Once one of my reviews has appeared in Mystery News, I have permission to reprint them here. Here's the review of Steven F. Havill's The Fourth Time Is Murder, a book that appears on my list of the top ten crime novels of the year.
The Fourth Time Is Murder
By Steven F. Havill
St. Martin’s Minotaur
Posadas County, New Mexico borders Mexico, and law enforcement sometimes has to deal with typical border issues. Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman works in a department that is understaffed and overstretched. So, when a deputy accidentally drops and discharges his gun, and is temporarily suspended, it leaves them shorthanded during a critical time.
When a journalist from A Woman’s World magazine wants to cover her, Estelle says it’s usually a routine job. But, right now, the department is investigating a traffic accident in which the victim might have been murdered. How is the dead driver related to the unusual large number of sweepstakes winners in one small village? And, that same village seems to be connected to the death of a woodcutter in an other county.
Havill skillfully combines a police procedural with Estelle’s family life. It was refreshing to read a mystery in which no one in the department was a loner out for themselves. This department works well together. Estelle respects the staff, her boss, Sheriff Robert Torres, and her former boss, Bill Gaster. I haven’t read the earlier books in the series that feature Gastner before his retirement. However, the concept of following a sheriff’s department through one sheriff’s years to the next years with the undersheriff is fascinating. Since Posadas county is small, the retired sheriff is still consulted. This seldom happens in other series. And, because it is a county of only 7,500, families, relationships, and jobs are entwined.
With an outstanding cast of characters, interesting setting, timely topics, and an absorbing plot, The Fourth Time Is Murder is an exceptional mystery.
Courtesy Mystery News, Vol. 26/Issue 6, Dec/Jan. 2009.