[LMB] Fwd: [CrimeThruTime] The Old Rugged Double Cross by Jonathan Thomas Stratman

Margaret Dean margdean56 at gmail.com
Wed Jan 10 17:17:58 GMT 2018

People have been asking for books set in Alaska ... and what do I find on
the historical mystery list I follow but this? Enjoy!

--Margaret Dean
  <margdean56 at gmail.com>

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Ward Saylor lbjes at iinet.net.au [CrimeThruTime] <
CrimeThruTime at yahoogroups.com>
Date: Wed, Jan 10, 2018 at 12:10 AM
Subject: [CrimeThruTime] The Old Rugged Double Cross by Jonathan Thomas
To: CrimeThruTime at yahoogroups.com

*The Old Rugged Double Cross (Father Hardy Alaska Mystery Series Book 4)*
by Jonathan Thomas Stratman
*Link*: http://a.co/9GrnRLq

Last year I enthused mightily about this series, and the latest is no
exception. Compulsory reading for anyone interested in exotic settings,
marvellous characters, complex plots, clever mysteries and pulse-racing
action. Plus, a good price.

It’s 1957 back in the remote Alaskan town of Chandalar (based on Nenana
where Stratman lived as a child). Ike is about to visit the nearby Clear
Station DEW Line facility. A handheld nuclear device has been stolen,
Khrushchev is about to topple Malenkov, and it is feared Russian agents
will attack. Meanwhile, a homeless woman and a trapper are murdered, a
dangerous prowler is about and someone is out to kill Fr Hardy. So, a
pretty normal scenario for the series.

Fr Hardy, an Episcopalian mission priest from Tennessee (based on the
author’s father) investigates along with his Athabascan teacher sweetheart
Evie, his gay Italophile Indian sniper friend Andy and William, a Russian
working for US intelligence. The story screams along at the page of a dog
sled race from midsummer to winter’s end. The descriptions of town life,
the freezing cold, the amazing landscape and the camaraderie bond you to
the books.

These are people to love, and you do. The culprits appear obvious early on,
but the author’s magic is to keep you on the edge of certainty and then
upend your expectations twice over. This is a community that thrives on its
interdependence, its basic life style and a diet of moose burgers and
coffee from the red can. Think of Grantchester with lots of guns, 40 below.
My biggest complaint is that I couldn’t slow down my reading enough to do
the writing full justice.

Ward Saylor

I stood at the bar in the Bide-A-While tavern, sipping a Coke when I first
met the brother of my good friend William Stoltz. In fact, it was William
who introduced us.

"My brother, Vadim." Vah-deem, as William pronounced it.

I spent my previous visit to the Bide-A-While trying, with marginal
success, to save a gunshot victim bleeding out on the floor. This was

It was late afternoon—quitting time—though in a town with no industry-,
nobody really worked fixed hours. There were maybe twenty people in the
place, six of them women—counting Alice, the bartender—gathered in couples
and small groups, drinking, smoking, and talking too loudly, to be heard
over the jukebox. Only one sat alone, an old stinky trapper who came in to
nurse his beer-a-day in exchange for sweeping the place out.

There was nobody dressed up in here. It was after breakup, late spring, so
no parkas or mukluks. The men and women wore chinos or denim pants, sturdy
shoes or work boots, a jacket or a flannel shirt, with a felt hat or tied
kerchief around the hair, as was appropriate. Most were smoking—cigarettes,
cigars, even a pipe or two—and the silvery air swirled and danced.

Two years earlier I had come to the small Alaska town of Chandalar—near
Nenana and about eighty miles south of Fairbanks—as mission priest. I'd
buried victims of gunshot, freezing, drowning, moose, and the train. One
actually died of old age. And I'd been thrown off a sternwheeler, jumped
off a very high bridge, and shot at several times.

But I’d worked hard to not be cheechako—a greenhorn—had made friends and
even fallen in love again. Evie and I planned to marry in late summer. This
confuses people when they learn I'm an Episcopal priest. But unlike Roman
Catholics, we marry.

So, it had been a very difficult two years, but looking down the polished
mahogany bar at friends, friends of friends, and now William's brother
visiting from our so-called Cold War enemy, Soviet Russia, I couldn't think
of a single place I'd rather be.

The Bide-A-While wasn't a big place. The varnished knotty-pine walls, now
dulled by time and cigarette smoke, were decorated with various beer
posters. A lit Schlitz clock permanently indicated five o'clock, quitting
time, or "beer o'clock," as they like to say around here. I asked Alice why
they didn't throw it away. She made a face, pulled back to look at me and
cocked her head, like I'd suggested we run up Main Street naked together.

"Customers like the light," she said. "Besides, it's right twice a day!"

The bar ran down much of one side of the room, with two small high windows
on the other side. A back door led to a storeroom down a short hall with
two tiny bathrooms—what the British call "water closets," appropriate
because neither of these was any bigger than a closet and you certainly
couldn't get a bath there.

Posted by: Ward Saylor <lbjes at iinet.net.au>
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