A debut historical novel follows young homesteaders who investigate a wave of violent crimes in 19th-century New Mexico.
Elliot begins her tale with Iragene Jones discovering intruders departing from her property and a severed scalp they left behind, presumably as a threat. Disgusted by the long blonde locks that have been separated from their owner, Iragene resolves to uncover the identities of the criminals. Shockingly independent for the era in which she lives, she sets off on her own, visiting various neighbors and questioning them about any odd occurrences. After conversing with a few locals about unexpected deaths and strange cattle diseases, Iragene begins to realize there is a larger, nefarious plot at play. When she stops at the family home of her love interest, Alejandro Gallegos, he insists on joining her in the probe. Alejandro and Iragene grow closer during their travels and fact-finding, much to the dismay of his mother, who cannot abide her son’s affection for someone with such a self-reliant nature, and a white woman to boot. When Alejandro and Iragene finally reach the sheriff’s office to discuss the worrisome incidents they have unearthed, the official is blasé, uninterested in the concerns of a Mexican man and a single white woman. Iragene and Alejandro realize that they must solve the mysterious crime wave on their own or fall victim to its consequences. Elliot deftly creates one obstacle after another for Iragene and Alejandro as they inch toward finding the cause of the strange affairs in their town. Although several events are recounted multiple times throughout the narrative, the superfluous repetition does not prevent this action-packed story from building suspense. The book is also rife with historical details about the lives of homesteaders in 1800s New Mexico, with a focus especially on the difficult race relations permeating the area in the aftermath of the Civil War. A testament to the benefits of perseverance and fortitude, this engaging novel also examines intolerance and its consequences.
A fast-paced adventure tale of the Wild West with a strong female sleuth.