Friday, November 20, 2009

Red, Green, or Murder by Steven F. Havill

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
ISBN 978-1-59058-665-5
Police Procedural

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.

Rating: 5

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.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

With that kind of review and rating, I'll definitely check it out! Thanks, Lesa.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Elizabeth. This is a series I've really grown to love. Terrific police procedurals, with a different setting.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I used to live in New Mexico - bet I'd recognize most of the locations.

Lesa said...

Actually, Diane, Havill made up his county, but it's a border county, and I'm sure you'd recognize the area.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for introducing me to Steven Havill's Sheriff Gastner mysteries. I just finished reading Bitter Recoil (from interlibrary loan) and just used my PPWebCon coupon to order an earlier one, Twice Buried, from Poisoned Pen Bookstore.

Havill is a terrific writer,and his New Mexico landscape is so vivid.

Speaking of Poisoned Pen, their organization amazes me. I called in my order, talked to "Lea" and didn't even have to give her my address. Apparently I'm in their computer. (-:

Pat Browning

Lesa said...


You're so well-read, it's a pleasure to introduce you to a new author. And, Steven Havill isn't as well-known as he should be.

Oh, I know Lea. I know it's odd, but it makes you feel as if you "belong" when you're in their computer.

Mark said...

Hi Lesa,
Thanks for introducing me to Steven Havill's Sheriff Gastner mysteries. I just finished reading; I always love the mystery books.

Thanks for the review.

Online Bookstore

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Mark! Definitely my pleasure. Good series, isn't it?

Mike said...

Steven F Havill is one of the best New Mexico mystery writers. Even though he writes about a fictitious county between Deming and Lordsburg, New Mexico his descriptions of the land and the people are quite accurate. I am from New Mexico and a great fan of his.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Mike. It's great to hear from someone from New Mexico, saying how authentic the books are. I think this series is terrific. I hope he's going to continue that series since he recently wrote a standalone.

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