When Sgt. Monique “Nicky” Matthews is asked to investigate the disappearance of a young Fire-Sky Pueblo woman, she finds her search impeded by cultural beliefs, evil spirits, and even members of her own squad.
Despite their beautiful New Mexico surroundings, the Fire-Sky Natives cope with serious problems, to the point that suicide-by-train has become a sadly standard event. However, when one mangled corpse is discovered without its heart, Matthews knows that no train did that. According to Pueblo religious culture, a person’s body must be intact at burial so the person can attain spiritual peace. When Matthews and her stalwart cohorts investigate further, they uncover a plot that ranges from cultural rites and abuses to earthly evil and greed. Unfortunately for the reader, the author tries to combine too many elements, creating confusion as she swings from one trail to the next. Also, Matthews, whom the reader will like for her tenacity, has so many physical reactions to events (“Nicky's blood fluttered,” “her flesh crawled”) that the reader is distracted, wondering what body part will act up next. This detracts from the author’s strengths—a good ear for dialogue and an understanding and respect for the places and people in the novel.
A convoluted plot may leave readers respecting Matthews but too tired to appreciate the exploration of tribal culture and customs.