by Earl Staggs
I know that heading is grammatically wrong, but an old song popped into mind, and I can't stop humming it. I'm sure you know the song. It goes. . .
But I digress. That's not what I'm here for.
I'm here to say I don't normally review books. I don't consider myself good at it and avoid it whenever possible. But when I'm asked to review a book written by a writer I know and admire, and the book title has "Murder" in it, I'm tempted.
So it was with Jean Henry Mead's MURDER ON THE INTERSTATE. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, and to my complete surprise, enjoyed writing a review.
And here it is.
MURDER ON THE INTERSTATE
A Logan & Cafferty Mystery/Suspense Novel
By Jean Henry Mead
Oak Tree Press April 2011
I don’t expect an amateur sleuth novel to start fast. I expect to spend time getting to know the protagonist, get a feel for the setting, and maybe get to know another character or two before the story moves forward. That doesn’t happen in MURDER ON THE INTERSTATE. Jean Henry Mead kicks it off in high gear and doesn’t slow down. This is the kind of novel I enjoy.
I also enjoy a book in which the primary characters have a chemisty between them, but I'm not beat over the head with it. In MURDER ON THE INTERSTATE, Dana Logan and her sidekick Sarah Cafferty have it. Though they're completely different in nature and personality, they have a tight and loving bond, and you sense it between the lines as soon as they interact. That's good writing, folks.
The story begins with Dana behind the wheel of her motorhome, making her way carefully along I-40 in Arizona on a rainy night, with her best friend Sarah asleep in the passenger seat. A sporty Mercedes convertible speeds past with a large red pickup truck close behind it. Dana wonders why they’re going so fast and if the second car is chasing the first one. Around the next curve, she sees the convertible off the road and down a bank. She climbs down to investigate and finds a young woman dead inside. She hears gunshots and hurries back to check on Sarah. Sarah is okay, but the pickup is parked behind the motorhome and the driver has shot up the rear tires. The driver may have planned on shooting Dana and Sarah, too, but an eighteen-wheeler pulls up and he races away.
The driver of the rig is a large woman known as Big Ruby. After they call 911, Ruby volunteers to take Dana and Sarah into Flagstaff, or “Flag,” as the truckers call it, where they’ll be able to get someone to replace the tires on the motorhome. When they pull into a truck stop, they spot the red pickup as it speeds back onto the highway. Ruby wants to take Sarah with her and follow him. Sarah saw the killer’s face and can identify him. If they spot him, they will report his location to the authorities. The three of them feel he shouldn’t get away with murdering a young woman like that. Dana will take care of the tires and meet up with them later.
The chase is on. Ruby contacts other truckers on her CB and enlists their aid in keeping track of the killer. Truckers have their own language, of course, and there were some fun conversations tossed back and forth between the over-the-road drivers.
Before their trip was interrupted, Dana and Sarah, both sixty years old, were on their way from Sacramento to Wyoming. Dana’s late sister left her an elegant mansion there, and they plan to make it their home. Back in Sacramento, the pair found themselves involved in several murder cases. Now they consider themselves amateur sleuths, or “murder magnets,” as Walter Grayson calls them. Walter is a Sheriff they knew back in California. Walter is also in love with Dana and wants to marry her. Dana thinks highly of him, but after two husbands, she’s sure she doesn’t want a third.
Dana returns to the motorhome with new tires and someone to put them on and finds police and emergency vehicles there. She learns the murder victim was Lori Murphy, a twenty-seven-year-old woman only married for two months. With the motorhome back on the road and wanting to meet up with Ruby and Sarah, Dana badly needs coffee and stops at a restaurant. When she gets back on the road, the killer is also in the vehicle. Apparently, he is determined to leave no witnesses to his crime. Dana's only hope is to crash the motorhome, leaving the killer unconscious while she makes her escape.
From there, the chase takes many roads and many turns, with Dana and Sarah chasing the killer, who also seems to be chasing them. Sheriff Walter Grayson arrives to help and so does Dana’s daughter, Kerrie, a newspaper journalist from Denver. They soon learn Lori Murphy’s death was only the tip of an iceberg, and everytime they turn over a lead, they find several more. Before it’s over, Dana and Sarah are nearly drowned in a flash flood, are kidnapped, and are nearly killed. There are more bad guys than originally thought, and they’re caught up in something much larger than the roadway murder of a young wife.
I won’t describe all they go through. That would cheat you of the opportunity to experience along with them the dangers Dana and Sarah face. I will tell you that before it’s over, there is more shooting, more bodies, and some large explosions as the people behind the whole thing try to kill Dana, Sarah and Kerrie to keep them from finding out who they are and what they’re up to. They almost succeed in a suspense-filled ending to a well-plotted and well-written mystery.
Reviewed by Earl Staggs
Now how did that song go? "...and my love does it good...Wo ooo, wo ooo. . ."