Texas ranger Caitlin Strong is involved in an international plot rooted in secrets from the Cold War in Strong Light of Day, the seventh installment of Jon Land's New York Times bestselling Caitlin Strong series
Caitlin Strong is a fifth generation Texas Ranger as quick with her wits as she is with her gun. Over the years she's taken on all manner of criminals and miscreants, thwarting the plans of villains to do vast damage to the country and state she loves. But none of that has prepared Caitlin for an investigation that pits her against ruthless billionaire oilman Calum Dane, whose genetically engineered pesticide may have poisoned a large swath of the state.
How that poisoning is connected to the disappearance of thirty high school students from a Houston prep school, including the son of her outlaw lover Cort Wesley Masters, presents Caitlin with the greatest and most desperate challenge of her career. As if that wasn't enough, she also has to deal with a crazed rancher whose entire herd of cattle has been picked clean to the bone by something science can't explain.
The common denominator between these apparently disparate events is a new and deadly enemy capable of destroying the US economy and killing millions, a foe it will take far more than bullets to bring down. There's yet another player in the deadly game Caitlin finds herself playing: Russian extremists prepared to seize an opportunity to win a war they never stopped fighting.
Caitlin's race to save the United States weaves through the present and the past, confronting her and Cort Wesley with the most powerful and dangerous enemies they've ever faced, human and otherwise. The Cold War hasn't just heated up; it's boiling over under the spill of a strong light only Caitlin can extinguish before it's too late.
About the Author
JON LAND is the USA Today bestselling author of more than thirty-five novels, including Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, Strong at the Break, Strong Vengeance, Strong Rain Falling (winner of the 2014 International Book Award and 2013 USA Best Book Award for Mystery-Suspense), and Strong Darkness (winner of the 2014 USA Books Best Book Award and the 2015 International Book Award for Thriller). He's a 1979 graduate of Brown University, lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
Read an Excerpt
Strong Light of Day
A Caitlin Strong Novel
By Jon Land
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2015 Jon Land
All rights reserved.
Zavala County, Texas
Caitlin Strong stopped her SUV at the checkpoint on Route 83 heading toward Crystal City. The sheriff's deputy approaching her vehicle seemed to recognize her as soon as she slid down her window, well before he could see her Texas Ranger badge. He was an older man, long and lean, with legs crimped inward from too much side-to-side stress on his knees while riding horses.
"You got no call to be here, Ranger," the deputy said, having clearly been warned to expect her, his light complexion a rosy pink shade from the sun and heat.
"You mean driving on a public highway, Deputy?"
"I mean heading into the shit storm that's unfolding a few miles down it." He had brownish-purple blotches on the exposed flesh of his right forearm, the kind of marks that cry out for a dermatologist's attention. Then she noticed the bandages swathed in patches on his other arm and realized they were probably already getting it. "We got enough problems without you sticking your nose in," the deputy continued. "Wherever you go, bullets seem to follow, and the last thing we need is a shooting war."
"You think that's what I came here for?"
The deputy folded his arms in front of his chest so the untreated one stuck out, the dark blotches seeming to widen as his forearm muscles tightened. "I think you've got no idea how Christoph Russell Ilg will react when a Texas Ranger shows up. You don't know these parts, Caitlin Strong, and no stranger known for her gun is gonna solve this problem the sheriff's department has already got under control."
"Under control," Caitlin repeated. "Is that what you call an armed standoff between sheriff's deputies, the highway patrol, and that militia backing Ilg? I heard they've been pouring in from as far away as Idaho. Might as well post a sign off the highway that reads, 'Whack jobs, next exit.'"
"If the highway patrol had just left this to the sheriff's department," the deputy groused, face wrinkling as if he'd swallowed something sour, "those militia men never would've had call to show up. We had the situation contained."
"Was that before or after a rancher started defying the entire federal government?" Caitlin asked him, unable to help herself.
"The goddamn federal government can kiss my ass. This here's Texas, and this here's a local problem. A Zavala County problem that's got no need for the Texas Rangers."
The deputy tilted his stare toward the ground, as if ready to spit some tobacco he wasn't currently chewing. Then he hitched up his gaze along with his shoulders and planted his hands on his hips, just standing there as if this was an extension of the standoff down the road.
"You should wear long sleeves," Caitlin told him.
"Not in this heat."
