By Ed Kemmick
I really wanted to like this book. The author, who lives in the Bay Area, wrote to us at Last Best News and said he had spent a lot of time at the Little Bighorn Battlefield planning this novel and he thought we might enjoy it.
It sounded promising. I’m no expert on the battle, but I’ve written a few stories about it, read some books on the subject and spent a fair amount of time on the battlefield.
I also like a good thriller now and then, something I can breeze through just for fun, not edification. So a thriller involving the battle sounded like just the thing for a little cold-weather reading.
Somehow, though, the elements of this book didn’t add up to a satisfying read. The thrills, such as they were, were mostly cheap thrills involving high-powered weapons and highly sophisticated intelligence-gathering techniques.
The hero of the book, San Francisco homicide inspector Tom McGuire, doesn’t so much solve a mystery as have it revealed to him by others, and even they don’t indulge much in deduction. They are simply fed installments of a long-lost trove of documents known as the Custer Papers.
The mystery, such as it was, centers on Lt. Col. George A. Custer, the flamboyant solider about whom so many people hold strong views, and who was sent to the great parade ground in the sky on June 25, 1876. Or was he?
Yes, that is part of the mystery, but with very little tweaking the historical figure could as easily have been Abraham Lincoln. In other words, nothing about the Custer battle itself enters into the plot, which was what I was looking forward to.
The only mystery, as it turns out, is the identity of the people who wanted Custer dead, and why. I think I can say, without spoiling the plot, that the bad guys make up a multi-generational cabal of filthy rich financiers and arms dealers whose nefarious influence on the American political system would put George Soros and the Koch brothers to shame.
One character is a congressman—described as one of 20 or 30 employed by the cabal—with a troubled childhood who was groomed for Congress and for servitude to his rich masters from an early age. The cabal has virtually unlimited resources and hands on the levers of power in politics, the media and the military.
Fortunately for the forces of truth and justice, Inspector McGuire and his friends also have access to some rather formidable resources, including, in a pinch, a submarine, a high-altitude spy drone, some very nicely appointed private jets and the ability to access the Dark Web, also referred to as the “under-underground” internet.
Hell, with that kind of help I could probably take down ISIS myself. And I haven’t even mentioned the double-crossing dame or the expert snipers employed by both sides. Substantial sections of the book are given over to loving descriptions of the guns and techniques used by the snipers.
I’m not a dogmatic opponent of guns, but I’m not gun fetishist, either, so reading about a .338 Lapus magnum or an HK 9mm Viper fitted with a Gemtech Tundra suppressor leaves me cold.
Still and all, the writing is good, the cliff-hanger chapter endings are numerous and the bloodshed and mayhem regular enough to satisfy a craving for that sort of thing. I just don’t happen to be the reviewer Mr. Koller was hoping to find.
This article first appeared at Last Best News.