A suspense novel that jogs along after Tony Hillerman—and stumbles.
Because the higher-ups have decided that a spousal-ed program is good p.r., Navajo cop Hank Knoki has been driving around accompanied by the missus. But when both are found shot to death in their burned-out car, the complexities just keep on coming. Attempting to cope with all of them are Bureau of Indian Affairs investigator Emmett Parker and FBI Special Agent Anna Turnipseed, reunited for their second adventure (Cry Dance, 1999, etc.). He’s half-Comanche, she half-Modoc, and together they form a Native American sleuthing pair that with a less hypercomplicated load might have sustained interest. But the plot overwhelms them. Before reaching denouement, it takes Parker-Turnipseed through incest, homosexuality, drug trafficking, squabbling between tribes, squabbling between bureaucrats, squabbling between teenaged gangs, obsession, madness, serial killing, and other staples in the potboiling tradition. Interlarded is the unrelieved sexual tension between the protagonists that has its roots in romantic love. He adores her, she adores him, but the path between them is obligatorily rocky, twisty, hard to negotiate. Several near-death experiences—most suffered by poor Anna—do serve, however, to bring them closer together. By the violent, predictable, and welcome end, the maniacal Gila Monster, a.k.a. Lizard Man, acknowledged god of a Native American gang called the Vipers, is identified and suitably dealt with. Having set the stage for the ritual of “Blood Atonement”—aimed at achieving both justice and revenge—GM is hoist by his own mythic rite.
Marshall's a pretty good writer, and if he can take it down a decibel or two—in Hillerman country it's called restraint—good things might develop for this series.