Tommy and Lester work as horse and mule packers in the Sierra Nevada and find themselves high in the mountains doing trail maintenance when they spot the wreckage of an airplane. Climbing their way above the trail to the downed craft, they find the victim and enough evidence to know the pilot is the missing millionaire who disappeared during the winter. The two return to their pack string, load up and head down country, intending to report their discovery to the local sheriff.
But as with any good novel, the story is not quite that simple. Back in town they are driving to the sheriff’s station when Lester shows off an expensive watch he took from the dead man’s wrist. And then he flashes a wad of cash, also taken from the wreckage. These ill-gotten gains make it impossible to report the plane’s location without implicating Lester for theft from a dead man.
Tommy and Lester agree they will return the watch and the money, then report their discovery. Tommy, an Iraq war veteran wants to do the honorable thing, but Lester has other ideas when he blabs the news of the discovery to girlfriend Callie. Those two then decide, quite unwisely, that they might be able to get a big payoff if they report the discovery to the dead man’s son and his widow, a second wife with no love lost between her and the son.
Separate phone calls to the heirs set off a chain of events that keep you turning the pages in this fast-paced novel. Almost before they know it Tommy and Lester are in the middle of a volatile situation that explodes around them and puts them and everyone they know in mortal danger.
There is a high body count in this book, as the two packers try to make things right, face their own personal losses, and try to determine who is behind the unsettling events that include missing dead pilot, fatal car crashes that are no accident, explosions, and more.
Author Bart Paul has done a little horse packing in his life, and has a good understanding of horses, mules, packing, and the mountains. He has crafted a fine novel with a conclusion you may not see coming. ❖