The Toyman Rides Again
Robert S. Napier
Five Star, 2010
Jack Lorentz is an antique toy dealer and ex-investigative journalist who is asked to join a group of Seventh Cavalry reenactors on their annual re-creation of Custer's Last Stand. Lorentz is there to protect Charles Swanson, aka George Armstrong Custer, who's life has been threatened, even though Swanson isn't really concerned about it. Lorentz joins the reenactment, complete with disguise and horse. Lorentz would have been better off staying at the antique mall.
The reenactment starts off disastrously when a group of Native American activists show up to crash the party. In all the confusion that follows, Swanson/Custer is murdered anyway, and the blame is naturally placed on the leader of the activists. But Lorentz has reason to believe that Harold Two Bears is not the murderer, even though it was his knife that was found in Swanson/Custer's chest. Lorentz finds that things are getting more complicated by the minute, and falling for a beautiful Native American named Abigail She Stands In Light doesn't help matters. As things unfold, Lorentz finds himself the subject of an FBI investigation, all the while finding more murders and surprising liaisons that keep the reader guessing until the very last chapter.
I haven't read the first Toyman novel, Love, Death and the Toyman, but that didn't keep me from thoroughly enjoying The Toyman Rides Again, which set in the 1980s in Montana and Washington State. Lorentz is a thoroughly believable hero. He's a junk food addict who puts Swiss Miss in his coffee - a man who's seen it all, yet feels guilty over his inability to keep Swanson alive. The reenactment part of the story is fascinating, and I even learned a little bit about Custer that I didn't know, which was a pleasant add-on.
All in all, Napier provides a skillful and entertaining mystery with some history and romance thrown in for good measure. I was riveted from page one. This definitely should be on any mystery lover's shelf, and if you like to dress up as a Calvary soldier on the weekends, so much the better.