Bitter Recoil (Undersheriff Bill Gastner Series #2)

( 5 )

Overview

Aging Posadas County Undersheriff Bill Gastner has weathered his quadruple bypass and is taking a rare vacation up in the state's northern mountains. He's escaping meddlesome medical providers who wish he'd reform, but his heart is in staging a reunion with his former detective Estelle Reyes who is working in San Estevan County.
Arriving a day early at the Steamboat Rock Campground, his camping plans are interrupted by sirens. Suddenly, Gastner, Reyes, and her new husband, a ...

See more details below
Paperback (1ST TRADE)
$13.21
BN.com price
(Save 11%)$14.95 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (12) from $5.15   
  • New (5) from $8.51   
  • Used (7) from $5.15   
Bitter Recoil (Bill Gastner #2)

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$2.99
BN.com price

Overview

Aging Posadas County Undersheriff Bill Gastner has weathered his quadruple bypass and is taking a rare vacation up in the state's northern mountains. He's escaping meddlesome medical providers who wish he'd reform, but his heart is in staging a reunion with his former detective Estelle Reyes who is working in San Estevan County.
Arriving a day early at the Steamboat Rock Campground, his camping plans are interrupted by sirens. Suddenly, Gastner, Reyes, and her new husband, a doctor, reunite, not over dinner, but over the body of a pregnant young woman.
As first the detectives assume she was a hit-and-run victim. Then the the medical exam reveals she was instead thrown from a moving vehicle after a rape attempt. Gastner's curiosity is piqued — but he's on vacation. Then four more deaths follow and the still-to-be-reckoned-with lawman steps in to stop the rash of murders....
The authentic flavor of southern New Mexico combines with strong detective work and irresistible characters to produce a second winner for Bill Gastner after Heartshot. Look for further reprints from Poisoned Pen Press, including Twice Buried.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This one's a winner all the way."     —Washington Times

“The authentic flavor of the New Mexico locale is so real you’ll be tempted to check your shoes for fine red dust.”
—Mystery Scene

“Havill delivers an evocative tale of hard lives on the edge of society. His portly detective is a genuine low-key pleasure.”
 —Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An unusual setting, rural New Mexico, and a decidedly non-New Age sleuth give this second mystery from the author of Heartshot a few fresh angles. After bypass surgery, 62-year-old Undersheriff Bill Gastner should be taking it easy, laying off the beer, the rich food and the smokes. But he isn't. Instead he drives across the state to San Estevan to visit Estelle Guzman, his former deputy, for a big feed and a chance to talk over old times. But the trip becomes a busman's holiday when he agrees to help Estelle investigate the case of a battered, pregnant young woman found unconscious near a road at the bottom of a remote canyon. A hit-and-run? The injuries don't quite compute. When the victim dies, suspects include her lover's local hippie gang and a priest who fathered her young daughter. Deftly avoiding tourist traps as he steers his plot to its unpredictable resolution, Havill delivers an evocative tale of hard lives on the edge of society. His portly detective is a genuine low-key pleasure. (July)
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781890208400
  • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2000
  • Series: Posadas County Mystery Series , #2
  • Edition description: 1ST TRADE
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 796,441
  • Product dimensions: 5.39 (w) x 8.57 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven F. Havill lives with his wife of 40 years, Kathleen, in Ratón, New Mexico. He is the author of 21 novels set in the American west, taught secondary schools for 25 years, and recently earned an AAS degree in gunsmithing. Go figure.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt


Chapter One


I stopped at the top of the saddleback and looked down through the pines. The campgrounds were still a mile below me, hidden behind the fat swell of Steamboat Rock. I took a deep breath, found a big granite boulder, and sat down. This walking was worse medicine than pills or needles.

    Walk, the damn doctors had said. Walk. I hated walking. That's what cars are for. Or elevators.

    Nevertheless, the heart surgeon had convinced me that if I walked, gave up smoking, and shed my considerable girth, I might live a couple more years. I fumbled in my shirt pocket and pulled out a cigarette. Hell, I was walking. That was one out of three.

    From where I sat, I could see all the way down Isidro Valley. The sky was a blank, merciless blue, and the sun beat down on my back, roasting right through my shirt. It burned out the kinks.

    I had walked up a trail from the Steamboat Rock campground and had worked my way through the thick ponderosa pines for almost two miles. At first, the notion of a hike had seemed like a pleasant idea.... I had a long afternoon to kill before I tried cooking supper over the little gas grill stowed in the back of my Blazer.

    After the first ten minutes, the hike had been nothing but sweaty, grinding work. And the Smokey Bear signs down along the highway hadn't been joking. The mountain was dry. The needles under my feet crackled like little shards of glass, and I probably shouldn't have even thought about a cigarette. I lit one and relaxed on the rock.

    It was peaceful. Maybe wildernesshikers had something. Get away from it all; leave worries behind. I'd been working up a sweat and hadn't thought about Posadas County for nearly half an hour.

