In Osterhage’s debut thriller, a crime lord’s murder energizes criminals and cops alike on both the California and Arizona sides of the Colorado River’s Parker Strip.
When mobster Jay Fallbrook dies from an arrow to the chest, La Paz County, Arizona, sheriff Jimmy Witchitaw takes the case. He has an immediate suspect, as the murder weapon bears the signature of the Sonoran Desert Mafia. But others may have wanted Fallbrook dead, including his right-hand man, Nick Sarvino, or Clarity Carlysle, whose grandfather, Catfish, the mobster was harassing. Witchitaw’s investigation hits a snag after he gruffly questions Sonoran Desert Mafia leader Charlie Red Crow, which spurs the FBI to send Agent Richard Canaveral to keep an eye on the sheriff. A series of additional murders, though, takes everyone by surprise. While there’s no mystery in this novel—readers know whodunit well before the sheriff does—the wonderful interplay of the various subplots is the true driver of the narrative. Clarity’s investigation into her grandfather’s puzzling monetary contributions, for example, leads her to Catfish’s reputed “assistant,” Nickelodeon, an exotic dancer at Fallbrook’s Bluewater Casino. Osterhage excels at making the various storylines fall into step: Chester Buckner, for instance, yearns for money to help his son, Ricky, wheelchair-bound from muscular dystrophy, and he gets dropped into the plot when he thinks that the casino might be a solution. Despite the author’s penchant for thoroughly detailed back stories, there are still a number of shocking turns. One character, for example, surprisingly turns out to be quite a proficient killer who swiftly ups the body count. Witchitaw may be the intended protagonist, but he’s overshadowed by other players, such as Milky Way, Nickelodeon’s uncompromising, envious girlfriend; and Canaveral, who stutters unless he loads himself up with Xanax. Clarity, meanwhile, is the book’s highlight; her investigation into Catfish’s wealth and new lady friend speeds by with more efficiency than Witchitaw’s. The story continually teases an inevitable confrontation before delivering a blistering coda.
An endlessly diverting crime story featuring a wide array of characters and subplots.