A reverend in New Mexico tries her hand at sleuthing when a recent homicide shares similarities with her twin sister’s unsolved murder in this mystery.
Cecilia “Cici” Gurule’s weekly hike with her detective friend Sam Chastain is cut short by a missing hiker report. Sadly, the two find lawyer Donald Johnson, who’s unmistakably dead from stab wounds. But it’s one particular laceration that most unnerves Cici: through the kidney, just like the stabbing death of her twin, Anna Carmen, over a year ago. This is followed by Cici’s vision of her sister, who tells the reverend to help Sam identify her killer. Cici, who quit as associate reverend in Boston to return to her Santa Fe hometown after her sister’s murder, now heads a local church. She gathers information, initially from her parishioners, but doesn’t like where it’s leading her. That’s because linking the two murders naturally connects Anna Carmen to Donald’s alleged exploits, from an affair to drug trafficking. It’s soon apparent, however, that the killer is watching Cici, as she receives threatening messages and eludes a menacing truck in pursuit. But this doesn’t deter the reverend, who, with Sam’s assistance, plans to see her personal investigation to the end. Padgett’s (A Moonlit Serenade, 2018, etc.) series opener, like any good detective story, gives readers a laudable sleuth. Cici is a chic woman of God: She swears and rides a vintage Harley. But her profession makes her an exceptional detective as well. Characters, for example, often seem reluctant to talk to Sam and more easily respond to the reverend. Likewise, Cici’s empathy is genuine; she speaks a line like “I need you to tell us what happened” with unequivocal concern. Despite her occasional colorful language, there are few curses and mostly implied violence. Padgett’s simple prose and short paragraphs help maintain the story’s unwavering pace. Add to that a handful of dubious characters, and the result is a rock-solid mystery with a smashing reveal near the end and even a subtle twist in the final pages.
A wholly absorbing gumshoe tale elevated by an extraordinary detective.