The Gray Ghost Murders by Keith McCafferty

Gray Ghost MurdersIn the wilds of Montana, two bodies are uncovered, both shot by a very unusual gun. In the meantime, two extremely valuable fishing flies, worth thousands of pounds, are stolen from a private hunting lodge. As Sheriff Martha Ettinger investigates the first crime, sometime painter, fly fisherman and private detective Sean Stranahan is hired to investigate the second – while helping out with the former as well. As the horrific truth behind the murders becomes clear, Sean needs to put his life on the line to expose the truth and catch the killer – and find out why the fishing flies were stolen…

I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley. It caught my eye as I was looking for something a little different. I presumed, with its clear focus on the art of fly-fishing, that this was a cozy mystery set in one of my favourite places in the world. After all, it ticks two of the three cozy boxes – specialised hobby and there is a cat – but what I got was something rather different.

First of all, the third cozy condition that I decided on a while back isn’t satisfied at all. The bodies are in a rather messy condition – one of them has been half-eaten by a bear – and there’s a smattering of fruity language at times. While it feels initially as if the book is a mystery, it oscillates in tone from mystery to thriller and back again.

As the book goes on, I found myself becoming more invested in the characters. While the writer hints at a potential romance between Martha and Sean, their stories go in different, more interesting directions, and I certainly found Sean (who gets the lion’s share of the page count) a rather interesting character.

As for the plot, it is certainly, at the end of the day, a thriller more than a mystery. While there is a clear whodunnit element to the plot, I’m not sure that I spotted a single actual clue to the identity of the killer. Having said that, the rationale behind the theft of the fishing flies (which gets a smaller page count as the book progresses) is rather clever.

At the end of the day, it’s an interesting book that I enjoyed, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had a few more twists and turns – one major revelation in particular, that I presume is supposed to be a surprise, would have been more surprising if it hadn’t been the case.

So, recommended, in particular if you enjoy fly fishing, but I’m not sure how easy it is to get in the UK. It’s published in the US on February 21st but it seems there isn’t a UK date for this, or for its predecessor though. If I hear anything, I’ll let you know.

Oh, and for the first time in ages, this is a stop on my Mystery Tour of the USA – for Montana, obviously.

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