She let him see her focus trained on the dark blotches dotting his arm. The breeze picked up and blew her wavy black hair over her face. Caitlin brushed it aside, feeling the light sheen of the sunscreen she'd slathered on before setting out from San Antonio. She'd taken to using more of it lately, even though the dark tones that came courtesy of a Mexican grandmother she'd never met made her tan instead of burn.
"Better hot than dead, Deputy," she told the man at her window. "You need me to tell you the rate of skin cancer in these parts?"
He let his arms dangle stiff by his sides. "You really do have a nasty habit of messing in other's people business."
"You mean trying to keep them alive, sometimes from falling victim to their own stubbornness."
"Who we talking about here, Ranger?"
"Christoph Russell Ilg. Who else would we be talking about?"CHAPTER 2
Zavala County, Texas
Caitlin reflected on what she'd learned about Christoph Russell Ilg, for the next two miles down the road. His second wife had just given him his ninth child, his sixth son, even though he was somewhere close to either side of seventy. His parents were German immigrants who came to Texas as migrant farmworkers. He'd been born on one of numerous farms they worked in the years immediately after World War II, when birth certificates were optional. Ilg himself swore he didn't even know his own birthday and, as a result, he celebrated his and all his children's on the same day in June, exactly six months after Christmas.
For more than a century, ranchers and feedlot operators had been grazing their cattle on South Texas grasslands. Then the Environmental Protection Agency, working in concert with the Army Corps of Engineers, interpreted the Clean Water Act as giving them the right to redefine cattle ponds, and even ponds formed over flooded land, into what they called "waterways of the United States." The Bureau of Land Management then crafted a law requiring ranchers to get permits for land on which they once free grazed. Short of that, they could be fined for polluting or contaminating those newly proclaimed federal properties.
The fact that the EPA's efforts were as well intentioned as the ranchers' protests were strident probably hadn't registered with Ilg, who'd paid none of the two dozen citations he'd been issued, amounting to nearly fifty thousand dollars in fines. In fact, he'd been purposely setting his cattle to graze near those waterways on a regular basis, including the day the sheriff's department came to serve him with an arrest warrant for the unpaid levies. The first of the militiamen who'd come in expectation of exactly that moment sprang from positions of cover, training their guns on the four deputies, who had the sense not to draw theirs in response.
By the time the reinforcements they summoned arrived, more militiamen had spilled in, and more continued to show up, seemingly by the hour. They formed a perimeter around the area Ilg had staked out and returned with his cattle every day to graze, further inciting the potential for violence the militiamen seemed to thirst for while pawing the triggers of their AR-15s and hunting rifles. One had been arrested during a routine traffic stop after a highway patrolman had spotted a Gatling gun in the back of his pickup.
The stand-off had been going on for three days now, with neither side showing any signs of giving in or up. For his part, Ilg had no reason to acquiesce either to the demands of the EPA to stop grazing his cattle amid federally protected waters or to the attempts of the Bureau of Land Management rangers to collect the bulk of the fines levied against him. For their part, the militiamen who'd gathered at Ilg's ranch not far from Uvalde likely saw his faux crusade as another last stand to preserve the so-called real and free America. They wore the fatigues and gear of real soldiers, imagining themselves to be as brave and skilled as true servicemen fighting real wars instead of imaginary ones. Anointing themselves as the only just moral arbiters, when all they really wanted was an opportunity to parade around with their weapons in the hope of someday getting an actual chance to use them.
Caitlin saw the second roadblock at the head of a side road off the highway leading straight to Christoph Russell Ilg's ranch. From this distance, the scene had the look of a child's play scene with toy soldiers staged to confront each other on a papier-mâché battlefield. Drawing closer, Caitlin was able to see the true scope of the danger. Heavily armed highway patrolmen were poised in flak jackets behind their vehicles, while even more heavily armed militiamen peeked out from behind various boulders, trees, and thick fence posts. A television truck bearing the markings of a national cable news channel, meanwhile, was parked between the rival fronts. A technician unloaded equipment while a reporter Caitlin thought she recognized looked on casually.
She pulled her SUV over and was met by a highway patrol captain she'd worked with before, as soon as she climbed out.
"Morning, Frank," she said to Captain Francis Denbow.
"You got no call to be here, Caitlin," he said, mopping the sweat from his brow with a sleeve.
"That's what they told me at the checkpoint back up eighty-three."
"Well, you should have listened to them."
"Not telling me you have the situation under control."
