Sunday, January 3, 2010

On Deadly Ground-Michael Norman

On Deadly Ground
Michael Norman
Poisoned Pen, Mar 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590586921

Kanab, Utah contains two angry camps as the environmentalists and the ranchers argue over rights. The Escalante Environmental Wilderness Alliance (EEWA) directly opposes the Citizens for a Free West (CFW) as the former believe regulation is needed to protect the land while the latter believes the government should stay out of people’s rights to use the land as they feel fit.

The debate turns ugly when the bullet-laden body of EEWA chief David Greenbrier is found hanging from a beam in a barn. Kane County Sheriff Charley Sutter asks native son J.D. Books, recently appointed as a law enforcement ranger at the Bureau of Land Management, to help with the investigation. The former Denver cop who was forced him to resign form the force finds blood on the door of Greenbrier’s SUV. Although his initial reaction is to look closely at the CFW, Books uncovers evidence that points towards an EEWA member as a suspect. Lance Clayburn was having an affair with the victim’s wife and physical proof ties him to the murder scene. However, Books’ experience in the Mile High City makes him suspect the prime suspect as the killer as Clayburn is too easily linked to the homicide; so he looks elsewhere especially to the west where coal interests in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument reside.

This is a strong police procedural that looks deeply at the issue of development vs. individual rights, and the environment as they converge in Kane County. The investigation is fast-paced while making strong cases for mining, conservation and the rights of people; leaving it to the reader to decide what should trump the others. Fans will appreciate this deep thought provoking whodunit as Michael Norman entertains the reader yet also makes a strong case these are not sound byte drill baby issues.

Harriet Klausner