In the sixth novel in the acclaimed Sean Stranahan mystery series, Montana's favorite detective finds himself on the trail of Ernest Hemingway's missing steamer trunk.
“Keith McCafferty is a top-notch, first-rate, can’t-miss novelist.”
—C.J. Box, #1 New York Times bestselling author
When a woman goes missing in a spring snowstorm and is found dead in a bear's den, Sheriff Martha Ettinger reunites with her once-again lover Sean Stranahan to investigate. In a pannier of the dead woman's horse, they find a wallet of old trout flies, the leather engraved with the initials EH. Only a few days before, Patrick Willoughby, the president of the Madison River Liars and Fly Tiers Club, had been approached by a man selling fishing gear that he claimed once belonged to Ernest Hemingway. A coincidence? Sean doesn't think so, and he soon finds himself on the trail of a stolen trunk rumored to contain not only the famous writer's valuable fly fishing gear but priceless pages of unpublished work.
The investigation will take Sean through extraordinary chapters in Hemingway's life. Inspired by a true story, Cold Hearted River is a thrilling adventure, moving from Montana to Michigan, where a woman grapples with the secrets in her heart, to a cabin in Wyoming under the Froze To Death Plateau, and finally to the ruins in Havana, where an old man struggles to complete his life's mission one true sentence at a time.
About the Author
Keith McCafferty is the survival and outdoor skills editor of Field & Stream and the author of the Sean Stranahan mystery series, which includes The Royal Wulff Murders, The Gray Ghost Murders, Dead Man’s Fancy, Crazy Mountain Kiss, which won the 2016 Spur Award for Best Western Contemporary Novel, and Buffalo Jump Blues. Winner of the Traver Award for angling literature, he is a two-time National Magazine Awards finalist. He lives with his wife in Bozeman, Montana.
Read an Excerpt
Copyright ©2017 Keith McCafferty. All Rights Reserved.
I first heard about Ernest Hemingway’s steamer trunk of fishing tackle, the lost treasure chest at the heart of this novel, from his oldest son, Jack. Jack and I were contributing editors for Field & Stream some thirty-odd years ago, and though not close friends, we shared a river from time to time. It was a blustery November day, easy to recall be- cause all November days on British Columbia’s Thompson River are blustery, and we were the only fishermen along a stretch of the river known as the Graveyard, just down the hill from the old white crosses where all the graves face north. On toward dark, Jack hooked a steel- head of fifteen or sixteen pounds, which I landed for him in the tailout after a long fight. We admired this great seafaring trout for a few seconds before releasing it, and celebrated with a thermos cup of hot chocolate into which I laced peppermint schnapps, in honor of my father.
After toasting the fish, I asked Jack if he thought his own father would have liked this kind of fishing—that is, wading on slippery boulders in a river haunted by the dead, casting hour after hour in miserable weather, and considering yourself lucky to hook up once every few days and manage not to drown. He said that Ernest would have enjoyed the challenge, but that he’d lost the heart to fly fish after a steamer trunk containing all his valuable gear was stolen or lost from Railway Express in 1940, en route to Ketchum, Idaho, where he was a guest at the Sun Valley Lodge. In fact, Jack could only remember his father fly fishing once after the loss, in the Big Wood River.
This was an interesting insight into the famous author’s psyche, but at the time I was more interested in casting my own fly rod than the fate of another man’s tackle or the sentiments it evoked.
Years passed, and I had no reason to recall the story until my wife, Gail, persuaded me to set a novel in northwestern Wyoming, where Hemingway stayed at the L Bar T Guest Ranch during five summers and falls in the 1930s, hunting, fishing, and writing. By then Jack had died and I sought to verify the details of his story with Patrick Heming- way, Ernest’s sole surviving son, who lives in my hometown. I spoke with him at a local screening of the PBS American Masters series film Ernest Hemingway: Rivers to the Sea. Patrick was kind enough to indulge my questions and said he recalled the lost trunk, adding that it probably contained best-quality bamboo fly rods and reels ordered from the House of Hardy catalog. Hardy was the premier London maker, and Patrick remembered helping his father convert the prices from pounds sterling to American dollars.
Today, only one piece of Ernest Hemingway’s fly fishing tackle survives in good condition, a Hardy rod in a model called the Fairy that he had with him when he first went to Idaho. It is displayed at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, along with a letter to Field & Stream that Jack wrote about the missing tackle.
As concerns the possibility that the trunk contained Hemingway treasures unrelated to piscatorial pursuits, and perhaps of far greater value, there is one way to find out.
Pour a drink, light a fire, and turn the page. I have a story to tell.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Dollycas’s Thoughts Again the author draws on history for the theme of this story. Apparently Ernest Hemingway was quite the fisherman and had a trunk of tackle go missing when traveling West. When a wallet of fishing flies with EH engraved on it is found near a suspicious death and the president of the Madison River Liars and Fly Tiers Club is contacted about fishing gear said to belong to Hemingway Sean seems to think the events are connected. He is then hired to track down the items rumored to belong to the author. This takes him not only around the Montana/Wyoming area but all the way to Michigan and beyond. All to find the truth. I love these characters, they are very believable and have become like dear friends. Sean and Martha have found their way back to each other which doesn’t make his former girlfriend very happy. I think the relationship may continue to be in flux as they are both very independent people, with Martha being very opinionated and strong willed while Sean seems to go with the flow. I love their dialogue with each other. I am anxious to see their story pan out. The book starts with a heart-wrenching telling of 2 people trapped in a storm that brings a search party out. I was captivated immediately. I really enjoyed this story and the way Mr. McCafferty weaves Hemingway’s history right into this current day story. It takes many twists and turns as each new clue is uncovered. I do love the way this author writes, his laid back style, he is a very descriptive writer. This time I felt we were covering the same places more than once with the same details so it dragged just a little bit for me in places but enough to ever stop reading. I was totally taken by surprise at the ending. Hook, Line, and Sinker, put me in the net. The last twist, priceless. I was right there with Martha as Sean told her what happened. A mystery, some history, drama, and romance makes this an enjoyable escape.
McCafferty has penned another great mystery. The series follows the adventures of Sean Stranahan, an artist/fly fisherman/private detective. This time, the story incorporates Ernest Hemingway into the fold. The author is a wonderful writer, his descriptions (especially of the rivers Stranahan is fishing) make you feel like you are there. The character development, even of the minor ones, is thorough, you are made to feel like you actually know the people. The stories flow very well, and I especially appreciate that McCafferty manages to wrap up all the loose ends in his books, and doesn't leave you hanging at the end. The only complaint I can make about this book is that the main character, after several books, is getting a bit stale. The eventual seduction of every interesting woman he meets is cliche, almost like the author wants him to be James Bond. Other than that observation, the book is very good. Cold Hearted River is the latest in the series, but it could be read as a stand-alone book. I received an advance copy of this book from "First To Read" in exchange for a fair review.