On Deadly Ground
Review: John David "J. D." Books returns to his hometown in Utah as a law enforcement ranger only to be immediately faced with a controversial murder in On Deadly Ground, a stand-alone mystery, or possibly the first in a series, by Michael Norman.
J. D. had served 11 years as a homicide detective in Denver, but was forced to resign after an ill-fated incident. When he was offered a job in Kanab as a ranger for the new Bureau of Law Enforcement, he jumped at the chance. But Kanab is a town in turmoil, a community deeply divided over the politics of land management. The Escalante Environmental Wilderness Alliance (EEWA), led by activist David Greenbriar who wants to save what is left of the land for future generations, is opposed by the Citizens for a Free West (CFW), led by wealthy rancher Neil Eddins who maintains the land should be used to support its citizens. When Greenbriar is found hanging from a barn rafter — after being shot — Sheriff Charley Sutter turns to J. D. for help in solving the crime. A prime suspect is quickly identified, Lance Clayburn, a man having an affair with the dead man's wife who also happens to own a rifle identical to the one used to kill Greenbriar. And if that weren't enough, evidence places Clayburn at the scene of the crime. But J. D. isn't convinced. Something simply doesn't add up. He has the support of the sheriff, but for how long? Long enough, he hopes, for him to try to sort out some of the conflicting facts contributing to this case.
On Deadly Ground is a perplexing mystery, but in the good way that draws readers into the investigation surrounding the circumstances of Greenbriar's murder. J. D. is an appealing, solidly developed character with something of a mysterious past himself; one isn't quite sure if he's allowing his past to dictate his present train of thought or not. He's quick to point out there were plenty of other people who may have wanted the EEWA leader dead, including any of the members of the CFW who thought him inflexible in his dealing with them, members of his own EEWA who thought him too lenient in his dealings with the CFW, even his young widow who stands to inherit a large amount of money and land … none of whom seem to be considered by others to be potential suspects. And why are people so anxious to pin the crime on Clayburn? J. D. has been given a short amount of time to offer an alternative to Clayburn, and this factor helps quicken the pace of the story while ramping up the suspense. On Deadly Ground is a real page-turner, to see if J. D. can out-maneuver the person — or persons — unknown who seem to be both manipulating the investigation … and possibly J. D. himself.
Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of On Deadly Ground.
Acknowledgment: Poisoned Pen Press provided an ARC of On Deadly Ground for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), May 2008
ISBN-13: 9781590584989; ISBN-10: 1590584988
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), April 2012
ISBN-13: 9781590585511; ISBN-10: 1590585518
Location(s) referenced in On Deadly Ground: Utah
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On Deadly Ground by Michael Norman — A JD Books Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: March 2010
List Price: $24.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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