I have read the 50th book for the book challenge. It was A Nose For Justice by Rita Mae Brown.
I will be the first to admit that I did not understand much of this book, which had to do with the leasing and sale of water rights in Nevada. That being said, let me tell you about the plot of the book, as I understood it.
Magdalene “Jeep” Reed is an octogenarian retired Woman Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) who owns Wings, a multi-acre ranch outside Reno, Nevada. She owns much of the water rights in the area and the water resource management company, SSRM, has been trying for years to get her to lease these rights to them but she won’t budge. Her great-niece Magdalene “Mags” who has recently failed on Wall Street arrives with her long-haired Dachshund Baxter to live with Jeep at Wings.
Not long after Mags arrives at Wings, Jeep’s dog King and Baxter are digging in the barn and they dig up a skeleton in the floor where there are renovations going on. It is an old skeleton, they can tell that, and they call in an archaeology team from the University of Nevada at Reno. They find a ring from the Russian Royal Riding Academy with the skeleton and evidence that the man was murdered. They also find a number of small colored bone squares that may have made up a bracelet. Jeep takes to wearing the ring and Mags string the bone pieces as a bracelet and Mags uses the Internet to go searching for the identity of the murdered man. They learn that Buffalo Bill was often a guest at the ranch and that he had Cossacks in his traveling show so this gives them a good starting point.
Now another mystery occurs. Two of SSRM’s water pumps are blown up within a week of each other. Sheriff’s deputies Pete and Lonnie are called out to investigate. They take reports and find what look like pipe bombs and shopping lists. Then a water rights environmentalist is found murdered in a motel. The death was rigged to make it look like a suicide but it was really muser, and the killer took the man’s laptop computer. Pete and Lonnie interview everyone at SSRM but can’t find anyone who looks suspicious.
Meanwhile, Craig Locke from SSRM continues to visit all the ranchers in the area asking about leasing their water rights. And most of them keep turning him down.
Then Pete and Lonnie stumble across ten people who have bought property in a subdivision that is going to be developed into a housing tract. When they bought it, they got the land for a very good price but now it is worth a lot of money because of the housing development and because of their water rights. They are trying to track down these ten people and find out what they have in common. How did they all get in on this deal?
Then a water management specialist from SSRM goes missing. He is not heard from for several weeks. Then King and Baxter are exploring in a remote part of the ranch. They come across a dead body. It is Oliver Hichens, the missing man. They take his fingers back with them to the ranch house and get Jeep and Mags to come with them to see the body. No one knows who killed Hichens. He was killed by a blow to the head with a large rock.
Pete and Lonnie discover the connection among the ten people, but not before one of the ten, the chef Egon, is poisoned at Jeep’s holiday party. Pete knows all the people are in danger. He finds the person, Teton, who put the deal together. His brother-in-law works at SSRM and told him that these properties would one day be worth a lot. All these people were in drug rehab with him. Egon was still an alcoholic who got greedy and someone killed him. The same person who killed Oliver Hichens and who blew up the water pumps.
Mags is out running one morning with the dogs. A 4×4 pulls up next to her and a man in a ski mask with a knife gets out grabs her. She struggles to get away. The dogs attack the man. Baxter bites his hand hard and makes him drop the knife, but King, the German Shepherd, tears his throat out and kills him. Mags runs home where Pete and Jeep are and brings them to the site of the killing. They unmask the man and find it is Craig Locke. He is the killer of all these people and the one who destroyed the water pumps.
Back at the ranch, Mags solves the puzzle of the Russian skeleton. He was a Cossack in Buffalo Bill’s show and was killed by one of the American “spys” who was also in the show. Mags has pictures of the men, showing the spy with her bracelet and the Cossack wearing the ring. Mags and Pete and happily in love. And Baxter and King get steaks and bones for their part in saving Mags.
As I said, there was a great deal in this book about water rights and water leasing that was WAY over my head. I get the fact that there is an aquifer and there is not enough water to sustain a huge increase in population that the development companies want. They want to buy water from Lake Tahoe in California and buy up the water rights from ranchers in Reno, but the ranchers won’t lease to them. I can understand both sides. We can’t have out-of-control population growth. But how do you stop people from wanting to move to an area. I guess you limit the housing that can be built and limit the job growth. You are limiting the economy, therefore.
It was a confusing book. The whole discussion of water rights, while important, tended to obscure the mystery part of the story. It was important as to why the killings took place, that’s for sure, but it was a lot of preaching, I thought. Just me.