Strong Rain Falling is the fifth suspenseful, page-turning novel in Jon Land’s Caitlin Strong series. Have no fear if you haven’t read the others in the series yet; this one, like all of them, can be enjoyed on its own, as a stand-alone novel, though I thoroughly recommend that you read the entire series, because author Jon Land had created in his character of fifth-generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong one of the mystery/thriller genre’s most memorable characters. Land researches his novels with an intense passion, and firmly roots them both in the past and in the present, as with Strong Rain Falling, about a potential terrorist attack on the power grid of the United States.
As with the other books in the series, which began with Strong at the Break, Jon Land has chapters from the past interwoven into chapters from the present. The chapters from the past are about vignettes and cases that Caitlin’s storied ancestors, also Texas Rangers, took part in. They both bring a touch of the Western genre into Land’s series, and they directly relate to the cases that Caitlin, herself, finds herself embroiled in.
In this particular novel, a boy splattered with dried blood, as if it had rained down upon him, walks through the desert to bring Ranger William Strong and his son, Earl, a haunting drawing that leads them to a ghastly murder scene.
The drawing is rendered in black ink, the same sort which stains the boy’s fingers. It depicts “man-sized skeleton figures wearing pistol belts and bandoliers. Some of the skeletons in the drawing wore sombreros over their exposed skulls and some didn’t.”
In Mexico, a woman whose family have been involved in both criminal enterprises and in politics for generations, Ana Callas Guarjardo, has committed a similar crime in the same area, Willow Creek, that Caitlin’s father and grandfather are led to — in the past, they witness an entire town that’s been slaughtered.
In the present, Ana has been responsible for the exsanguination and disembowelment of schoolchildren she and her minions have led out to Willow Creek, in a despicable and macabre homage to her own ancestors, involved in smuggling opium across the border, and in killing the residents of Willow Creek. She now has the plan of bringing the United States to its knees by sabotaging its power grid.
Caitlin Strong’s bad-ass boyfriend, Cort Wesley Masters, and his two teenage sons, Luke and Dylan, become the targets of Ana’s henchman when both sons are attacked simultaneously in locations thousands of miles apart.
Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong has accompanied Dylan Torres (Torres being the boys’ mother’s — now deceased — last name) to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he meets with Coach Estes, the football coach, to talk about getting a possible scholarship.
While there, they both attend the annual WaterFire festival, and, while milling among others who are having a good time there, gunmen attempt to kill them. Caitlin’s reflexes are a bit quicker than theirs, so the four gunemn that had been sent after them wind up very dead, though the local police don’t much like her having killed anyone in their jurisdiction.
At the same time, in Texas, Cort has decided to take his other son, 14-year-old Luke, to Six Flags. Other gunmen open fire on them there, and it is only with the help of a recurring character – the 7-foot-tall Guillermo Paz, who was once a notorious criminal (in those days, he was responsible for murdering Cort’s girlfriend, the mother of Luke and Dylan), that they are able to escape with their lives.
Though Cort and Texas Ranger Strong have made many enemies who wouldn’t hesitate to kill them if given the chance, they discover that Luke and Dylan were the actual targets of the gunmen.
Just as the Texas Rangers have a long tradition going back into history, with Caitlin Strong trying to do her best to live up to and honor that tradition, the present-day drug lords and criminal kingpins in Mexico also have a long and storied tradition that people like Guarjardo try to live up to — the Torres family is related to an old adversary of her family’s, Emiliano Zapata, who sought to wipe out the early drug smugglers, so Dylan and Luke become the objects of her desire for revenge.
Strong Rain Falling by Jon Land is a powerful and thrilling novel of action and intrigue, made plausible because he grounds the premise firmly in the roots of the past. The possibility of a terrorist attack on America’s power grid using an electromagnetic pulse has been the subject of a Newt Gingrich novel, also. It is a very real concern, and it worries Texas Ranger Strong and her friends and co-workers so much that they call in the big guns of Homeland Security to aid them. I won’t give away the conclusion, but it’s tension-filled and Land’s novel will have you feeling very glad that there are folks like Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong around. I highly recommend Strong Rain Falling and the entire series of Caitlin Strong novels.
Written by: Douglas Cobb