Sharing Books and Authors, with an emphasis on Mysteries.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Double Prey by Steven F. Havill
I won't say Steven Havill is an unknown treasure. He will be one of the guests of honor at Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe in March. But, his Posadas County mysteries certainly aren't as well known as they should be. Havill's books have vivid settings, rich in description of the New Mexico desert. The latest one, Double Prey, is another of his gems, an excellent police procedural.
The desert is the kind of stark place in which a young boy can have an accident involving a weed wacker and a rattlesnake. Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman takes a call about "two hoodlums," her nine-year-old son, and a fourteen-year-old friend, who seemed to have had an accident. When she gets there, she finds that Butch Romero tried to kill a rattlesnake, ending up with a fang in his eye. If she and his parents hadn't been so concerned about Butch, someone might have noticed that his older brother, Freddy, never came home that night. But, the Romeros were at a hospital out of town as their younger son was operated on. It was only when Estelle went to find Freddy, the hero of a recent story about the discovery of a jaguar's skull, that she discovered he was missing. When she follows his hunch, and stories of his desert exploration, she finds Freddy's body, where his ATV flipped into an arroyo. Now, her neighbors, the Romeros, have one dead son, and one with an uncertain prognosis.
But, Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Gusman trained with the best, Sheriff Bill Gastner, now retired, and working as a State Livestock Inspector. And, she isn't comfortable with the story of Freddy, his discovery of a jaguar skull, and the location of his accident. With Gastner's assistance, she painstakingly recreates Freddy Romero's last hours, learning that Freddy's death might have been necessary to cover up another crime.
It's always a pleasure to return to Posadas County, where the sheriff's department is professional, and works as a team. The details of the investigations are always carefully laid out in these well-written police procedurals. But Steven Havill also creates complex characters, and their lives, and family situations change in the course of the series. Reyes-Guzman's family life is complicated, and in a state of flux. You could easily pick up Double Prey and read it as a standalone. But, why would you want to miss the rich storytelling and development of these characters and Posadas County? The seventeen books in this series should entice anyone who appreciates outstanding police procedurals, with a setting that brings these mysteries to life.