It is some time since I reviewed a new book by Steven Havill in his justly celebrated Posadas County series. This is most unfair of me. I have been a devoted Havill fan since I first read Twice Buried 20-odd years ago. Those were frustrating times. You were entirely dependent on the random picks of the Adelaide Library because until Havill moved to The Mysterious Press there were no paperback versions for local booksellers to import. How times have changed!
What the late Tony Hillerman did so wonderfully for the Big Reservation area of the American South West (especially the Navaho Tribal Police), Havill has done for a small town police department in New Mexico. Posadas, close to the Mexican Border, is fictional both as town and county, but it lives, I suspect, for millions around the world thanks to paperbacks and tablet downloading.
The good news is that Havill is still annually publishing Posadas books featuring Deputy-Sheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman, the splendidly observant and intelligent detective and her team. The latest to hand, Blood Sweep (2016) has as much capacity to grip the reader as any of the earlier classics. The book has hardly begun when the elected sheriff, Bob Torres, narrowly escapes assassination while out shooting for the larder. Who would dare take a sniper’s rifle to so formidable a man – and why? Shortly after, the would-be assassin is discovered shot to death in a parked car.
Meanwhile, Estelle is going quietly nuts because she has discovered that Francis, her 15-year-old son, a prodigy concert pianist, is in Mexico with teachers and another pupil for a performance. It is a beautiful resort city with a fabulous concert hall but she knows the city has a much darker side. It does not reassure her when Francis cheerfully assures her that police constantly surround him. Worse follows: two would-be kidnappers are mysteriously shot dead a block from the concert hall and their deaths seem somehow connected to Posadas not only by Francis but by Estelle’s Mexican infancy and Sheriff Torres’s narrow escape.
This and a previous novel are linked to the 2014 novel Nightzone by a slowly emerging astronomical theme park that a billionaire philanthropist is building on a mesa near Posadas. Blood Sweep will demonstrate that idealistic visions can have their downside. A new attraction for tourists – both interstate and international – can attract more sinister visitors. Soon the Posadas body count will increase. Do not miss this one. It’s a keeper!
Author: Steven F. Havill
Publisher: Poisoned Penn Press