Vincenti (The Santero, 2014) returns with a second entry in his Wallace Krieg series of hard-boiled, character-driven mystery novels.
With five years on the Santero, New Mexico, force, Wallace isn’t the rookie detective he once was. But with success comes expectations, and because Wallace is considering quitting, the weight of those expectations feels even greater. The unexplained death of a child recalls the M.O. of a serial killer active 10 years ago and makes his decision that much harder. And when another child disappears from the Oro del Sol campground in the middle of flood season, it’s not just Wallace who is sure that the Sandman is back. The search for the missing girl takes the detective and his co-workers all over, from rough-and-tumble wilderness in the desert to the doorsteps of friends and neighbors. Through it all, the storyline gives us insights into the killer himself, making him all the more frightening even while we grow to understand him. What’s more, because the search involves law enforcement, the local community, and tourists at the campground, there’s no knowing whom to count on, much less whom to trust. As in the first installment, the biggest draws here are the characters and the scenery. The harsh beauty of New Mexico informs so much of the setting and story, while the characters—most particularly Wallace’s longtime girlfriend, Sammie Turco, and boss, Karla Woodson—develop further. Each character is distinct even when delivering exposition and engaging in the business of investigation, forensics, and surviving in unforgiving wilderness. What’s more, through aging deputy Bart “BB” Busey, the killer, and others, we learn more in this volume about the history and culture of the area, adding a welcome depth to an already compelling setting. Finally, the author ably renders the mystery itself—however grim the subject matter, the prose never becomes gratuitous or disrespectful—and the complexities of learning disabilities.
A page-turner with plenty of intelligence and heart; readers will want more.