Jay Roberts

A Lonesome Place for Dying
by Nolan Chase
Crooked Lane Books, May 2024, $29.99

The first day at a new job is bound to be full of challenges, but in author Nolan Chase's A Lonesome Place for Dying, newly hired Police Chief Ethan Brand's first challenge begins before he even officially reports for duty.

The newly promoted chief finds a threatening note and a heart on his doorstep, warning him to quit the job he's just been hired to do. If that isn't enough of a sour note for a first day, he's also readying himself to deal with the colleagues he's now in charge of, including his second in command (who feels she should've gotten his job), and the recalcitrant son of the former chief, who can't follow the simplest of orders. And lets not forget the somewhat fractious Blaine City Council, which is not exactly on his side either.

But interdepartmental and local politics will have to be pushed to the back burner when the body of a woman is discovered by the railroad tracks. Ethan and the rest of the police department don't often deal with a lot of murders in their town, but the Washington border town does offer a pipeline to and from Canada for all sorts of criminal activity. As the team works to identify the victim and why she ended up dead, Ethan soon learns that she had ties to a local crime family. He's already put one of the family members in jail, but tangling with the heir apparent isn't exactly what he was looking forward to doing as he starts the new job.

Making matters even more complicated is his less-than-ideal personal life. Hiding an injury and questionable choices in matters of the heart, Ethan has to dodge killers on duty and figurative landmines off duty. Ethan will have to stand tall against all the forces arrayed against him to get justice for the victim.

Nolan Chase (the pen name for acclaimed author Sam Wiebe) does a masterful job of introducing readers to Ethan Brand. A modern-day reluctant John Wayne kind of gunslinger he's more than competent at his job, but with his complicated personal life, he's far from perfect. Giving him a cast of supporting characters who rankle at his promotion and being delegated tasks they'd rather avoid helps to flesh out the rest of the cops and gives you insight into the town.

I found his chief deputy, Brenda Lee, very compelling. She clearly believes (perhaps rightly, no less) that she should've gotten the chief's job and has no problem telling Ethan so. But what makes her a worthwhile character is that despite her disappointment, she does her job and, when called upon to do so, stands up for her boss. The plot moves at a relaxed pace at times, giving the reader time to delve into the characters and setting as they are introduced. But the tension and action ratchets up when called to do so. As the separate plot threads tie together, there's more than a few twists in the narrative that will leave readers with their mouths agape wondering where the story is going next.

A Lonesome Place for Dying captures the imagination right from the start with a complex tale that will only leave readers wanting more.