We continue our new Best of/Worst of feature today with award-winning mystery author Kathleen Kaska, who writes the Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series set in the 1950s; the Classic Triviography Mystery Series, which includes The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book; and the Kate Caraway animal-rights series. Kathleen is also a writer and marketing director for Cave Art Press and the author of Do You Have a Catharsis Handy? Five-Minute Writing Tips. Learn more about her and her books at her website.
Awhile back, my husband and I drove the Hi-Line (U.S. Hwy 2) across northern Montana from west to east. This stretch immerses you in “The Big Sky State.” The road was flat with unobstructed views over rolling prairies and wheat fields of infinite continuity. Surely there were other vehicles on the road, but the only ones we saw were in the small towns along the way. One afternoon, we stopped in the middle of the highway, turned up the radio, left the motor running, got out and danced. We’d just spent the night in Cut Bank and were still in a jukebox mood from the Pioneer Saloon. For me this was the best part of Montana.
But before that we drove through Glacier National Park. For those who are not acrophobic, this might seem fun. For me, mountainous roads are nightmares. After finding that motel in Cut Bank, the Pioneer’s shot of tequila slowed the spinning in my head. So I had another.
On our many travels, I’ve encountered several such mountainous roads. The result is always the same: vertigo, dry mouth, racing heart, sweaty palms—shear panic. There’s a few times where I can’t even remember the descent. I didn’t pass out, but some type of survival mode must have wiped out the experience. The times I do remember are feelings of elation whenever the ordeal was over, like an adrenaline rush.
Sadly, the worst part of Montana, for me, is one of the most scenic drives in America. It’s the Beartooth Highway, a sixty-seven-mile stretch of State Highway 212 through Carbon County in southern Montana. Winding through the mountains, it climbs to almost 11,000 heart-stopping feet. This is the setting of my second Kate Caraway animal-rights mysteries, A Two Horse Town. Each book deals with an animal-rights issue. The subtheme is facing one’s fears. Kate is also saddled with my affliction and is forced to face it as she travels these roads—giving me personal insight on a few hair-raising scenes.
A Two Horse Town
Kate Caraway hates giving lectures at the University of Illinois so much that she fears she’ll lose her mind. So, when a student, Nate Springfield, walks into her office with a story of wild horses in danger, Kate takes an immediate leave of absence. Forty-eight hours later, she arrives in Two Horse, Montana, one of the most rugged and isolated areas in the state. In a race against time, she uses her expertise and influence as a well-respected animal-rights activist to assist Nate’s eighty-two-year-old great-grandmother, Ida, in saving her herd of wild mustangs. If the county’s proposal to dam the Crow River passes, Ida’s water source will disappear. Her horses will be sold to the highest bidder and, most likely, turned into dog food.
Before Kate can meet with a small coalition of citizens, who also stand to lose if the dam proposal passes, she stumbles upon a corpse with a knife wedged in his back. The dead man is Frank Springfield, Ida’s estranged son and her number-one enemy, a highly vocal member of the ranching community, who favors the dam. Since Nate is the last person to have seen his grandfather alive, the sheriff issues a warrant for his arrest, and the young man goes on the lam. Kate is convinced of his innocence and determined to prove it, but as she gets closer to truth, she discovers that some men will do anything, including murder, to keep their nefarious scheme from being exposed.