Moving Targets is the sixth book in Warren C. Easley’s mystery series featuring Portland lawyer Cal Claxton. When Angela Wingate came into Claxton’s law office in Old Town to ask him to look for the hit-and-run driver who killed her mother, neither of them had any idea there was more to her death than an unfortunate accident and an unrepentant driver. As soon as Claxton begin looking into it, though, her mother’s lawyer and the CEO of the family business betrayed suspicious hostility. Digging deeper, Claxton discovers a conspiracy so outlandish, he’s not quite sure how to resolve it. Worse, the investigation as put a target on Angela and his back, putting them in the crosshairs of a very dangerous killer.
Moving Targets inhabits Portland completely, capturing the look and feel of the city and its unique zeitgeist. The story is rooted in the real conflicts about the future of the city, the constant gentrification and the sense the city is losing its identity as the people who make Portland weird are driven out by rising housing costs.
The story also inhabits contemporary America. Angela’s mother is changed by her participation in the Women’s March. Claxton’s lover Winona is changed by traveling to Standing Rock to protest DAPL, leading her to question their relationship. Portland has been the focus of federal investigations into the Russian mob and the population of immigrants is significant enough that recent local surveys at a clinic and a performance have added Slavic to the usual ethnic identifiers.
The mystery is fair, scrupulously so. I had an idea where the story was going by the time I was a third of the way through. More players were added in time, but the general outline was visible and just needed filling in. This may frustrate some readers who prefer more mystery to their mysteries. I prefer it when the detective can grasp the big picture quickly even if there’s no concrete evidence. That’s this story, Claxton’s problem isn’t so much wondering what is going on, it’s how to prove it.
My biggest complaint about Moving Targets is that I discovered this series on the sixth book, not the first. However, that does mean I have five books to look forward to that I expect to be enjoyable. I confess I may rate it more highly than someone who lives, say, in Coral Gables. A lot of my pleasure came in the sheer Portlandness of it. I know where he is in my city. I have been to those places, eaten at Pambiche, and enjoyed the exhilaration of a sunny day in a rainy spring. There were a couple places where the foreshadowing approached had-I-but-known territory, but other than that, the writing was engaging and evocative.
For organizers and activists made anxious by rising nationalism and corruption in our politics, Claxton has something to offer too, a reminder that the arc is long, and that sometimes the struggle is the reward. Wise words and a reminder that even when we know we will lose, we must still resist. If our reward is the struggle, that is still better than accepting injustice.
I received a copy of Moving Targets from the publisher through NetGalley.