Exploring the bleak times during Prohibition becomes a thrill-ride in Sandra Brown’s “Blind Tiger.” The story is set right after the “Great War,” and is filled with nonstop action as we meet Laurel Plummer, who ends up in small-town Foley, Texas, after her husband abandons her in his father’s one-room shack. Laurel is left with her sickly, premature newborn, Pearl, in a drafty cabin with no running water or electricity. Laurel, as we come to find out, is a tough character and not one to let a desperate situation keep her down.
We also meet Thatcher Hutton as he is jumping off a freight train in the middle of the desert. We learn that he is trying to get back to a Texas ranch where he had worked since before he was a teenager. He left to join the military during the war and now is trying to get back to the job he loved and the ranch owner he respected, and who in many ways was a father figure to him. We learn that he’s a good fighter, he’s smart, and he’s an honorable man. We also see quickly that there is a real attraction between Laurel and Thatcher.
But both of them find themselves in situations that are not what they expected. Laurel expected that she, her husband, and their baby were moving to Foley so her husband could get work. That didn’t happen. Thatcher thought he’d find a job in Foley to get him enough money to get to the ranch, where he knew a job would be waiting for him. That didn’t happen either.
Instead, after Thatcher stops at the shack where Laurel lives with her father-in-law and her baby as he asks for water and directions and then heads to town, he ends up getting arrested for the disappearance of the town doctor’s wife. She had disappeared the night Thatcher stopped by, asking if the doctor had a room for rent. Mila, the wife, was kind to Thatcher and gave him something to eat. That night, she disappeared. The town sheriff arrests Thatcher for the crime, and things don’t look good for him. In the meantime, Laurel has found out that Irving, her father-in-law, is not a handyman at all but rather a bootlegger. During Prohibition, making and selling alcohol is not just lucrative, it can also be dangerous. Especially when those in power want to control all the business. Encroaching on a rival’s clients can be a killing matter.
To be sure, there’s romance in this story, but there’s also much more. Brown creates two very likable characters with strong personalities. Laurel doesn’t act the shrinking violet when she discovers her father-in-law’s profession. Instead, she uses her brains to figure out ways to make the business better. When Thatcher convinces the sheriff that he isn’t the reason MIla is missing, the sheriff comes to count on him and the critical thinking skills that help Thatcher solve problems and read people; so the sheriff asks him to become a deputy. But there are truly venal people who run the local speakeasy, also called a blind tiger. Some townspeople are just guilty of loose morals, others of being blackmailed for reasons out of their control; and still others who would kill over a small slight. Additionally, there are those who traffic in people. Both Laurel and Thatcher are in dangerous company.
The historical nature of the story regarding the west Texas setting, the Texas Rangers, and how Prohibition made criminals out of those just wanting a beer, is intriguing. The auxiliary characters are also memorable. Readers who enjoy “The Kinship” series by Jess Montgomery, set contemporaneously, but in Ohio and with a woman sheriff, will appreciate the different perspective that includes similar episodes of violence that criminal behavior almost universally elicits.
Please note: This review was first posted on Bookreporter.com.