by Cloggie Downunder (Wollongong NSW): A Lonesome Place For Dying is the first book to feature Ethan Brand by award-winning Canadian-born author, Sam Wiebe, writing as Nolan Chase. On the morning he’s due to take over from Police Chief Frank Keogh in the Washington State border town of Blaine, someone has left on Ethan Brand’s doorstep a heart (too large to be human) and a printed note telling him to leave. Ethan is not inclined to leave his home town: he heads off to work.

Before he can even be sworn in by the mayor, he’s out by the railway line near Mo’s scrapyard, examining the body of a young woman. She has been stabbed, but there’s nothing to identify her, nor any sign of how she got there.

There are quite a few candidates potentially responsible for the gory warning (which soon escalates to a death threat), including a disgruntled suspended cop, rivals for the position of chief, criminals whose activities he has curtailed, and a romantic indiscretion, but Ethan has to put that aside to focus on solving the murder (and proving his suitability as chief).

While he has a handful of conscientious and competent officers who between them manage to give the Jane Doe a name and find other evidence, Ethan is frustrated that his two senior officers are squabbling rather than working as a team.

Diligent investigation uncovers an impersonation, another murder and a missing person. As well, there’s a white-suited character in town who looks and acts very much like a hit-man: who is paying him and who might be his target? Ethan is convinced the local drug smugglers, the McCandless family must be involved.

Ethan is an interesting protagonist, a lawman with integrity, insight and intelligence, and a few quirks (his chess game with the diner waitress, his fondness for the blue-eyed coyote, his rapport with various locals, his naivete with the non-binary journalist) that will endear him to the reader.

Chase gives the reader cleverly-plotted crime fiction with a few twists and surprises, a dramatic climax and a very satisfactory resolution. He easily evokes his setting, and Jerry Todd’s cover is striking. Chase has set up the town and its inhabitants with plenty of scope for further books in this location, and more of this cast would be most welcome.

This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books.