Author: Carl Brookins
Publisher: Brookins Books LLC
ISBN: 978-0-9969991-0-6

Carl Brookins has created an interesting crime-fighting duo, Marjorie Kane and Alan Lockem. They are married, live in Minneapolis, and sound as if they are in their late 50s, early 60s. Marjorie is an exceptionally well-preserved former stripper. Lockem is a "private consultant," whatever that means. He's not a PI. "Some people call him a salvage expert." In any case, the two help people in trouble.

In Grand Lac, the person in trouble is Sam Black, the son of Marjorie's cousin, Edie. Sam and Edie live in the fictional small town of Grand Lac, Idaho, and Sam has been arrested for the murder of Jack Ketchum, "a rancher in the area." Edie asks Lockem and Kane to come to Idaho to help Sam.

Ketchum, who has a wealth of enemies in town, apparently has been shot by a hunting rifle that was some distance away. The reason for his killing? Angry at other landowners (including cousin Edie) who will not permit a road easement to his property on the mountainside, Ketchum took a bulldozer and cut his own road through everybody else's property, destroying tress, brush, and good feeling. It is not clear to me why Sam would be arrested for the murder let alone why Ketchum's vandalism is worth killing him, but let that go. Sam's in jail and we readers know he didn't do it.

Alan almost immediately twigs that the county sheriff and the Grand Lac police do not view public safety the same way, and that if Alan has to trust somebody he should trust the sheriff. Also Alan has been around the block enough times to suspect that the jail interview room has been bugged (apparently illegal even in Idaho) and Brookins writes a cute scene between Alan and Sam to circumvent the bug. And there's a problem with Ketchum's body: If he was killed by a distant rifle shot, why are there powder burns around the wound?

As Alan and Marjorie poke around Grand Lac, meet people, and ask questions, bad actors grow concerned and try—unsuccessfully—to frighten them off. They don't frighten, so the action gets ramped up, and we're in the middle of day trading scams, land deals,  civic corruption and more. Ketchem was more than a rancher on a bulldozer.

I've reviewed another Brookins mystery, Inside Passage, and Grand Lac offers many of the pleasures that book offered (Brookins lists 11 mystery titles he's independently published). For example, here's his description of a Grand Lac restaurant:

"It was the kind of supper club that aimed to serve those who wanted some private time together in an intimate setting. It would have good food, high prices and no sense of pressure to eat and get out. There were no windows of course, and the walls were hung with tapestries and large paintings of outdoor scenes, which could have been Idaho or California or South America, for all Lockem knew, not being much of a geographer. The building had the look of a place that started life as a modest cinderblock building and then grew with multiple expansions in a sort of haphazard unplanned non-pattern. As a result hallways and cul de sacs and evidence of doors appeared, any of which might have been randomly inserted between the decorations. It was the kind of place that could hide a lot of secrets."

And while Brookins himself has been around the block a few times, I would like to see a tighter story. Having created Lockem and Kane, he can give them skills and opportunities they don't yet have. Because they are not law officers, they are limited in some ways in what they can do to catch crooks, but they are free in other ways to do things the cops can't. We'll see what happens in the next book.