon #4
Publication Date: January 1, 1996
Genre: crime, mystery
Pages: 310
ReRead?: No
Project: a century of women

A raging forest fire in California's Lassen Volcanic National Park traps exhausted firefighters, including Ranger Anna Pigeon, in its midst. Afterward, Anna finds two from her group have been killed. One a victim of the flames. The other, stabbed through the heart. Now, as a rampaging winter storm descends, cutting the survivors off from civilization, Anna must uncover the murderer in their midst.

Firestorm is book 4 in the Anna Pigeon series. Anna works for the National Park Service as a law enforcement officer, and each book is set in a different National Park. This element is my favorite part of the series – one of my retirement goals is to visit every single National Park in the U.S., so getting the little vignettes is fun.

This one was set in the Lassen Volcanic National Park in California, and the book is set within and then in the immediate aftermath of a wildfire that has resulted in one of the firefighters being killed. Anna is trapped in a closed circle with a group of fellow survivors, one of whom is the killer. It kept me interested to the very last page.

Moscow RulesMoscow Rules
by Daniel Silva
Rating: ★★★★
Series: Gabriel Allon #8
Publication Date: July 22, 2008
Genre: suspense, thriller
Pages: 433
ReRead?: No

Now the death of a journalist leads Allon to Russia, where he finds that, in terms of spycraft, even he has something to learn. He’s playing by Moscow rules now.
It is not the grim, gray Moscow of Soviet times but a new Moscow, awash in oil wealth and choked with bulletproof Bentleys. A Moscow where power resides once more behind the walls of the Kremlin and where critics of the ruling class are ruthlessly silenced. A Moscow where a new generation of Stalinists is plotting to reclaim an empire lost and to challenge the global dominance of its old enemy, the United States.

One such man is Ivan Kharkov, a former KGB colonel who built a global investment empire on the rubble of the Soviet Union. Hidden within that empire, however, is a more lucrative and deadly business. Kharkov is an arms dealer—and he is about to deliver Russia’s most sophisticated weapons to al-Qaeda. Unless Allon can learn the time and place of the delivery, the world will see the deadliest terror attacks since 9/11—and the clock is ticking fast.

I cut my reading teeth on cold war spy fic – Len Deighton, Robert Ludlum, etc – so sometimes only a spy novel will do. This is book 8 in Silva’s series centering on Gabriel Allon, Israeli super-spy. In this one, Allon spends time in Moscow, but not the cold war Moscow of my memory (Gen X here – I grew up during the Cold War). It ended up being a particularly timely read since Russia has resumed their historical place as the West’s greatest enemy by invading the sovereign nation of Ukraine.

Shadows ReelShadows Reel
by C.J. Box
Rating: ★★★★
Series: Joe Pickett #22
Publication Date: March 8, 2022
Genre: crime, mystery
Pages: 384
ReRead?: No

Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett’s job has many times put his wife and daughters in harm’s way. Now the tables turn as his wife discovers something that puts the Pickett family in a killer’s crosshairs in this thrilling new novel in the bestselling series.

A day before the three Pickett girls come home for Thanksgiving, Marybeth Pickett finds an unmarked package at the front door of the library where she works. When she opens the package she finds a photo album that belonged to an infamous Nazi official. Who left it there? And why did they leave it with her?

She learns that during World War II several Wyoming soldiers were in the group that fought to Hitler’s Eagles Nest retreat in the Alps—and one of them took Hitler’s personal photo album. Did another take this one and keep it all these years? When she finds the name of a deceased local man who was likely in the unit, Joe visits the man’s son—only to find him brutally tortured and murdered. Someone is after the photo album—but why? And when a close neighbor is murdered, Joe and Marybeth face a new question: How will they figure out the book’s mystery before someone hurts them…or their girls?

Meanwhile, Nate Romanowski is on the hunt for a younger and more ruthless version of himself—the man who stole Nate’s falcons and attacked his wife. Using a network of fellow falconers, Nate tracks the man from one city to another, learning that his target is an agitator and a financier of anarchists. Even as he grasps the true threat his quarry presents, Nate swoops in for the kill—and a stunning final showdown.

The Joe Pickett books aren’t just catnip to me – they are really more like creamy, chocolate covered crack. This is book 22, and was released last Tuesday. I read it in one sitting on Saturday. Because we are 22 books into a series that is set in a location that contains approximately 22 residents – Twelve Sleep County, Wyoming – Box has increasingly imported his mysteries from outside of Saddlestring.

What that means is that the mysteries have become more and more implausible. But, who cares. I am wildly entertained when I read a Joe Pickett. I know exactly what I am getting: Joe, will be uncorruptible, Marybeth, will be smart and supportive, Nate Romanowski will rip someone’s ear off, and, at some point, Joe’s state vehicle is going to get blown up. This one was true to the formula, and even though the story was, as always, bonkers, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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