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by Christine Barber

Pub Date: April 16th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-250-00472-7
Publisher: Minotaur

The victims have two things in common: proximity to a movie set and a biotech lab at Los Alamos.

It doesn’t get much grislier than this: One corpse has the severed penis of the other in his mouth, and both have knife wounds, bullets in the brain and abundant signs that they’ve been brutalized while duct-taped to chairs. The third victim met a slightly different fate. He was dangled from a ceiling plant hanger, then doused with gasoline to start the house fire that brought rescue squads, EMT volunteer Lucy Newroe and, finally, Santa Fe police detective Gil Montoya to the scene. The seated bodies belong to Drs. Price and Jacobson, a gay couple with ties to the film industry and the Primary Structural Biosystems department at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Genetics mark the dangler as a descendant of the Crypto-Jews who fled Spain for New Mexico centuries ago, pretending to be of the Catholic faith. A second arson sends another Los Alamos scientist to the hospital, while yet another home invasion sends a retired lab employee’s husband to the surgery ward. Fortuitous snooping by the newly sober Lucy, dogged police work by Gil and his assistants Kristen and Joe, and determined plotting by the author reveal a gang of four perps whose number quickly diminishes to one when its leader decides that he doesn’t need his pals anymore. The weather turns bleaker; snowdrifts impede the final chase scene; and it’s not until the spring thaw that one last body is found, although it doesn’t belong to the guy Montoya was hounding.

Another case for Montoya (The Bone Fire, 2010, etc.) that’s rife with historical tidbits, garish deaths, back stories of the police staff and a love for Santa Fe. If only the author would concentrate a little more on sensible plotting.