FEAR AMONG THE FAROLITOS

CAPTURES THE REAL SANTA FE

Where the Devil Doesn’t Show

Christine Barber

Minotaur Books, 3013

Christine Barber was nurtured by the Tony Hillerman writing community, and is a journalist, so it is no surprise that her depiction of northern New Mexico is perfect.

In Gilbert Montoya, she presents a true to life hero, brave but not always right. More to the point, he is a family man, interrelated with many of the people he protects. Celebrities and rich retirees aside, this iconic town in the Southwest has been settled for generations by people just trying to get by. Barber highlights an exception, the bright scientists of Los Alamos, a settlement just north of Santa Fe that was created in World War II to design bombs. Now someone is torturing and killing one after another and there seems to be no explanation. It doesn’t help that people who work at the National Laboratory must be tight-lipped as a condition of employment.

The series characters are hard-working and honest. Joe Phillips is Gil’s sidekick, a lonely joker. Lucy Newroe (like Barber) has two jobs, reporter and EMT. Liz Hahn unflinchingly recovers bodies for the Medical Examiner. They are dealing with some desperate people, as gangs, in and out of prison, who rule the drug trade have no humanity, and their victims, mostly Pueblo Indians, do. The land is rugged, filled with dangers, and mostly dry. The weather is extreme, as Barber shows in this story which takes place at Christmas time. Appropriately, there are children to protect. There are traditions to maintain. This skillful writer weaves a landscape of terror and beauty, as she brings her readers along on a perilous and honorable ride.

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