    Here I was, basking in the sun like a fat toad, 300 miles north of my own New Mexico border town. For two hours I hadn't thought of the past winter, when I'd spent the valuable hours of my life dealing with an unpleasant and mixed bag of drunks, punks, child abusers, drug runners.... or even simple, wacko souls like Vinnie Jaramillo, who'd arrived home one night in May to find his wife cheating on him. He'd taken a shotgun to his wife and her boyfriend while his three small children watched. Then he'd called the sheriff's department.

    I hadn't gotten there first, but it wouldn't have mattered anyway. He'd waited until the first deputy arrived, and then, when he was sure he had an official witness, Vinnie sat down on the living room sofa and blew his own skull to pieces. It had been a hell of a mess.

    I guess we were lucky Vinnie had kept his targets within the walls of his own home. And that's how it happened in Posadas County most of the time. Someone went off the deep end and made news. Maybe there's a natural tendency to think one's own community isn't as nuts as the rest of the world, where the loonies try to change the lives of complete strangers.

    Hell, I still had a two-week-old copy of the Albuquerque newspaper tucked in my Blazer with headlines about the assassination of Washington State's governor, along with a Department of Corrections warden. According to the article, the governor had been fishing by himself, sitting peacefully in a canoe on some remote Washington lake, and a high-powered rifle bullet fired from hundreds of yards away had exploded his skull. And the prison warden had been shot later that same day when he stepped out of his station wagon to unlock the garage door of his suburban Tacoma home.

    Real freaks running loose.... the paper said the resulting manhunt was the largest Washington had ever had. We'd even gotten a teletype from Washington in our office, for God's sakes.... probably because we sat right on the border with Mexico.

    I took another drag on the cigarette and wished that I could keep my mind off work for more than a few seconds at a time. But replay, replay.

    In Vinnie Jaramillo's case, for months afterward the scene still flogged my brain, unwanted but tenacious. The faces of the children left behind were the worst.

    What do you do with a three-, four-, and six-year-old who've seen their parents splattered all over the wallpaper? The deputy and I had made some awkward motions and then with relief had watched my chief detective, Estelle Reyes, take the three traumatized and orphaned children under her wing.

    She didn't try to stop their sobs, didn't try to distract them. Instead, she was just there, hugging them all close and giving them a spot safe from all the strangers. Later, she wouldn't let the relatives take the children until she was convinced the children understood what was happening to them.

    I watched her teach the children, including the youngest one, her telephone number, the four of them playing with the telephone like it was one of those Kmart toys for tots. What a wonderful mind for law enforcement that woman had developed. And two weeks after that incident, her letter of resignation was on my desk, and I was plunged into the deepest funk I'd wallowed in for years.

    I sighed. I admit it. I missed her damn near as much as I missed my own daughters. As undersheriff of Posadas County, I'd watched Estelle Reyes work for six years, moving from dispatcher to road patrol to detective—our only detective.

    She'd come to us as a part-timer, a college student who showed a flair for common sense and organization. Stunning-looking, too. I know the lawyers who make their living from discrimination cases would be after me for saying so, but she brightened up our drab little office just with her presence. She'd even won the confidence of our sheriff, who viewed anything in skirts as either a sex object or a nuisance.

    Shortly after the Jaramillo tragedy, she married a young physician, he as handsome as she was lovely. It was a hell of a wedding, and the department attended in full force.... and we behaved ourselves throughout. The young couple's plans meshed nicely. Dr. Francis Guzman took a residency with the Public Health Service, running a clinic in San Estevan, 300 miles north of Posadas County and 6 miles down-canyon from where I now sat. Estelle had applied for a job with that county sheriffs department, and Sheriff Pat Tate had jumped at the chance.

    His turf was a long, narrow county that was awkward to administer from the county seat far to the southeast, a county that was split down the center by a single state highway, with the rest dirt roads. Towns and villages were scattered far and wide. An Indian pueblo in the north end of the county made jurisdictional matters there even more interesting, especially since the pueblo had only a couple of law officers of its own.

    Tate had had the good sense to assign Estelle to what he euphemistically called the San Estevan substation so she could avoid the forty-mile daily commute from the county seat to her new home. The "substation" turned out to be nothing more than a spare room in the highway department's district headquarters.

    When I decided to take a short vacation late that summer—an escape from doctors who wouldn't mind their own business—I found myself traveling north. I didn't mean to pry, mind you, but I wanted to cruise through another county and see what Estelle Reyes-Guzman had won for herself. And if I had to walk, it might as well be in spectacular mountains that should be cooler than the summer blast furnace of Posadas.

    I crushed out the cigarette and tucked the remains in my shirt pocket. I lay back on the rock with a groan of aching muscles, hat over my eyes. I had a dinner invitation from Estelle and Francis for Saturday.... I hadn't told them I was coming up the day before. That gave me a good stretch to loaf and play outdoorsman. I knew me pretty well and twenty-four hours was about my limit for recreation. I even had grand plans to sleep in my Blazer, figuring if I parked clear in the back of the Steamboat Rock campground, I'd have peace and quiet.

