DESERT SANCTUARY by Fred G.  Baker

DESERT SANCTUARY

A Detective Sanchez/Father Montero Mystery
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A shootout with gang members results in an unexpected outcome and a lot of trouble for a young Arizona detective in this sequel.

Phoenix detective Lori Sanchez, “sweating like a porker in the heat of the evening,” doesn’t think there’s enough backup for the drug bust set up by Capt. Ronald Gurvy of the South Metro Gang Unit. Sanchez’s concerns increase when Roberto “Criatura” Gomez, the criminals’ “top guy,” shows up with a heavily armed posse for a minor drug deal. After all hellfire breaks lose, Gurvy chases Gomez into a junkyard. Sanchez, in delayed pursuit in the darkness, trips over a downed Gurvy. Both he and Gomez are dead. Ballistics reports show the bullets that killed each man match. “They were both shot by the same gun—the same shooter,” says Jeff Bordou, Sanchez’s partner. After the gunfight, Sanchez and Bordou can’t locate their snitch, Eduardo, for questioning, and her apartment is ransacked. The thieves stole not much of value, but they apparently hid something in her apartment—the gun that killed Gurvy and Gomez. When the cops find and ID the weapon, suspicion falls on Sanchez, who relies on her dear friend Father Guillermo Montero for comfort and counseling. He knows Father Juan “John” Ortega, a local priest whose church grounds offer asylum for two dozen refugees from El Salvador and one newcomer, a local man who says he needs protection but may have gangland ties. Baker’s (An Imperfect Crime, 2018, etc.) images are rich, as when he describes Arizona’s deserts, casinos, or even a precinct secretary’s desk—“one of those old steel ones in the shade of battleship gray. It, like Margaret, was formidable.” The book’s pacing is superb, starting out strong with the gunfight, retreating a bit, then bringing in more firepower. Timeliness of content stands out, as Father John offers a sanctuary for illegal immigrants, who are subjected to violence. The series gets bonus points for its ethnic lead characters: a strong female cop and a sympathetic priest who share “similar interests and a love for Mexican beers and good food.”

A resonant, character-driven mystery that proves a worthy series entry; recommended.

Pub Date: May 17th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-949336-12-2
Page count: 286pp
Publisher: Other Voices Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2019