"Because we damn well don't. A car backfiring could set off a whole shooting war here over waters not fit to drink. Last thing we need is you stirring the pot. Hope you don't mind I called Austin to get them to call you off."
"Too bad my cell phone's not working," Caitlin told him, reaching back inside the SUV to grab a set of trifolded pages from the visor.CHAPTER 3
Zavala County, Texas
Caitlin continued into the open space of road and land between the two armed camps, ignoring the threats shouted her way by the militiamen. She walked on without slowing, heading straight into more guns than she could count, while making sure her SIG Sauer P-226 remained in plain view in its holster. She held the pages before her as well, feeling them rustle in the breeze lifting off the prairie. It picked up briefly, hard enough to whisk the hat off a militiaman lying prone over the rim of an arroyo, holding a rifle with telescopic sight fixed on her. She caught the heavy whomp-whomp-whomp of a helicopter circling overhead — this network or that sure to be getting shots of the stand-off.
That's when she spotted the man with the light-colored suit and graying, ginger-shaded hair, striding her way from the side of the road where most of the media had gathered, hands tucked into his pants pockets.
"Well, well, well," grinned Congressman Asa Fraley, who represented Texas's seventeenth district, voice droning as if he were still giving an interview. "Look who it is. Just what we need right now, some gasoline sprayed on the fire."
"I'm just here doing my job, Congressman," Caitlin said, standing stiff before him.
Fraley stopped close enough to Caitlin for her to be able to smell the spearmint lacing his breath. "The problem, Ranger, is I'm here doing my job, too. In this case that means putting out a fire, not fanning the flames."
Caitlin nodded. "I couldn't help but notice which side you're standing with, sir."
"I'm just trying to defuse the situation. That man's a patriot, Ranger," Fraley said, looking back toward Christoph Ilg, who was holding court with any media type who'd listen. "I would've thought you of all people would see that."
"Because the Texas Rangers were birthed to lend justice to a frontier not all that much different than this one."
"Oh, it was plenty different, Congressman," Caitlin said, blowing out her own breath to chase the spearmint back. He'd stopped close enough to leave them contending for the same space, Fraley treating her more like another reporter with whom he needed to establish an instant familiarity. "Back then, my ancestors had their hands full with Mexican bandits and marauding Indian tribes. They never had to deal with the likes of antigovernment militias and politicians looking for any soapbox to shoot off their mouths." She spotted a man glaring at her, having drawn closer to Ilg's right flank, and packing a cannon-size pistol. "Do you have a brother, sir?"
"That's none of your business."
"Because I just noticed a man who looks an awful lot like you. That twin of yours, maybe, the one who can't keep himself out of trouble? As I recall, even in Texas a felon carrying a gun is a violation. Maybe I should run him in."
Fraley took a step back, aware suddenly that the space wasn't his to command as he was normally accustomed. His gaze grew flat and harsh, his eyes narrowing to mere slits barely revealing his grayish pupils. Caitlin had never seen a man with gray eyes before, nor one with a dye job gone so wrong; Fraley's strands of coarse hair were evenly mixed between shades of orange and corn yellow.
"How many men have you killed, exactly, Ranger?"
"One less than maybe I should have, Congressman."
"Is that a threat?"
"No more than that subpoena you keep promising to slap me with to drag me before that committee of yours in Washington."
"It's called the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and you're going to find that we take our work very seriously."
"So do I, sir," Caitlin said, peering past him. "Speaking of which, please step aside so I can do my job."CHAPTER 4
Zavala County, Texas
Fraley fell into step behind her as Caitlin headed straight for Christoph Ilg, who'd just started his interview with the cable television reporter. He held his big, thick hands on his hips, bracketing a stomach that stretched the bounds of his plaid shirt well over his belt. Ilg was bald and had pinkish, babylike skin that made his utterly round head look like an unfinished basketball with a cowboy hat riding its top. The wind was stiff enough to make him use a hand to keep it pinned in place.
"Christoph Russell Ilg," Caitlin said, in range of both Ilg and the reporter, interrupting their interview, "I'm here to serve you with a warrant for your arrest."
Ilg grinned, clearly unbothered by the warrant she'd extended toward him. His gaze locked on her badge.
"They got girl Texas Rangers now?"
The cable news camera swung her way, making Caitlin realize that the sounds of a chopper overhead had grown louder as it hovered closer to the ground, likely so the cameraman inside could get a better shot of whatever was transpiring. She noticed that the man she took for Asa Fraley's twin brother had slipped away.
