In Fields’ (Scratchgravel Road, 2013, etc.) third novel featuring Josie Gray, the Texas police chief’s latest case hits far too close to home.
Josie Gray, chief of police of the West Texas border town of Artemis, is baffled and hurt when Dillon Reece, her devoted lover, stands her up for an informal dinner date. Insecure about his fidelity, she slinks home instead of checking up on him. When she stops by his accounting office the next day, she’s aghast to discover his secretary shot dead in her chair. Then Josie finds her home broken into and an email containing photos of Dillon in captivity. Her worst nightmares come true with a ransom demand for $9 million—and a down payment of $50,000 by the end of the day—if she wants to keep Dillon from losing an arm. Josie is frantic; she doesn’t have even enough money for the down payment. Although she’s turned the investigation over to a trusted senior officer, her fear that the kidnapping is retribution from a Mexican drug cartel and her frustration with the FBI agents called in to handle the case make her hire a hostage negotiator. A dealer in wrecked cars also disappears, and a pendant of Santa Muerte, the saint of death, is an enigmatic clue to what’s happened and why. Josie’s desperate race to save Dillon is all too plausible, though it would have been even more effective without a catalog of even minor characters’ wardrobes, hairstyles and home furnishings.
The prize-winning Fields compellingly evokes the remote Texas border town but compromises the suspense with Josie’s self-obsessed guilt and anxiety and the book’s inconsistent pacing.