Big Sky Country is what it says on the license plates, and Montana is definitely that. While one of the least-populated states in the country, it more than makes up for it in gorgeous scenery. These mysteries all came out in 2018 and take place in Montana. They celebrate the natural wonders and the independent spirit of the people who call the state home, as well as touching on some very real issues in the area. Feeling a little closed in? Open one of these books and stretch out in the wide-open West.
A Death in Eden, the latest entry in Keith McCafferty's acclaimed series, follows an eventful float down the Smith River. Sean Stranahan, who does private investigations when not fly fishing, gets roped into assisting an ambitious documentarian film the debate between two old friends who happen to be leaders of opposing sides of a debate over mining that would affect the river. His friend, Harold Little Feather, is not far behind, getting to know his son and doing a little investigating into the scarecrows that have been appearing along the Smith. Someone gets bitten by a rattlesnake, two people get kidnapped, and the chase is on for some true nasties who like to kill bears and other beings that prefer to be left alone. McCafferty does an excellent job of conveying the splendor of backwoods Montana, and his situations and characters are believable. The forensics are also well-explained, and while the book stands pretty well on its own, you may want to go back in the series to fully flesh out the backstory, as well as virtually visit other beautiful places in the West.
Single parent and FBI agent Ali Page gets deep into Glacier National Park in Christine Carbo's A Sharp Solitude. Page is trying to locate her daughter's father and wildlife researcher, Reeve, who the local police suspect of killing a journalist. Turns out, said journalist was asking uncomfortable questions about gun control of some twitchy and dangerous people. Page is convinced Reeve, who like her, had an abusive childhood, is innocent, but he's gone to ground in the wilderness. Carbo gets both the natural beauty and emotional heartbreak right in this suspenseful mystery.
Meredith Mountain, in southeast Montana, is on fire and so is Alice Adams, a retiree with a part-time job at the local paper in Burning Meredith by Elizabeth Gunn. Alice takes the notes of her nephew Stephen, who is working as a photojournalist, and strings together the story of the forest fire. After a crispy body turns up, aunt and nephew are out to find the murderer and scoop the national papers. While a plot thread concerning some local chemically affected ne'er-do-wells at first seems tangential, it is eventually looped into the story. Meanwhile, Alice realizes that journalism is a lot more fun than more traditional retiree pursuits. You will want to see these characters again, and the ending leaves plenty of material for a continuation of the series.
Have more mysteries set in Big Sky Country? Tell us about them in the comments.