A police procedural thriller set on an Apache reservation in 1935.
The latest novel from Gordon (Moon in the Water, 2014) centers on an investigation into a series of kidnappings of Catholic missionaries across the American Southwest. The crimes bubble up amid well-sketched tension between federal authorities and the population of the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. One Native American character connects the tension to a long-simmering resentment over the land: “We got one or two places on the whole reservation that’s got water, that’s green,” she says. “The rest is for scorpions, tarantulas, lizards, cactus.” The kidnappings come to the attention of four men: Jake Callis, the reservation’s superintendent of Indian affairs; Archbishop Julio Cervantes, whose clerics are being targeted; Albert Chata, the Apache reservation chief of police; and FBI agent Dan Strather, who’s assigned the case because the kidnappings are federal crimes. A grudging respect grows between Chata and Strather, but Chata never really understands the white, Christian world (“No structure, no matter how it was designed or implemented, could pay a real god homage,” he thinks when standing in an ornate Christian church. “That came from the sky and sun and earth and all living things”). Gordon skillfully unfolds his plot with a fine ear for dialogue and considerable skill at action sequences. He also engagingly evokes the dark injustices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs during the era. The beliefs and culture of the Apache people may be new and strange to many of Gordon’s readers, but he sketches it with authority. He does telegraph some key aspects of the crime spree’s origin, but he solidly constructs a multilayered conclusion, and Chata is a compelling hero. Fans of Tony Hillerman’s Jim Chee novels will find a great deal to enjoy here, and the deep-seated injustices of the historical setting give the tale a pleasingly complex texture.
A fast-paced, gripping cross-cultural crime novel.