Ilg took off his cowboy hat and fanned the air with it. "Well, I'll be a pig in a poke. Now I've seen everything. Little lady like you with such a big gun. And I ain't taking your warrant."
Caitlin was conscious of the camera still on her, ignoring it. "That's okay, sir, because I'm gonna arrest you anyway."
Time froze, seized up solid. And in the moment before it jump-started again, the color seemed to wash out of the scene. Everything was reduced to grayish halftones as hushed whispers were exchanged on the backs of gun barrels being steadied on both sides. It was like watching a storm racing across the sky while waiting for the first clap of thunder.
"Those highway patrol and sheriff's deputy boys out there already tried that and didn't fare so well. What makes you think you can do any better?" Ilg smirked with the bluster of a man who had a hundred guns backing him up.
"Oh, my presence has nothing to do with those federal trespass charges. I'm here on a state matter. This warrant here details the charge, if you'd like to read it."
"And what charge is that, Ranger?"
"Cattle rustling," Caitlin told him.
* * *
Ilg stared at Caitlin for what seemed like a very long time, the camera now shifting back and forth between them. The microphone the reporter had stuck out toward her was now hanging in a kind of limbo. Around her, Caitlin was aware of the almost preternatural quiet that had descended on the scene. No sounds whatsoever, other than what the breeze could rustle up, Caitlin imagining she could hear the gravel and light stone being blown across the two-lane.
That silence scared her more than anything as she continued to eye Ilg, gauging his intentions.
"That blue truck over there yours, sir?" she asked him, noting the old Chevy with a pair of Ilg's teenage sons, both armed with hunting rifles, poised behind it for cover. "I'm going to assume that it is," Caitlin continued, when the rancher remained silent. "This warrant entitles me to search it. But I don't have to do that to know I'll likely find a running iron somewhere inside. You know what that is, sir?"
Ilg swallowed hard, his expression confirming that he did, but Caitlin resumed anyway.
"You seem like an old-school sort to me, Mr. Ilg, so running irons would be just your style. Allow you to brand freehand under cover of night." She cocked her gaze toward the teenage boys with rifles laid over the bed of Ilg's truck, having to raise her voice over the still-descending chopper now. "Something you could teach your boys to do, making them accessories subject to the same ten years in jail as you. I'm betting your iron's got a hooked tip, since the anonymous tip we got says you been changing esses to eights and bars to fours. My warrant also entitles the Rangers or other designated authority to impound your cattle for evidence."
Excerpted from Strong Light of Day by Jon Land. Copyright © 2015 Jon Land. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have been reading Jon Land since before I started blogging, so whenever I see a novel by him, I pick it up. Strong Light of Day is the most recent addition to my reading list, starring Texas Ranger, Caitlin Strong. This is the seventh novel in the series of these stand alone thrillers. Jon Land does a great job of writing from Caitland’s perspective. She is aggressive, snarky and a no nonsense woman. She tells it like she sees it, no apologies. I love the lively dialogue and find it easy to relate to her. Bullets seem to fly whenever she enters a situation, so the action is non stop and I am loving it. Cort Wesley Masters had the courage to put himself front and center when his son comes up missing after a school field trip. Several storylines will merge together to complete this thriller. We will travel from Afghanistan to the United States. Big business really pisses me off sometimes, and this is one of those times. “They” can look you straight in the eye and lie, over and over again. Is it always about the bottom line? “They” have no remorse, no guilt. They twist words and use fear tactics to keep control of the situation. We, as a country, are aware of the danger of pesticides. How about a genetically altered pesticide? One that is supposed to save us from hunger? Haven’t we learned, that messing with Mother Nature often backfires and the result is not the anticipated and hoped for one? The story is told from different characters perspectives, so it helped me keep everything straight. There is so much going on, it took me a long time to put all the pieces together. Stories like Strong Light of Day are very thought provoking. Are we sitting ducks from the forces that HATE us? Have you ever wondered how many threats to our national security have been prevented without us ever knowing they were there to begin with? Strong Light of Day by Jon Land is one of those novels that stuck with me after finishing. The action was nonstop and I am an action junkie. The more the better. I received an ARC of Strong Light of Day by Jon Land in return for an honest and unbiased review.
Great story, scary stuff. Jon Land is one of my favorite authors. I'm hooked on Caitlin Strong.