A Boston pediatric oncologist inherits a spectacular New Mexico cattle ranch that is literally to die for in this series launcher.
Dr. Bryce Miller cannot fathom why a distant uncle would bequeath to her free and clear The Sun, a 140,000-acre ranch near Alameda, New Mexico. She has given herself a week to sell the property before returning to her “deeply urban life.” But to whom? The mayor is pushing for development catering to the wealthy. One interested party wants to drill for natural gas. Another wants to purchase the land for conservation. A fourth, Mister Nibble, works for a company that has bought all the land north of The Sun. “No one knows what he’s up to,” a neighbor tells Dr. Miller. The sky-high, competing offers make her gasp, but her uncle, she is told, had a different vision: “He wanted it to be a model ranch. Healthy land, healthy food.” The ranch foreman seems desperate to talk to Dr. Miller about something but disappears before they could meet. When he winds up dead, the doctor has a murder mystery to solve while struggling to determine what she will do with the land. White’s (Grassroots, 2017, etc.) ambitious fiction debut does an efficient job of scene setting, from “the rich colors of the high desert” to the locals with their competing agendas, and his appreciation of the American West shines through. He grapples—albeit ham-handedly at times—with issues such as overdevelopment (“And to think it was a sleepy little place just a few years ago,” a real estate agent enthuses) and fracking. Dr. Miller is a plucky, likable hero, but the fate of the ranch is something of a foregone conclusion. Seeds are planted that her uncle didn’t die of natural causes, but the blasé kicking this can down the road (“that’s a mystery for another day”) may frustrate readers.
It’s not Dallas’ Southfork (yet), but this ranch-set series offers plenty of room for growth.