Belly up to a bar in West Yellowstone or Ennis and you might find yourself talking to a creatively profane fishing guide, a down-on-his-luck artist who can’t afford rent, the millionaire owner of a streamside log-cabin mansion who uses it only two weeks a year, or a pretty woman with a box of trout flies and a cryptic background.

That’s the kind of people you meet in Montana’s trout fishing country. And that’s why The Royal Wulff Murders ($27;, field editor Keith McCafferty’s new novel, features such an eclectic bunch.

Why would McCafferty–a talented elk hunter, survival expert, and unabashed steelhead bum who has written nearly 500 articles for _Field & Stream_–enter the fiction business?

“I decided to write a book the night I slept on the ground on a mountain for a Field & Stream assignment,” says McCafferty, a 30-year Bozeman resident. “It was so cold in the middle of the night that rather than get up, I peed myself. [Editor’s note: Sorry, Keith!] That did it.”

The following is an exclusive online-only excerpt from McCafferty’s novel. It is the third of five parts. Look for Part Four next week. –Mike Toth
WARNING: The following excerpt contains adult language. Reader discretion is advised.

Part III

The sheriff of Hyalite County, so-named for the opal ore that studded the volcanic peaks south of Bridger, placed her hands on her hips and said, “Hmpff.”

“What we have here,” Martha Ettinger said, looking from her deputy to the logjam in the river where Rainbow Sam’s client had hooked the corpse, “is a case of simple drowning. Or not. Enlighten me, Walt. Humor me with some of that big city cop perspective.”

It was Thursday morning, the day after the body had been discovered. The previous evening there had been scant opportunity to search the area where the angler had received his prodigious strike. By the time Ettinger and Deputy Walter Hess had taken statements from Sam and his client, a banker from Atlanta named Horace Izard III, then waited for Doc Hanson to drive in from Bridger, pronounce the bloated, trout-belly white body dead and arrange for transportation to the county morgue, it had been growing dark.

Click here to read the rest of this excerpt from THE ROYAL WULFF MURDERS by Keith McCafferty.

Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from THE ROYAL WULFF MURDERS by Keith McCafferty, to be published on February 16, 2012.
Copyright (C) 2012 by Keith McCafferty