|The prologue places a woman named Yancy in the Federal Witness Protection Program for her testimony against her boyfriend and his very extensive criminal organization. This is book five in “The Starrs of the West” series.
Ten years elapse and the story opens in small town Montana, where an
unpleasant, mean spirited adult son of a senator is found dead in a parking lot. His death can be nothing less than an execution and the sheriff, Roan Harley, is quickly pressured by all to make an arrest.
While investigating the victim’s last hours, he finds that the deceased
had been hitting on Mary Yancy in Buster’s Last Stand Saloon. Mary had been there to get a take out dinner. Immediately, she becomes a suspect.
Mary is a stranger to the town; six months prior she purchased a beauty salon and devotes all her time to her business. Roan discovers she also has a registered gun, so he puts together the age old motive and means and arrests her.
Never mind that the ballistics don’t match or that Mary can not be placed at the scene of the crime. Roan claims he is making the arrest before the state boys do it, since she is the only possible suspect and the senator is pulling out all political favors to get the job done. Roan has personal problems, which seem to minimize his investigative time.
Meanwhile, the arrest of Mary Yancy makes the papers and it is apparently newsworthy enough to make the wire services. Mary reveals she is in the Witness Protection Program but they have lost her file and the supervising agent has been dead for several years. Now of course, she becomes a target for the criminal organization she was hiding from.
Roan swears to protect her, the sum and substance of it is his picking her up in the morning and taking her home at night since for some strange reason her car had been impounded. He sort of keeps investigating but discovers very little. While driving her the few blocks to and from her home and work, he begins to fall for her.
Creighton does her usual fine job of creating characters. However, the
concept of protected witnesses wandering around on their own for years,
somehow acquiring enough money to buy a business and disappearing off the radar screen of the agency does not resonate with what I know of that program. Since the plot does not work without making these assumptions, it greatly weakens the structure of the novel.
Not only would Mary Yancy’s arrest seem to violate every concept of due
process possible, but also the follow up to the arrest like preliminary
hearings, etc. is totally ignored. And it is hoped that if a sheriff knew you were a target of organized crime something more could be done to protect you than giving you a ride to work.
When a novel feels technically flawed it is hard to appreciate the warm characters, interesting dialogue or interaction between characters.