    The granite wasn't comfortable for long and I sat up. Another hour would see me down to the campground, if I didn't take the short side trail out to the promontory of Steamboat Rock. I'd briefly imagined that I might walk up there, come the cool of the evening. Briefly.

    I was sixty-two and fat, fully recovered from a quadruple bypass the winter before, but inclined to lie down and rest whenever someone mentioned serious exercise. I would do well to stumble my way back down to the campground, much less anything more strenuous. Even the grilled dinner was improbable. I knew damn well that when the time came, I'd settle for a couple of pieces of bologna on a hamburger bun, washed down with a beer or two.

    And that's exactly what happened. I made it off the mountain without falling on my face or even having another cigarette. The last hundred yards were easiest, following a well-packed trail with no grade.

    Back at the campground I unlocked the Blazer, stowed my daypack, and popped a beer. The sun was already filtering through the trees, ready to drop behind the rugged mesa rim. I unfolded an aluminum lounge chair and settled back to watch the mountain colors fade and blend.

    The campground was quiet for a Friday night.... for about five minutes. Then a big Winnebago pulled in, one of those things with the canvas awning that folds down from one tall, slab side. Two elderly folks made home away from home in that monster.... all thirty feet of it. In minutes they had a covered patio with a gas-fired barbecue grill sending up plumes of cooking chicken.

    Two slots down was a Volkswagen bus, crammed to the gills with two young couples and an endless supply of noisy, scrapping children. They should have hijacked the Winnebago and had some room. Another Blazer, a couple years newer than mine, pulled in, and the first creature to emerge was a Dalmatian, nose to the ground and on a beeline for my peaceful corner. He snuffled up, tail wagging, expecting me to pat his wide, empty head.

    "Get out of here, brute," I said and waved a hand.

    "Pokie, come!" his owner called and Pokie angled off to bother someone else. I opened another beer, just about ready to start sulking. Hell, I could have parked just as easily in a convenience store lot and had more privacy. I needed to find a rough old Forest Service road leading out to nowhere so I could vegetate in peace.

    I scowled and looked across the large campground toward the highway. Several of the children from the Volkswagen were barefoot, and I wondered if their parents realized how much broken glass littered the place.

    "Jesus, Gastner," I muttered aloud. How the hell had I gotten so adept at minding other people's business? Occupational hazard, I guess. By 8:30 1 stopped fighting the fatigue that kept me from making any effort to move to a more secluded spot. I crawled into the back of the Blazer where the mattress was soft and cool. With windows cracked for air I was asleep in half a minute, despite the shrieks of playing children and the endless slamming of car doors.

    And it seemed no more than half a minute before the first siren jerked me awake in the deep pitch of that mountain night.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(2)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 – 7 of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Highly recommended for lovers of Craig Johnson and C.J. Box

    First Line: I stopped at the top of the saddleback and looked down through the pines. It's not often that Posadas County Undersheriff Bill Gastner takes a vacation, but he figures he's got one coming now. (Probably has something to do with his age and the quadruple bypass surgery he recently survived.) Gastner loads up his truck and heads for the mountains of northern New Mexico to visit his former detective, Estelle Reyes, who's upholding the law in San Estevan County. Parked in a campground, Gastner's sleep is interrupted by sirens, and he suddenly finds himself reunited with Reyes and her new husband over the body of a young pregnant woman. At first she's thought to be a hit-and-run victim, but the autopsy reveals the truth: this young woman had been thrown from a moving vehicle after a rape attempt. Gastner tries his best to stay on vacation and off the case, but when four more deaths occur, there's no time for a vacation for this recuperating lawman. Steven Havill has a deceptively smooth and easy style that had me hooked before I knew what was happening. His main character, Bill Gastner, is self-deprecating, funny, and absolutely relentless when it comes to hunting down the bad guys. Due to his age and that bypass surgery, he's also a very vulnerable character, which makes him a rare bird in the crime fiction world. The other characters hold their own against him-- especially Estelle-- but it's Bill's show in the beautiful mountains of New Mexico. And those mountains remind me: Havill really pushed two of my buttons with this book. Mine shafts and forest fires are going to get my attention every time, and Bitter Recoil was no exception. Havill writes a lean, spare mystery filled with wonderful characters, a strong sense of place, and plenty of action. This is a mystery series that my husband and I both enjoy, and it's not necessary to read the first book in the series to be able to follow what's going on in this second one. If you've caught up with Sheriff Walt Longmire and Joe Pickett of Wyoming, I suggest you head southwest to New Mexico and make Bill Gastner's acquaintance. He'll make sure you feel welcome!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2001

    Bitter Recoil

    Mr. Havill (Steven F. Havill) is a great writer. He was my 8th grade science teacher for the 99-00 year. All of his books are very well written. I read this one for a book report a few weeks ago, it is great.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2012

    Good Series

    This is my second book of the Posadas County Series, so far I like the series very much.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 7 of 5 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)