First line: "At the sound, Martha Ettinger glanced from the trail, the brim of her hat rising to uncover the early stars."
Sean Stranahan is a Western renaissance man: a fly fisherman, a painter and—in his spare time—a PI. For Keith McCafferty’s third book in the mystery series bearing Stranahan’s name, Sheriff Ettinger summons the private detective when a young woman disappears in the mountains and the ranch hand that set out to rescue her is found impaled on an elk antler.
Tempers run high when evidence is uncovered pointing to the likelihood a wolf killed and consumed the young woman. Wolf lovers face off against their adversaries, forcing Ettinger and Stranahan to find the truth before all hell breaks loose in the Madison Valley.
McCafferty’s strong sense of place comes through not only in the setting itself, but in the characters. Stranahan notes that while he’s an Easterner by birth, he’s far more comfortable with the Western way of life. “Casual acquaintance came so naturally that he seldom paused to consider that it was anything but ordinary to exchange hellos with a passing fisherman and take the confession of his infidelities a half hour later…”
At times McCafferty seems to try too hard to accurately portray fly-fishing, as the excessive detail slows the momentum and draws attention away from the plot’s focus. However, the strong character and relationship development keep the reader on his plot line long enough to be reeled back in.
The West is a hot setting for mysteries these days but McCafferty has found his own appealing niche with Stranahan and his Madison Valley crew.
Dead Man's Fancy is available in hardcover (ISBN: 9780670014699) from Viking/Penguin. An unabridged audiobook download, narrated by Rick Holmes, is also available from Recorded Books.