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Moving Targets: A Cal Claxton Oregon Mystery


Moving Targets: A Cal Claxton Oregon Mystery

When sculptor Angela Wingate walks into Cal Claxton’s pro-bono law office in downtown Portland to ask him to look into the hit-and-run death of her mother, he finds himself entangled in an urban development scheme that could cost him his practice and perhaps his life.

Angela is the adopted daughter of the late Margaret Wingate, a socially prominent activist who was run down on her morning jog in her upscale Portland neighborhood a few months earlier. Police have written it off as an accident, but Angela has been going through her mother’s papers and found reason to believe that it may have been murder. Cal agrees to look into it. At the same time, the long-inactive stone quarry adjacent to his house is brought back to life as dynamite blasts and caravans of gravel trucks line up next to his once peaceful home. Is there a connection?

"Even if you’ve never been to Portland, Easley writes with such a strong sense of place that it puts you right in the scene that many writers try, but often fail, to accomplish."

The same law firm that handled Angela’s mother’s legal affairs is backing a controversial upscale urban renewal development on the Portland waterfront. Margaret had expressed her concerns about it only days before her death, because it would displace modest income housing and change the face of Portland’s popular laid-back arts, entertainment and dining scene. Once Cal studies a copy of Margaret’s will, which appears to leave a large donation to the project, he begins to dig deeper. When two more bodies turn up, Angela and Cal find themselves the target of the local press, politics, payoffs and Russian oligarchs.

Cal, a former LA prosecutor, had left a demanding career behind after it destroyed his marriage and took the life of his wife a few years earlier. He bought a rambling old farmhouse on an acreage overlooking the Willamette Valley in the red wine country outside of Portland to open a small private law practice. He could make his own hours, handle divorces, draw up wills, spend his leisure time fly fishing for steelhead trout, partake of the local wines and take runs with Archie, his Australian shepherd. That was the plan. With the opening of his pro-bono law office in downtown Portland, he finds himself on the other end of the legal system --- defending clients instead of prosecuting offenders.

Cal has grown to love the whole “Keep Portland Weird” scene in the arts neighborhood where he hung his shingle in a former coffee shop. He especially enjoys the peace and quiet of his creaking old farmhouse on the cliff above an abandoned rock quarry. When he finds that both are threatened by the elaborate glitzy condominium/business complex on the Portland waterfront, it gets personal.

Warren C. Easley has created an entertaining cast of engaging characters in his five prior novels, but if MOVING TARGETS is your first dip into the series, he sets the scene of this fast-moving mystery so you can keep up. Each of these books can be enjoyed as stand-alones, so if you're a newcomer, you don’t have to go back to the opening installment, BLOOD FOR WINE. But I highly recommend that you do. Even if you’ve never been to Portland, Easley writes with such a strong sense of place that it puts you right in the scene that many writers try, but often fail, to accomplish.

One of my favorites in the series is DEAD FLOAT. As a child, I accompanied my father and uncle on weeks-long trout fishing trips in the Rockies. Fly fishing was never this deadly, fortunately, but Easley helps me escape to those halcyon days of my youth. As a bonus, he often whips up a mouthwatering menu of Northwest coastal cuisine, always served with panache and the correct wine. Isn’t that what reading is all about? Sometimes it is to inform, but even more often it is to escape.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on October 12, 2018

Moving Targets: A Cal Claxton Oregon Mystery
by Warren C. Easley

  • Publication Date: September 4, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 302 pages
  • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
  • ISBN-10: 1464211302
  • ISBN-13: 9781464211300