A first novel that touches on the history, beauty, and dangers of the Sonoran Desert as seen through the eyes of Nate Bowman, reporter for the Tucson Weekly. A kind of post-Beat free spirit, Nate has a job he likes, an unwashed 1967 Land Cruiser, an adobe hut, and an on-off relationship with volatile Theresa Saldivar, who works for land developer Porter Eisor. Now, Nate is assigned, with photographer John Vyking, to walk the ancient Camino del Diablo trail on Mexico's border, retracing historic journeys. In doing so, the two come upon what appears to be a big-time drug transfer, complete with small aircraft and thugs who fatally shoot Vyking as he takes pictures. Nate makes a desperate escape over the border back to Tucson, but his troubles have just begun. Carefully stowing Vyking's film, he tries to make sense of the bad things happening--two men out to kill him; the murder of the Weekly's editor; the groups for and against Eisor's development of Puma Canyon; and much more. Meetings with historian Theodore Fountain and archaeologist Julian Burton throw no light. That arrives, finally, at the end of the last pursuit, atop an abandoned biosphere. Repetitive rock-climbing, bone-crunching chases push Nate's survival powers past the credible, and Laird's prose leans to the florid. Still, the lumpy plot generates some tension, and the landscape is vividly captured. A creditable debut.