Pity poor Gringo, Pete Rosales's pit bull. First, squatter Carl Sebastien claims that the dog has killed his goats; then the blood-dabbled Gringo bolts out of a church, leaving behind the savaged corpse of Isidro, the wandering saint-maker who's been working on the woodcarvings around the altar. Is Gringo on a crime spree, or was Isidro killed by a two-legged predator? Out of all the scarce humans in borderline Presidio County, only shopkeeper Texana Jones's veterinarian husband Clay can tell for sure--but Clay's detained at Gordon Mateo Suarez's fabulous Rancho de Sierra Vista, enjoying Suarez's bountiful, coercive hospitality--and by the time he returns with Texana, piloted by Suarez's precocious 13-year-old daughter Inez (who calls herself ``Julia'' after Julia Roberts), there's even more trouble afoot. Texana's trading post has been broken into, her truck has been searched, and somebody's let her pet bobcat loose--all in a futile, increasingly violent search for the illegal pelts being smuggled over the border. Since Martin (Death of a Healing Woman, 1996) also takes time for subplots involving a nosey photojournalist professor and his wife and an American boy languishing in a Mexican jail, don't be surprised if the whole cast winds up under arrest--though Martin is unusually dexterous in juggling the permutations of suspects and crimes. Highly recommended for regional buffs, and a good introduction for buffs-in-waiting.