Book Reviews

What I’ve Been Reading: Breck’s Quandary by Mark Mitten

Breck’s Quandary is another novel by a fellow author from the Milford House imprint of Sunbury Press. His name is Mark Mitten and he has written three novels including: Sipping Whiskey in a Shallow Grave, Hard to Quit, and Breck’s Quandary. All are available at the Sunbury Press online store and Amazon. Mitten specializes in western-style stories written in the vein of Cormac McCarthy.

Breck’s Quandary introduces the reader to Sheriff Breckenridge “Breck” Dyer, the main lawman in a remote Colorado ski town named Quandary. Breck is aided by only one other deputy, a manifestation of an underfunded department. His main opposition in the town is a corrupt mayor who despises Breck and is the main reason that the department has been nearly gutted. Quandary is suffering in general as its main source of revenue, skiing tourism, has been dwindling and mismanaged. Outside of skiing, Quandary doesn’t have a whole lot to offer economically, socially, or culturally.

Trouble worse than money woes arrives in town when two members of a powerful Mexican drug cartel pay a visit to Quandary. A danger to citizens and a major headache for Breck, the two cartel representatives are exploring the area to eliminate any possible competition and begin trafficking narcotics. Breck is faced with the challenge of getting rid of the two criminals while dealing with a scheming mayor and accusations of corruption regarding his own department. Not to mention the terrible cell phone service, broken down snowmobiles, and lack of financial resources.

Mitten’s story has the feel of a classic western, but is set in modern-day Colorado dealing with changing drug laws and evolving social attitudes regarding marijuana usage. Breck’s Quandary has distinct characters that don’t seem forced or artificial. Breck is a reliable, blue collar sheriff trying his best to be frugal and fair while maintaining order in the town. His only deputy, Jenny, is tough while still being likable and helpful. It never feels like she’s trying too hard to impress anybody. The mayor is a corrupt and conniving jerk who doesn’t really have the town’s best interest as a priority. While he can be pretty cutthroat, it’s obvious that he is a stereotypical dirty small town bureaucrat who isn’t exactly a political mastermind. His method of greasing the wheels with one of the council members is to buy him Subway sandwiches when he needs his vote on an issue. It was important that the mayor’s nefarious characteristics were shown, but that he never seem like a powerful, impressive figure.

Breck’s Quandary is a nicely paced crime story with a lot of action; a successful blend of old school western ethos and current issues. Different character’s experiences are woven together to form a cohesive narrative. This well-crafted novel maintains a solid focus on showing how an already challenged small town reacts to a major criminal threat. The exact nature of Breck and Quandary‘s problems might be new to them, but they’re rooted in the same basic greed and corruption that frustrated sheriffs in the old west. Breck is the next generation of overworked small town law enforcer with a full plate and a loaded gun.

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