Fred G. Baker is a hydrologist, historian, and writer living in Colorado. He has B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and M.S and Ph.D. degrees from University of Colorado – Boulder, the later in Geology. He worked as an environmental consultant for many years and has traveled widely. He is the author of An Imperfect Crime, Desert Sanctuary, Zona: The Forbidden Land, The Black Freighter, and the Modern Pirate Series of short and long stories. He is also the author of nonfiction works such as Growing Up Wisconsin, The Life and Times of Con James Baker of Des Moines, Chicago, and Wisconsin, The Light from a Thousand Campfires (with Hannah Pavlik), and other nonfiction works.
“Baker’s (An Imperfect Crime, 2018, etc.) images are rich . . . The book’s pacing is superb, starting out strong with the gunfight . . . Timeliness of content stands out . . . A resonant, character-driven mystery.”
– Kirkus Reviews
A shootout with gang members results in an unexpected outcome and a lot of trouble for a young Arizona detective in this sequel.
Phoenix detective Lori Sanchez, “sweating like a porker in the heat of the evening,” doesn’t think there’s enough backup for the drug bust set up by Capt. Ronald Gurvy of the South Metro Gang Unit. Sanchez’s concerns increase when Roberto “Criatura” Gomez, the criminals’ “top guy,” shows up with a heavily armed posse for a minor drug deal. After all hellfire breaks lose, Gurvy chases Gomez into a junkyard. Sanchez, in delayed pursuit in the darkness, trips over a downed Gurvy. Both he and Gomez are dead. Ballistics reports show the bullets that killed each man match. “They were both shot by the same gun—the same shooter,” says Jeff Bordou, Sanchez’s partner. After the gunfight, Sanchez and Bordou can’t locate their snitch, Eduardo, for questioning, and her apartment is ransacked. The thieves stole not much of value, but they apparently hid something in her apartment—the gun that killed Gurvy and Gomez. When the cops find and ID the weapon, suspicion falls on Sanchez, who relies on her dear friend Father Guillermo Montero for comfort and counseling. He knows Father Juan “John” Ortega, a local priest whose church grounds offer asylum for two dozen refugees from El Salvador and one newcomer, a local man who says he needs protection but may have gangland ties. Baker’s (An Imperfect Crime, 2018, etc.) images are rich, as when he describes Arizona’s deserts, casinos, or even a precinct secretary’s desk—“one of those old steel ones in the shade of battleship gray. It, like Margaret, was formidable.” The book’s pacing is superb, starting out strong with the gunfight, retreating a bit, then bringing in more firepower. Timeliness of content stands out, as Father John offers a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants, who are subjected to violence. The series gets bonus points for its ethnic lead characters: a strong female cop and a sympathetic priest who share “similar interests and a love for Mexican beers and good food.”
A resonant, character-driven mystery that proves a worthy series entry; recommended.
Pub Date: May 17, 2019
Page count: 286pp
Publisher: Other Voices Press
Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019
In Baker’s (Desert Sanctuary, 2019, etc.) thriller, a spy attempts to thwart a coup in a Caribbean nation.
Posing as a journalist, American secret agent Robert Wilson embarks on an assignment in Grenada. His mission, which he has only one week to accomplish, is to stop a plot to upend the national election and overthrow the government. Wilson doesn’t know who’s behind it, nor how or exactly when it’s supposed to happen. Baker masterfully offers readers a number of possible villains as the twisty plot cast suspicion upon one character after another. High on the list of culprits are the governments of China and Russia, which have separately posted people on the island for reasons that aren’t immediately clear. Then operatives from Venezuela and Cuba get into the mix, and Wilson meets a Venezuelan woman named Tori Vargas. She soon cozies up to him, and the spy can’t decide if she’s really an unwilling pawn of the Venezuelan government, as she claims. Baker deftly increases the time pressure by making each chapter title a consecutive day of the week. Throughout the book, Wilson is fixated on a black freighter, the Shanghai Maiden, moored just a half-mile offshore, which has suspicious-looking containers on its deck. The ship effectively becomes a character all its own, taunting the protagonist to uncover what, if anything, it has to do with the revolutionary plot. Early chapters unwind slowly as Wilson bolsters his cover as a journalist, but from there, the pacing escalates in a breathless manner. Also, everything happens in real time, and only on the island, which makes the suspenseful plot easy to follow. Baker’s fluid, cinematic prose style makes reading the novel feel like watching an entertaining movie—and, indeed, the action seems tailor-made for the big screen.
A tightly written treat for spy-novel fans.
Page count: 204pp
Publisher: Other Voices Press
Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2019
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