Senior Sleuths Reign: Jean Henry Mead’s Murder on the Interstate
Murder on the Interstate by Jean Henry Mead, new from Oak Tree Press
Not since Mrs. Polifax caravanned the Sahara has the senior sleuth pursued a villain so relentlessly and with such tenacity and cleverness. This time it’s two sleuths who do the work: Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty. And this time it’s not camels or jeeps, but a well-equipped motor home the sleuths use to give chase to a murderer whose victim they find at the side of the interstate. All good amateur sleuths call in reinforcements when needed and Dana and Sarah are no exception. Dana brings in her journalist daughter Kerrie who has the credentials to get into places and interview people the women cannot. There is a bit of romance also, including a law enforcement officer eager to help them, but Dana has reservations about how much aid and comfort she wants from Walter. A case calls him back to his job leaving Dana and Sarah to take on the killer alone with only Kerrie’s help. What appears to be a murder committed because of jealousy turns out to be much more, a case of kidnapping, drug trafficking and domestic terrorism.
Mead couldn’t have chosen a better venue for her murder. Although the motor home crashes early in the story, the women continue to pursue the killer and their leads across roads and Interstate 40 in the southwest, their search for clues and encounters with the killer dictating travel from one location to another. It makes for a fast-paced read and left me breathless and in awe of these feisty protags. They could have retreated to their home in Wyoming. Or could they? It appears the killer or someone in league with him awaits them there. Mead makes their search for the killer compelling, drawing them in tighter with each dangerous adventure. Every chapter provides the reader with yet another clue in this complicated case. Mead cleverly plants the clues in the life threatening encounters Dana and Sarah encounter. The reader won’t want to miss a page of the exciting journey.
The plot is complex, compelling, and designed to keep the reader guessing, but the characters are no less fascinating, sometimes quirky, and always call forth a bravery every reader wishes he or she could count on if challenged in a similar situation. Along the way, Mead uses strangers to offer rescue in the form of rides and advice. It’s a well-designed device to introduce some really interesting characters such as Big Ruby McCurdy who drives a big rig and is the first individual to offer a ride to our sleuths and a pursuit vehicle to chase the killer. Readers shouldn’t be misled by the occasional rescuer. Our gals are not whimps, nor are they kung fu experts. Mead does not rely on others to do the hard lifting of solving the case nor of wrestling with the killer, but she is realistic when it comes to how much her protags can do in physical encounters. She walks the line between over-the-top ninja work to whimpering in fear. Mead uses surprise and good detective work as well as physical confrontation.
Since my husband and I travelled the US for several years in a tiny motor home, I salivated at the motor home piloted by these two and shed a tear or two when it was taken out of action. But our gals rent a series of vehicles, usually large, usually trucks to continue their tracking down the killer odyssey. I found their shifts from truck to truck both funny and delightful. Maybe there’s just something I love about driving big trucks on those southwestern roads. I suspect men will find that aspect of the story particularly provocative.
Dana’s daughter says it best when she comments on what she might consider writing if she leaves her job at the paper. “I just might write a mystery series featuring two sassy senior sleuths who can’t seem to stay out of trouble.” Murder on the Interstate is the third book in the series. We can hardly wait for the next set of troubles to tantalize Dana and Sarah.