In Padgett’s (A Heritage of Death, 2018, etc.) latest series installment, a reverend finds herself embroiled in an international criminal organization’s nefarious plot.
All that the Rev. Cici Gurule wants is a pleasant, two-day vacation hiking in Chaco Canyon National Park in New Mexico. Instead, she stumbles upon two armed men threatening a third. She manages to stay hidden from them, but as she tries to silently sprint back to her car, she hears gunshots, and the aforementioned third man hops into her Subaru with her. He says his name is Anton Vasiliev and that he’s a spy for an agency whose name he won’t reveal. He also divulges little information about the people who are chasing them, but he says that an international crime syndicate has a complicated scheme in the works involving a stolen Chacoan Native American artifact. Anton is skilled in combat, and Cici has the know-how to survive the harsh New Mexico environment—which includes a puma encounter when she and Anton are fleeing on foot. She also communicates with the spirit of her late twin sister, Anna Carmen, who the reverend believes can help her. Meanwhile, Cici’s friend and potential love interest, Detective Sam Chastain, joins authorities as they try to thwart the syndicate—and hopefully save Cici, as well. Although the preceding books in Padgett’s series are straightforward murder mysteries, this third installment is more of an action-packed thriller. The author kicks the story off with impressive momentum and later introduces further gunfights, explosions, and sometimes-dangerous weather. The prose is also sublimely concise: “Her fingers tensed, aching with effort as she slid backward. She scrabbled for purchase, wincing at the tug of pain in her knee.” In between action scenes, Padgett fleshes out her characters, building sympathy for the initially cold Anton and romantic tension between Cici and Sam. Readers who are new to the series will easily be able to follow the narrative, and they may be inclined to check out earlier, as well as future, installments.
An exhilarating entry in a thoroughly enjoyable series.