One of the joys of being a book blogger is the opportunity to get to know authors and to follow their work over a career arc. Henry Kisor is one author I have had the privilege to get to know online and whose work I have enjoyed ever since I stumbled on his novel Season’s Revenge nearly a decade ago. I had the chance to interview Kisor a couple of times and hope to do a Q&A soon to catch up.
Why the trip down memory lane? Well, Kisor recently released another Steve Martinez novel, Hang Fire and I finally got the chance to read it.
When a pretty teacher is killed by a muzzle-loading ball during an encampment of historical re-enactors Sheriff Steve Martinez is troubled by her role-playing persona as a frontier prostitute.
Sex can be a motive for murder. But the death is ruled an accident. Besides killing a person with a muzzle-loader takes way too much time and effort.
The next few months however bring a surprising number of seemingly unrelated muzzle-loading deaths. A statistical anomaly or something worse?
If you have enjoyed the previous Steve Martinez (a Lakota Indian who was raised by a Methodist preacher in upstate New York but who found a home and a career in Upper Peninsula Michigan) novels in this series you will enjoy the latest installment; even if you had to wait a long time for it (the last one came out in 2007 I believe).
Like previous Kisor novels, this is not a faced paced thriller but a mystery where the characters and setting of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan are as important as moving the plot along. If you find the characters and settings interesting and engaging then you will enjoy reading as the plot unfolds and the characters react to the unique circumstances they find themselves in. It has a straightforward and down-to-earth style like the characters it presents.
The police procedural aspect of it plays a central role as well. You see the interaction between law enforcement officials across the state and region. And Kisor offers his take on how these relationships work and how different perspective and styles play out in the course of an investigation. You get a sense of the choices these officers face and the consequences of making the wrong choice; or of not acting on a hunch. Kisor also weaves in frequent mentions of the economic challenges, and resulting budget squeeze, these areas are facing.
Martinez seems to be in an awkward place in both his career and his relationship with his longtime girlfriend. He doesn’t enjoy the political and budget aspects of his job and wonders about when the bad will outweigh the good. He clearly loves Ginny and wants to continue their relationship but is seemingly not willing to make the jump to marriage and the commitment that entails. All of this gives the story some angst and melancholy. The only real sense of danger and suspense comes at the very end. Martinez would like nothing more than to continue doing what he has been doing – to settle into his habits – but this nagging case and the circumstances of his life won’t allow him.
One thing that I found interesting about this particular plot was how the reader sees the killer’s perspective from the beginning but doesn’t know the identity. So you read as the Martinez works to put the case together and figure out what is going on (and wrestle with hunches and intuition versus facts and clear motives) even as you understand what the killer is up to. But then Kisor throws in a unexpected twist and the story ends with more pace and action.
It was fun to reconnect with Porcupine County and its residents. It even made me want to visit the real UP again soon.
Fans of Kisor and Steve Martinez will want to read the latest in this series. But mystery fans looking for a unique and entertaining characters and settings will also enjoy this series. If you happen to have an interest in muzzle loaders or the Upper Peninsula that will only add to your enjoyment of Hang Fire.