A couple days ago, I mentioned that the final issue of Mystery News had been published. In the year I reviewed for them, I discovered a few authors, including Steven F. Havill. His books have become some of my favorite. My last review for Mystery News is reprinted here, with permission. It's a review of the most recent book in the Posadas County series, Red, Green, or Murder.
Red, Green, or Murder
by Steven Havill
Poisoned Pen Press
Former Posadas County, New Mexico, Sheriff Bill Gastner retired, and is now working as a Livestock Inspector for the state. It’s a job that fits him. He can still visit friends, and he has a chance to travel the rural county. His knowledge of old friends, and the county, will stand him in good stead in this mystery.
Gastner’s official visit to Herb Torrance’s ranch sends him hurtling toward an ambulance, carrying the rancher’s son, after the young man’s knee was crushed in an accident. That one accident allowed for the opportunity for two other tragedies.
When Gastner was running late, due to the accident, he cancelled lunch with an old friend, George Payton. It wasn’t more than a couple hours before Bill received a phone call saying his protégée, Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman, wanted to see him at Payton’s house. Payton’s son-in-law found him dead, and, as much as Gastner, wanted to think the old man’s time was just up, Estelle thinks there is something suspicious about the death.
If one incident wasn’t bad enough, Gastner received another phone call, saying Torrance’s cattle were in the road, herded by a dog. While the rancher was at the hospital with his son, his ranchhand disappeared, along with his truck, leaving the cattle and dog behind. Gastner, an old sheriff who knows people, doesn’t believe the young man would have left his dog behind, and he travels those familiar county roads, looking for evidence.
Red, Green, or Murder is the sixteenth book in Havill’s Posadas County series. Havill does so many things well in his novels. His descriptions of the border county are vivid, showing the dry, empty land – “the broad sweep of the dry short bunch-grass prairie, rugged mesas with rims crumpling, arroyos so deep you could effortlessly hide a herd of cattle or a tractor trailer.” Havill understands the issues and politics of a border county, and those issues are vital to the storylines. The characters in this series, particularly Bill Gastner and Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman, come alive, as police officers, and, as people. They are involved with the community, and their knowledge of the people assists in their cases. These are solid police procedurals, involving multiple investigations at the same time. Best of all, Havill’s Posados County mysteries, including this one, are riveting, well-developed stories.
Courtesy Mystery News, Vol. 27/Issue 5, Oct/Nov 2009.
FTC Full Disclosure: I received Red, Green, or Murder from Mystery News so that I could review it for publication.