Robert Greer’s Astride a Pink Horse, a terrific standalone that departs from his popular CJ Floyd series (First of State, etc.), reporter Elgin “Cozy” Coseia turns detective while covering the case of a murdered US Air Force sergeant found hanging upside down in a decommissioned Wyoming missile silo. The corpse has been mutilated, perhaps denoting a particularly nasty hate crime and/or one with sexual overtones. At first that appears to be the case because the victim, Thurmond Giles, was infamous for his tomcat ways.
Soon, however, Cozy discovers that Giles performed high-level maintenance on atomic warheads, and as a civilian, might have been selling nuclear material to foreign governments. Chasing what he sees as the story of a lifetime, Cozy finds himself interviewing elderly Kimiko Takata, a firstgeneration Japanese American who spent much of her childhood at Heart Mountain, Wyoming’s infamous WWII internment camp. An anti-nuke activist who’d had a personal run-in with Giles, she hated the dead man, but so did everyone else in the area’s anti-nuke community.
Like Greer’s CJ Floyd, Cozy is an African American, as are many other of the book’s characters, most notably Major Bernadette Cameron, an Air Force pilot grounded by health issues. Cameron, an Amazon whose martial arts expertise fells bikers with a single kick, is the perfect foil for the more physically timid Cozy. The duo makes for great reading fun, and we can only hope that they reappear in later books. But the true worth of Astride a Pink Horse is found in Greer’s meticulous research into the disarmed US missile program, which left thousands of nuclear warheads still intact. The information on the government’s sloppy atomic scrapping procedures will scare the bejesus out of you. Astride a Pink Horse (the title stems from a horrific scene later in the book) is one more outstanding novel by an always outstanding writer.