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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

SCAVENGERS (Posadas County Mysteries #11) by Steven F. Havill

   Posadas County Mysteries Not the Same Without Bill Gastner

First published in 2002.

Synopsis: The Posadas County Sheriff's office is short-handed when it gets word that a pilot spotted a body that has been shot in the middle-of-nowhere. Literally, in the middle-of-nowhere - not near a road, a train track, a business or anything. The bullets were fired just in hearing range of a gravel pit but no one thinks twice about bullets being fired in the New Mexico countryside because people hunt or shoot at varmints on a regular basis.

So, new Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman and her team start to dig into what they have - a body in the desert and no other clues. Soon enough, they discover more, including a local connection to what may be an international crime spree (although, it's not hard to be international so close to such a porous border). With the addition of the sudden death of a suspected animal trafficker in a fiery explosion, the new Undersheriff has her hands full.

This book marks a critical point in the Posadas County Mysteries series. Up to this point the mysteries feature Bill Gastner, an old county undersheriff (in New Mexico, the undersheriff is the main advisor to the elected sheriff - usually the professional who makes sure the policies of the elected sheriff, who may not necessarily be a professional are enacted in a proper way). Gastner was getting too old to be a credible character - extensive experience, lots of knowledge and talent are great things to have but it just becomes hard for a set of almost 80-year-old knees to climb up and down buttes and ladders and impossible to imagine Gastner chasing down anyone unless it is in a nursing home. In fact, you can just about guarantee that Bill Gastner would have died in a pivotal moment in this story involving a late night run in the desert and a hike in and out of a wash.


A southern New Mexico landscape. Photo by NMTrey.
The thing is, that is just too bad because I loved reading about cranky old Bill and his love for super-spicy burritos for breakfast and his insomnia that preceded all kinds of late night inspiration when solving mysteries. I sympathized with his creaky knees and admired his determination. Gastner does make a couple of short appearances in this book.

Gastner is replaced by Estelle Reyes-Guzman. She has been in and out of the series (mostly in) from the beginning and would be a remarkably good choice for the sheriff to pick to be the new undersheriff. She is capable, has the respect of the department, she is a woman (to counterbalance the male sheriff), she speaks Spanish, she has strong connections with the Mexican community directly across the border. 


But, she is also very boring. 


I had a hard time getting into this book. I liked the set up but then the middle half of the book just dragged. The secondary mystery with the burros was ultimately a let-down. The primary mystery ended with a lot of excitement but it just took too long to get there. 


I love the Gastner mysteries but I may not look into any more of the Reyes-Guzman stories.

On a positive note, the Spanish in the book is excellent (I am a Spanish teacher). Most authors with books set in Mexico try to include some Spanish to give it some authenticity and most of them fail miserably with actually producing authentic Spanish. On the negative side, though, there are times when you probably could not follow the conversation unless you could understand the Spanish.


This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Scavengers: A Posadas County Mystery (Posadas County Mysteries)

I rate this book 3 stars out of 5.
Reviewed on December 30, 2014.

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