"A page-turner with plenty of intelligence and heart; readers will want more."– Kirkus Reviews
In Vincenti’s debut mystery, a detective in small-town New Mexico investigates the possible murder of his wealthy friend’s promiscuous wife.
Wallace Krieg, a rookie detective on the Santero police force, is dyslexic and sometimes has to use a ruler when he reads to keep letters from rearranging themselves on the page. However, his ability to think in images gives him an intuitive knack for his work. When Lana Silvers, the wife of his friend Adam, turns up dead in her bedroom, Krieg is assigned the case. However, the police aren’t sure that it’s actually a murder investigation, as there’s no clear cause of death. If it is murder, Adam would certainly be a suspect, as he married a gold digger—a fact that became apparent within months of their wedding. Lana’s mother, meanwhile, is staying at the couple’s house, which is strange, as she doesn’t seem to have known her daughter very well. The forensic investigation to establish the cause of death takes up much of the book, and Vincenti conveys the scientific jargon in assured, knowledgeable prose. This plotline unfolds in tandem with the characters’ back stories, including how Adam helped the teenage Krieg escape his abusive family and the reasons that Krieg’s girlfriend, Sammie Turco, objects to his dangerous career. This refreshing police procedural, with its setting of “endless blacktop flanked by sand, prickly pear and agave,” flouts readers’ usual tawdry expectations when the body of a young, beautiful woman is discovered. There are no throwaway characters; even Adam’s lawyer gets a line of characterization: “Hampton Marshall never does anything before ten in the morning except have his coffee and Danish.” In particular, Vincenti writes realistic dialogue, as when Krieg makes an observation about a con artist: “What a charmer. People like her scare me. You’re not even aware you’re being victimized. Sometime later you just don’t feel good anymore.” The author also adds tension with the introduction of rogue mobster Manny Colys, who carries a grudge against Krieg and is determined to realize Turco’s worst fears.
An engrossing mystery, realistic but never grisly, set against the haunting reaches of New Mexico.
Vincenti (The Santero, 2014) returns with a second entry in his Wallace Krieg series of hard-boiled, character-driven mystery novels.
With five years on the Santero, New Mexico, force, Wallace isn’t the rookie detective he once was. But with success comes expectations, and because Wallace is considering quitting, the weight of those expectations feels even greater. The unexplained death of a child recalls the M.O. of a serial killer active 10 years ago and makes his decision that much harder. And when another child disappears from the Oro del Sol campground in the middle of flood season, it’s not just Wallace who is sure that the Sandman is back. The search for the missing girl takes the detective and his co-workers all over, from rough-and-tumble wilderness in the desert to the doorsteps of friends and neighbors. Through it all, the storyline gives us insights into the killer himself, making him all the more frightening even while we grow to understand him. What’s more, because the search involves law enforcement, the local community, and tourists at the campground, there’s no knowing whom to count on, much less whom to trust. As in the first installment, the biggest draws here are the characters and the scenery. The harsh beauty of New Mexico informs so much of the setting and story, while the characters—most particularly Wallace’s longtime girlfriend, Sammie Turco, and boss, Karla Woodson—develop further. Each character is distinct even when delivering exposition and engaging in the business of investigation, forensics, and surviving in unforgiving wilderness. What’s more, through aging deputy Bart “BB” Busey, the killer, and others, we learn more in this volume about the history and culture of the area, adding a welcome depth to an already compelling setting. Finally, the author ably renders the mystery itself—however grim the subject matter, the prose never becomes gratuitous or disrespectful—and the complexities of learning disabilities.
A page-turner with plenty of intelligence and heart; readers will want more.