Crossroads: A Flathead Valley Mystery, by James L. Thane

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to James L. Thane and Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC, for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

When James L. Thane approached me with the opportunity to read his latest book, I could not resist. A long-time friend of mine on Goodreads, I wanted to explore this other side of Thane through his own writing. Dave Matthews is a lawyer in the community of Flathead Lake, close to Kalispell, Montana. He’s had some struggles and personal struggles in the past, but leaps at the chance to help when his friend, Steve Helstrom, is accused of murder. It would seem that Toby Martin and Helstrom were seen fighting outside a bar the night before. A few hours later, Martin was found bludgeoned with an axe handle, conveniently found in the back of Helstrom’s pickup truck. Sure of his friend’s innocence, Dave does all he can to probe into the case, looking for alternate motives that others might have for killing Mr. Martin. The deeper he looks, the more possibilities that Dave finds, though few want to have their lives turned upside down. As this is Montana, Martin’s connection with the forestry industry cannot be ignored, placing a handful of environmentalists on a potential suspect list. With little time to lose, Dave pushes ahead and finds himself a target of some ire, which does not seem to bother him much. As the narrative reveals throughout, Dave Matthews has his own issues that require processing and some skeletons in his closet that appear eager to resurface. This may be Montana, but things are anything but bucolic in the back woods. A wonderfully crafted legal thriller that keeps the reader hooked until the final reveal. Recommended to those who need something a little different in the legal thriller genre, as well as those who want a quick read sure to leave them wanting more.

As I mentioned above, James Thane has been on my radar for a long time, though it is usually his reviews and comments upon which I have focussed. Able to read some of his own writing, I was highly impressed with his style and delivery. Setting the story in Montana, away from the glare of the big city, Thane forces the reader to move their attention to the details and developments found within the narrative. Dave Matthews is not only a great legal investigator, but also finds himself trying to keep his own life balanced. Thane offers a great deal of backstory within this piece, sketching out his protagonist effectively. With some romantic foibles in his recent rearview mirror, he suffers also with staying one step ahead of impending intoxication, which appears to be be salve of choice for the pain. Matthews’ grit to find answers and fight for justice serves as a key theme throughout the piece and allows the reader a personal glimpse into the man’s life, while his forward development occurs in the narrative. There are many others who help make the novel a great standalone, highlighting life in Montana, something that Thane’s own background surely helped shape when he developed all his characters. The story was strong, perhaps more so because it kept things simple and away from the chaos of large law firms and police forces. Thane does well to portray a legal thriller with bare-bone basics, perhaps a more effective approach than many of the books in his genre that I have read. I applaud Thane for his writing, using short chapters to propel the story forward. If his other novels are as easy to digest, I will certainly need to find them and continue enjoying this branch-off of a popular genre.

Kudos, Mr. Thane, for this wonderful novel. It was a pleasure to read and I cannot wait to get my hands on more, while I encourage others to do the same.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: