By Laura M. Campbell
I’ve been told that to be a better writer, you must read what you’re writing. I strive to write stories with strong female characters because they’re role models I didn’t have growing up. I came across John Land and his ass-kicking character Caitlin Strong in an online article, so I purchased the first of the action-packed series, Strong Enough to Die.
Overall, I really liked Caitlin and the fast-paced novel. When it comes to being a strong female character, her strength comes across as more masculine than feminine at times. Keep in mind she is a third generation Texas Ranger, following in the footsteps of her grandfather and father. I find it easier to relate to her when she faces societal choices (e.g. marriage, children, reputation).
Before the story begins, you learn Caitlin left the Texas Rangers after a gunfight near the Mexican border killed her partner. She makes the choice to run away, seeing it as the only viable alternative to dealing with the intense feelings. We all know running away does nothing but make matters worse, which plays out in the novel, forcing Caitlin to face all the feelings she’s locked away.
Creating a story with an interwoven past and present, Land chooses to include the scenes from both, which at first I thought would get confusing, but he indicates at the beginning of each chapter when and where the characters are in the story timeline. He skillfully leaves you curious and eager to read more at the end of each chapter that you aren’t thrown off by the jumps in time.
You want to find out exactly how things ended between Caitlin and her husband, why Cort Wesley Masters, the criminal she put away, is being released from prison, and how the gunfight at the Mexican border plays into the entire story. So, Land shows those exact scenes instead of telling you through a character’s internal or external dialogue.
There were a few places I found it hard to understand what was going on or being said because of the sentence structure, but I’m not sure if it was due to Land’s writing style or due to reading it on my phone via the Kindle app.
Land’s storytelling hooked me by leaving little breadcrumbs of information that coaxed me through the novel to discover how it all ties together; and he created a dynamic and round character with tomboy Caitlin. She doesn’t stand around waiting. She takes charge, even if it does mean crossing a line, but she owns her mistakes and lives with the consequences and memories of crossing those lines, which I find is an admirable trait. If you like gunfights, tough protective women, and suspenseful stories, you’ll love Strong Enough to Die.