Thursday, October 16, 2014

Pierce’s Picks: “Riders on the Storm”

A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

Riders on the Storm, by Ed Gorman (Pegasus)

The Gist: It’s 1971, and Iowa attorney/private investigator Sam McCain (last seen in 2011’s Bad Moon Rising--which was supposed to have been his final outing, but wasn’t) “is back home after a boot camp injury prematurely ends his military career as a [Vietnam War] draftee,” explains The Gazette, Gorman’s hometown newspaper in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “But the consequences of war have reached everywhere, including Black River Falls, where emotions run high on both side of the issue. One of McCain’s friends [Will Cullen] joins a group of veterans against the war [led by future Secretary of State John Kerry] and is brutally beaten by another veteran because of it. When the one who delivered the beating”--a newly minted Congressional candidate, Steve Donovan--“turns up dead, his victim is the obvious suspect. McCain doesn’t agree and begins a quest for the truth.” As Kirkus Reviews relates, “His suspicions fall on Lon Anders, Donovan’s rapacious new business partner, and on Valerie Donovan, a widow who’s one piece of work. As usual, there are plenty of other guilty secrets to discover. The final revelation, however, will take most readers by surprise, even if some of them are still scratching their heads after the curtain comes down.”

What Else You Should Know: “Ed Gorman manages to wind every messy and unruly concern that plagued America in 1971 into one taut story,” writes Terrie Farley Moran in Criminal Element. Publishers Weekly opines, “Gorman skillfully depicts Vietnam veterans’ complex, often contradictory feelings toward the war--from rabid patriotism to rage toward the government--but is less subtle in the way he presents his female characters, who are all mysterious, arousing, and wear clothes that ‘love’ their bodies (e.g., ‘A gray skirt that loved every inch of her lower body as the turquoise blouse loved the upper’).” Fellow author Bill Crider is rather more generous on the matter of Gorman’s cast descriptions: “As usual in Gorman’s books, the characters are a lot more complex than they first appear. As soon as you think you know them, you find out that you don’t. People are never simple black-or-white creations. They’re complex mixtures who will leave you thinking about them when you lay the book aside. Also as usual, the writing is clear and clean and sharp with astute observations about the times, the politics of the era, and human nature. It’s enough to make you envious if you’re a writer and prone to that sort of thing. Not that I am, of course.”


Ben Boulden said...

Gorman is a terrific writer, and the Sam McCain are among my favorites of his, or any other popular writers.


David Blount said...

Thanks for drawing attention to this new Gorman novel. I think the Sam McCain books are some of the best going and deserve a wider audience.

Fred Zackel said...

Ed is terrific, both as a mensch and as a writer.