About the only law-enforcement job Kevin Kerney (ex–sheriff’s lieutenant, ex–Forest Service, ex–New Mexico State Police) hasn’t held yet is Chief of the Santa Fe Police Department, and that’s where this sixth case finds him. But before he can even get the normal trials of new leadership—reallocating funds, cutting deadwood, learning the political ropes—out of the way, he hits the ground running with the murder of Phyllis Terrell, the defiantly promiscuous estranged wife of a powerful US ambassador without portfolio. In minutes, it seems, an FBI task force is all over the case, and in the time it takes Kerney to question Phyllis’s Mexican landscaper and turn him loose, task force head Charlie Perry has wrapped up the case. As Perry smugly tells Kerney, Scott Gatlin, who managed the ranch of Phyllis’s wealthy father and warmed her bed along with dozens of others, has shot himself after obligingly leaving behind a full confession. This neat solution is chilling news, since it strongly suggests a government cover-up whose tentacles reach high and deep. Digging into the apparently unrelated killing of a Marymount priest, Kerney and a pair of trusted cops trace a nefarious plot that extends from legal maneuvering—wiretaps, disinformation, court orders to turn over evidence—to murder by government decree.
McGarrity (The Judas Judge, 2000, etc.) is just the writer to keep the high-octane conspiracy clear, even though individual victims don’t have time to leave much of an impression. Kerney’s mind-boggling look at your tax dollars at work is his finest hour yet.