I've really enjoyed this 'Dakota' series written by Gilbert Ralson. Third entry, “Cat Trap”, was released by Pinnacle in September, 1974. While the previous two novels escalated the action over the mystery, “Cat Trap” reverses the formula and puts our Shoshone detective on the cusp of finding a killer through more procedural methods than hot lead. This version of Dakota reads more like a Perry Mason story than anything else.
The intriguing part of this series is that each novel is married to it's predecessor. Here, some of the events from the second book are outlined, with the same supporting cast from the first two installments visible throughout this book. In fact, pieces of the series debut, “Dakota Warpath”, remain unsolved and return in this novel. It's like a brutal version of “Cheers” - everybody knows your name and who shot you. The narrative follows Dakota as he runs coast to coast from New York to California chasing the killer behind two dead bodies in Lake Tahoe. Again, the action is secondary for three-fourths, but the cast of characters is robust. Too robust.
I honestly just lost track of the story. It could be that I was traveling while reading it, or that Ralston just crams way too many characters into 185-pages. I kept confusing the dead bodies with the live ones, and at the end of the day I'm still not sure who was the finger man (and I'm not sure the author knows either). But like the prior novels, book four will probably contain remnants of this story-line – finished or not.
While “Cat Trap” is entertaining and diverse, it's an unfocused delivery flawed with too much too fast. On the strength of the first two books, this one isn't deterring me from the series. Overall, it's an impressive run.