Clay Aker and friends deal with the disappearance of his brother, Jack in this award-winning second novel in the Clay Aker Mystery Series. A mother’s love and concern for a missing child, environmental pollution, kidnapping, murder, arson, euthanasia, race relations, and human emotions ranging from dismay, regret and loss to new love and romance swirl around the characters and plot in this novel set along the Texas coast and in the Hill Country. The Midwest Press called Color of Blood “a riveting novel with many excellent twists and turns…a great thriller sure to please fans of the genre” (October 2008, Small Press Bookwatch Index). Nancy Glass West, Book Shelf Columnist for the San Antonio Women’s Magazine, wrote that “Les Coalson brings Texas history and landscape alive with suspense. ..[And] uses his knowledge of agriculture, development of natural resources and business as background…. As characters comb Texas from New Braunfels to the coastal bays, readers learn about the history, livestock and vegetation of the area” (Jan/Feb 2009, pages 90-93). Readerviews.com named Color of Blood a 2009 award winner in the Mystery/Suspense/Thriller Awards category.
Mildred Aker becomes troubled when Jack, her youngest son and environmental activist, doesn’t return with his girlfriend Vicky Sloan from sampling Lavaca Bay for mercury contamination. Activists are amassing data that will result in the bay being named an EPA Super Fund Site. Mildred calls her oldest son, Clay for help. He is assisted by Texas Ranger Julio Ramirez, a friend who has his own family issues to resolve. Jack’s abandoned boat is found with his wallet and soil samples. The only lead is a thin film of refined oil coated along the water line. A pollution expert determines the oil was refined outside the Gulf Coast, raising questions how it got into a Texas bay.
Clay and Mildred are unaware that Jack was murdered and Vicky kidnapped after witnessing two lawbreakers dump waste oil in the bay. Vicky is being kept hostage aboard a shrimp trawler by Cajun Etienne le Maurais and Jacob Brown, the handicapped black skipper of the trawler, who argue over her fate. Etienne forces Jacob to leave safe harbor in the midst of a dangerous storm with the intent to kill him and Vicky. The storm capsizes the trawler in a remote area along the Gulf Coast. All three survive, but are separated as they swim to shore. Jacob and Vicky walk over twenty miles to a small town steal a boat and head for the Brazos River bottoms where Jacob was raised. Meanwhile, Bert Taylor is stalking Mary Frances, Clay’s girl friend, who is alone at home managing her canoe and campground business on the Guadalupe River. Bert and his influential banker- father have been unsuccessful in getting Mary Frances to drop fraud charges against Bert (read background in 'Sever the Darkness'). His only option to avoid prison is to kill Mary Frances. Bert locks her inside the office and sets it on fire, but she escapes and is hospitalized. Ranger Julio Ramirez faces a moral decision whether to order doctors to remove his comatose wife’s feeding tube. She was shot in the head in an ambush intended for him. His wife’s mother makes the situation public and the Ranger makes local headlines as an uncaring husband, further escalating the conflict with his mother-in-law in a public forum.
The story climaxes as Bert tracks Mary Frances to the hospital and intensifies his efforts to kill her. A Coast Guard buoy tender finds Jack’s body during a scheduled maintenance stop. Etienne errs by using Jack Aker’s credit card and Ranger Ramirez is fast on his trail. A local TV news piece convinces Etienne that Jacob and Vicky did not die when the trawler capsized, and he heads for Jacob’s home town to silence his former partner. His network of criminal contacts soon reveals the whereabouts of his prey and he closes in to kill them just as Ranger Ramirez arrives. Who will survive?
Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson reviewed the novel for Reader Views in March 2008 and wrote that “Les Coalson has obviously done extensive research for the background of his story and his insights into Texas’s history, economy and the current environmental issues are well worth reading. He touches on many pressing contemporary issues, including race relations, the euthanasia dilemma, crime, pollution, the behavior of large companies with little regard for our environment and more.
“As enthralling as the main storyline was, I found several of the side stories even more absorbing. Julio and Louisa’s heartbreaking story presents an ethical dilemma that many people have witnessed in the Terry Schiavo case, but which remains fresh and compelling. Mary Frances and Clay’s story is one that so many readers slightly afraid of commitment will find easy to relate to. Jacob’s struggle between what’s easy and what’s right is a classic example of the choices people are faced with every day; and there is no telling which side will win in any of those situations. Vicky’s past – and to some extent her present – will probably make you wince, but you are also bound to feel some compassion for her. All of those side stories and their characters are well-thought-out and very believable. The characters are well-crafted, and I found it easy to relate to them. Although their motivations are pretty straightforward, the story does not suffer for that and does not become boring and predictable. I would recommend Les Coalson’s “Color of Blood” to any reader in search of a fast-moving, contemporary and relevant suspense novel. If the reader happens to be fan of wildlife, boating or Texas, he or she should find this an especially rewarding read.”