A man’s search for his missing uncle leads him into the Arizona desert, where secrets—and maybe some bodies—are buried in Ingwalson’s (WDYG, 2013, etc.) latest thriller.
When 22-year-old Sin gets a call from a former agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a woman known as la Calavera, he immediately goes to see her. She’s been sent a picture of Sin’s uncle, el Viejo, at Denzhone, an upscale vacation spa where the elderly man goes to relax. El Viejo, once a Marine sniper, had raised (and trained) the boy since he was a bullied tween carrying his dad’s gun in his backpack. The picture’s considered a possible threat, taken from what could be a sniper’s vantage point, and sure enough, el Viejo is nowhere to be found. Sin, unsure if his uncle is alive or dead, scours Arizona to find out what has happened to el Viejo and why. Ingwalson’s neo-Western thriller showcases a first-rate protagonist, who stays calm under pressure even when outnumbered. The oscillating timeline lays out some of Sin’s back story, from his tormented school days to his life as a young man under the wing of el Viejo, who became his mentor. Much of Sin’s training with his uncle remains a mystery, but it’s enough to pique interest. Sin’s family is also fascinating, especially his older sister, Nicki, who left the home when Sin was 11 years old and whom he misses dearly; apparently in hiding, she offers another puzzle to be solved, based on a cryptic phone call that Sin makes. Though Sin revels in the violence—his equating the feel of a gun to “a little orgasm in his hand” is particularly jolting—he’s equally at home handling surveillance. In fact, the novel’s best scenes occur when Sin follows a trail in the desert sand, spying on a couple of shady characters, and checking a restaurant and motels to get info on mercenaries who might be behind el Viejo’s disappearance. Sin does find resolution, at least in this story, but Ingwalson has created a world ripe for exploration in future novels.
A sterling achievement, featuring an ultracool protagonist and doting descriptions of all types of guns.