Books: North of Montana, Judas Horse

AprilSmithBooks225.jpgI just finished two books by April Smith, a new author to me. “North of Montana” and “Judas Horse” are two Black Lizard/Vintage Crime mysteries featuring Ana Grey, an FBI investigator. The books were written 15 years apart–1994 and 2008–which is a bit odd. But I went right from one to the other and didn’t feel like I had missed much in Ana’s life.

“North of Montana” revolves around a Hollywood star’s claim that her doctor got her addicted to painkillers. Ana Grey is assigned to investigate–a chump chase, not anything she wanted. But swirling around this investigation are a whole bunch of other threads, all of which are tied up, one way or another, by the end of the book:

  • What happened to Ana’s father, an El Salvadoranian?
  • Ana’s relationship with her happily-married partner.
  • Her relationship with Poppy, the bigoted cop/grandfather who raised her.
  • The superior who squelches her quest for a promotion.
  • The two Hispanic orphans, their mother gunned down, whom she is told are her cousins.

“North of Montana” was, in short, a wonderful book. Not a murder mystery, which I normally gravitate to; not a high-action book. But there was a lot going on, and it held my rapt attention.

“Judas Horse” was very different, yet equally superb. Ana Grey goes undercover to infiltrate a group of eco-terrorists. Smith didn’t have lots of threads going in this one, but focused on Ana’s undercover work and the collection of interesting personalities among these misguided criminals. Interestingly, Smith educates the reader about ecological causes, particularly regarding animals (mustang horses especially), and you feel sympathy for those causes (though I’m already inclined in that direction). And yet, you object strongly to the methods used to advance these causes. A variety of elements came together at the end, though not in the ways I was expecting. She surprised me in a number of ways.

April Smith is a skilled writer who knows all about dramatic tension
and conflict. She is a thrice Emmy-nominated writer-producer with lots
of credits on TV series and movies. I cannot emphasize how much I enjoyed her books. April Smith rocks!

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