Strange Country by Deborah Coates (Tor, May 27th) Note: No spoilers for this one, but it’s 3rd in a series, so there might be tidbits from the first 2 books)–It’s 3am when sheriff’s deputy Boyd Davies gets a call about a possible prowler. When he arrives at the woman’s house he makes sure that the house is clear of intruders, and they talk a bit. The woman knows that Boyd has certain talents, and asks for his help, albeit in a vague way. Even though Boyd has an odd feeling about the situation, he realizes that there’s really nothing for him to do, and starts to leave. Unease soon turns to shock, though. As Boyd and the woman stand on the front porch, Boyd can only watch in horror as a single shot from an assassin’s high powered rifle hits the woman in the head, killing her instantly.
If you’re caught up with this series, then you know what Hallie Michaels has been through, and she’s still a little on edge from a certain risky decision she made in order to save the man she loves, which happens to be Boyd Davies. As Boyd starts his own investigation into the shooting, Hallie is having problems of her own. Someone is leaving notes just outside the hex ring around her property, saying things like “It’s time to face your fear” and a set of map coordinates, and phone calls of the same nature. Hallie thinks this is odd, because if Hallie is anything, it’s someone that has no problem facing her fears. In fact, when there’s a problem, she runs headlong into it. Since actually dying while in the service in Irag, she’s been able to see ghosts, and she’s also been asked, by Death himself, for a “favor” of sorts. He’s going to want an answer soon, but Hallie doesn’t really think the notes and calls have anything to do with Death, so this is just another strange thing add to her growing list of worries.
As Boyd digs deeper into the murder investigation, he comes across stones that seem to be able to store magic, and when the body count begins to grow, he must find out what links the dead and of course, why someone would want them dead to begin with.
Hallie would like nothing more than to spend some quiet time with Boyd, and enjoy the ranch (complete with horses) that she recently inherited. It isn’t much, but she loves it like she loves the wide open skies of West Prairie City, South Dakota. However, the mysterious notes and a visit (and unusual request) from a blast from Hallie’s recent past will keep her plenty busy, as well as helping Boyd get to the bottom of the recent murders and of course, the magic stones.
When I start a Hallie Michaels book, I know that it won’t be long before I’m entranced by Hallie’s quiet strength and the wonderful world that Deborah Coates has created with this series. These books satisfy my love for mystery, and the liberal addition of ghosts, reapers, and the like, is like icing on a particularly tasty cupcake. Hallie’s rather charming “canine” companion, who she calls Maker, is ever present and provides help in its usual cryptic way (it’s a harbinger, and for some reason chooses to stick around, which Hallie finds that she’s more than ok with), and underscoring the decidedly creepy events is Hallie’s very real desire to settle down and make a life in WPC, hopefully with Boyd, and she’ll do just about anything to make that happen. I love this subtle series, rich with magical realism and the beauty of the Midwest, and if you haven’t discovered Hallie and her friends, I urge you to get a hold of all three books, and hunker down, because they’re addictive. I’m hoping that Deborah Coates has more plans for this series, because I’ll be the first in line for the next book.