“Trapline” is the third book in Mark Stevens’ series featuring Allison Coil, a hunting guide with a talent for looking beyond the obvious in order to solve crimes in her beloved Colorado mountains. With a past that still haunts her, she is happiest away from crowds of people, following the trails into the hills on her horse, or guiding hunting parties to bag big game. Her boyfriend, Colin, a hunk that also works for her, is making serious inroads into her heart. Who can resist a guy that knows how to use an atlatl and understands without asking, what she needs?
A mangled body is found near a campsite, and Allison’s investigation leads to a horrifying discovery. A Senatorial candidate is shot during an outdoor speech in a nearby town, but why? And does the shooting have anything to do with the body in the mountains? As the parallel storylines sizzle and explode in “Trapline,” Stevens reveals a lot about the depths to which humans will go when greed is involved. We learn more about one of this country’s hot button topics: undocumented workers. Problems with the border, people who seek to exploit the undocumented and/or transient workers, the impact on the economy, and the scandal of private prisons, are all explored from several sides of the complex issues.
Allison’s best friend, Trudy, the pesto queen and kitchen cook delivering to local stores in book #2, has grown into a full fledged regional farmer and business woman who supplies assorted organic, locally sourced goodies throughout the region. This character is so well-developed that I felt compelled to search for pesto recipes while reading “Buried by the Roan.” A vegan pal shared a great one.
The survival of Trudy’s business may be at stake in “Trapline,” because Trudy hired workers that she thought were legal, but may not all be. She has a few that she knows very well, but as in any growing organization that hires temporary farm workers, it’s practically impossible to know everyone’s story and how they came to work there. Her boyfriend has been in charge of managing the company and she has happily given him more and more control. Can a couple survive when linked together in both business and love?
The unspoiled mountains of Colorado take center stage again, with discussions about the tugs of war between commercial development and a wish to keep the wild safe and protected from greedy businessmen – businessmen who seem ignorant of the fact that destroying the very wilderness that provides their livelihood gets them to sum zero. Nobody wins.
Readers of “Buried by the Roan” will recognize the central characters in “Trapline,” with Duncan Bloom taking a greater role this time, and others changing/growing as the books continue. Allison is tenacious about her love of the high country and fights to keep its reputation and glory intact, despite several threats to her own safety. She is tenacious about maintaining her privacy as well, but a few edges have softened since her arrival in the first book, and Stevens lets us see more of the vulnerabilities and strengths of this very human lead character.
Stevens is adept at weaving the majesty of the Colorado terrain with the serious societal and political topics he brings to each book. With layers of compelling story and a solid group of friends in Allison, Trudy and the rest of the tight-knit crew, he creates page-turners that linger with us long after the books have ended.
“Trapline” won the 2015 Colorado Book Award for Mystery, and the 2015 Colorado Authors League Award for Genre Fiction. Deservedly so.
Read the review of “Buried by the Roan,” here.
“Lake of Fire,” the fourth in the series, will be available on September 8, 2015.
For more about Mark Stevens and his work, please visit www.writermarkstevens.com
Big game hunting guide, Allison Coil, loves the mountains of Colorado and their utter serenity, “the sensation of nature, of horse, of lakes and woods.” It is her “addiction.” Her music is the mournful howl of a coyote. Her job allows her the freedom to enjoy it all.
The problem is, the Roan Plateau, west of her hunting campsite in the Flat Tops, is the target of natural gas developers, of a corporation that plans to start ‘fracking’ to access the gas. If ranch owners sell their mineral rights, they stand to make millions. But, in the process, the woods might disappear and so would the game.
The death of one of her clients, Josh Keating, appears to be an accident, but Coil isn’t buying it. Keating was too experienced to have been as stupid as the so-called drunken ‘accident’ made him appear. And, then there is the fact that now that he’s dead, Keating’s wife gets to make decisions about their gas-rich land that he might not have approved.
Add in dead buffalo on Keating’s property, pristine mountain water being poisoned, scheming relatives, businessmen determined to get their piece of the financial windfall, militant environmentalists, a media frenzy as federal officials make decisions, a devolutionist who reports his back-to-nature experience on YouTube, and we have a multi-layered story in “Buried by the Roan” that was a finalist for the 2012 Colorado Book Awards and the Colorado Authors League.
Author Mark Stevens successfully presents both sides of the environmental fight, allowing his characters to become as passionate as the real-life residents of the high country. Big money aside, several locals care deeply about retaining the look and feel of the mountains, even bashing the impact of the ski resorts on their beloved state.
One faction in “Buried by the Roan” is in favor of slow-food, produce and other goods grown and sold locally so as to have less impact on the ecosystem. Herbalist Trudy Heath, Allison Coil’s close friend, sells homemade pesto, cooks mouth-watering organic food, and is reluctantly drawn into the politics of the slow-food cause. That involvement and Allison’s murder investigation cross paths in a believable way as Allison’s life is threatened.
Stevens weaves two romances into the novel, for Allison as well as Trudy, both realistic, but quite different. Allison’s daydreaming about younger Colin is amusing and we root for the relationship to blossom into something more.
Robin Cook, a bestselling author of 31 thrillers, famously said that mysteries should be about something beyond the puzzle in the mystery itself. “Buried by the Roan” has plenty of hot topics to occupy book club (and other) discussions without hitting us over the head with the very real issues at its core.