Detective Denise Aragon returns for another caustic round of cleaning Santa Fe’s reeking streets and courthouses.
The good news is that Aragon has a witness who can connect her sworn enemies, Chief Judge Judy Diaz and her lover, rogue attorney Marcy Thornton, to a wild sex party that left an underage schoolgirl shot to death in a dumpster. The bad news is that Lily Montclaire’s not much of a witness. She acted as a procurer for the party; getting a statement out of her is like pulling teeth; she didn’t really see all that much; and once the judge gets word that she’s talking, a lot of unsavory types will be looking to prevent her from ever taking the stand. Nor is Aragon, who built quite a reputation when she went up against wholesale killer Cody Geronimo (The Drum Within, 2016), immune from the more unsavory pressures of the case herself. Her lover, FBI agent Tomas Rivera, is consorting with the enemy; her brother and sister-in-law aren’t exactly thrilled to be entertaining Lily Montclaire at their ranch out in God’s country; and her investigation has raised the hackles of the Silva twins, Benny and Rigo, whose waste/salvage operation seems to have a finger in every dirty pie in the city. The only thing that keeps Aragon from summary execution, it seems, is the resentment and disorganization of the bad guys, who are even more eager to get payback against each other and skim more money from wherever it can be found than to neutralize the officer who’s sworn to take them down. The results are less crime and punishment than mayhem and more.
Scarantino’s tireless heroine, who laments, “New Mexico, I love you…Goddamn, why make it so hard?” is definitely progressing in making her hometown fit for human beings, but there’s plenty of work left for the next installment.