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Retirement. Publishers, thank you for the many years of reading pleasure you gave me, but all good things must come to an end. Due to failing eyesight I am forced to retire. I can no longer review your books, and any that you send will be donated to the local library, unread. Do not send any more. I can only read for a couple hours every day, and this does not allow me to finish a book in reasonable time. I will be devoting time to my own books from now on, and reading on a personal level. Books that interest me. I prefer paperbacks and hardbacks, not eBooks. My eyesight has been failing the last few years, and I cannot handle hundreds of review books any more. My books are still available for review. Anyone interested in reviewing any of them, they are found in the Link to Tom’s Books On Amazon. Contact me for pdf copies at

Sunday, November 24, 2013


Dakota (Mystery Thriller)
By Gwen Florio
ISBN #978-1579623623
The Permanent Press
Price $28.00
264 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

“I loved it, and couldn’t put it down!”

After Lola Wicks, a former foreign correspondent, is downsized from her position, she ends up in Magpie, Montana. Working for a small newspaper, she covers the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and becomes romantically involved with the local sheriff. When the body of a young Indian girl is found in a snow bank a quarter mile from the road, Lola learns that this isn’t the only missing girl from the reservation, and decides to investigate.

A semi truck was also discovered several miles from where the body was found, turned over, and the driver’s neck broken. There is no indication the two incidents are connected. The trucker’s death may be a homicide, but it’s believed the young girl died from exposure, though she may have been hitchhiking home from somewhere, and rode with the trucker to the junction. But the question remains, why would she leave the safety of the truck to trek cross-country in blowing snow and 20 degrees below zero. This is suicide weather, unless it was her only chance of survival to escape a murderer.

More mystery unravels as an oilfield roughneck passing through Magpie recognizes the girl’s obituary picture as a prostitute working the oil patch in North Dakota. Lola senses a story, and requests an assignment to the “Patch”, 500 miles from Magpie, where many of the local Indian men work. Trying to find information in an oilfield setting with roughnecks living in an uncivilized community, and rowdy strip clubs surrounding the thousands of men working the fields, it’s a scene as primitive as any Lola must have seen anywhere in her overseas travels. Even the local sheriff and his buddy appear made of the same cloth. Lola sticks her inquisitive nose in places that could get her hurt – and does; she might even end up dead like the stripper she interviewed, her neck broken like the truck driver near Magpie.

This was a fascinating story, with characters that come alive on the page, as the author describes the locals and their living conditions. As the story unfolds, we discover how evil the people are behind the plot, and wonder how our society has become so sick. To make it more real for me, it took me back to when I spent seven winters in North Dakota on the Canadian border, with temperatures 45 below zero (chill factor dropping to near 100 below), white outs, 3-day blizzards, and the rules of surviving such conditions. The moisture in the automobile gas-lines freezing fifty miles from civilization. No oilfields in sight, but missile silos dotting the landscape everywhere.

I loved the story, but had a few problems with it. How, and even why, was the girl even found in the snowdrift a quarter mile from a road, in blowing snow and 20 degrees below zero? It’s not explained who found her, why they were out there, and how they even discovered her body. She had been reported missing several years previously, and no one knew she was out there. I accepted the fact that she was found, as this instigated the investigation, but it still left me wondering. The suggestion that Lola would be charged with murder is curious. She was the victim, kidnapped, beaten, drugged and held against her will. She had every right to escape, even if that included grabbing a branding iron and striking her captor over the head; remember, her captor was holding a gun (no matter who it was aimed at). However, my main problem concerned the sheriff of Magpie, Montana. The sheriff would have needed a Federal Warrant just to go to North Dakota to pick up a prisoner already in custody. Just because he “suspected” a crime being committed in North Dakota did not give this county sheriff in Montana the authority to cross state borders to make an arrest. Where does his authority (badge & gun) end? Nor can he deputize his friend, also from Montana, to carry a gun and hold a resident of North Dakota in confinement. My guess is the arrest would be kicked out, the bad guys released, and the Montana sheriff and his friend arrested and sued for false arrest of North Dakota residents. Lawyers would have a field day with this case. But technical flows aside, this novel will keep you turning the page, and you will find Lola Wicks one tough-minded reporter.

Tom Johnson
Detective Mystery Stories

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