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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
In a recent review, I mentioned how important occupation has become in contemporary mystery fiction: Forensic pathologist. Astronaut. Presidential concubine. It isn't enough anymore to be a housewife sleuth (unless you double as an assassin on weekends) or a mere private eye (unless you have ESP).
But I forgot to mention that other staple of recent mystery fiction — location. You know the real estate mantra: location, location, location? Same applies to mystery fiction these days. Tony Hillerman has his Navajo world. Dana Stabenow has Alaska. And now Michael McGarrity has New Mexico.
The main plot of Hermit's Peak has chief deputy Kevin Kerney looking into a murder apparently committed on the land he just inherited. The B plot concerns his relationship with Sara Brannon, a woman who has recently reappeared in his life.
You've got your mystery, you've got your human drama, and you've got your authentic look at modern-day law enforcement (author McGarrity having been a deputy sheriff). McGarrity handles all these elements skillfully. The mystery plays fair and is mysterious; the entangled love relationship is recognizably modern (i.e., complex and painful); and the cop stuff puts a new spin on things we've seen before. McGarrity is a pro, and a good one.
But what makes the book special is his affinity with the land. He makes you feel how ancient and inscrutable it is; he even hints at some of its ancient secrets in the way the land has shifted and evolved over the years. There are passages that border on the theological. Hisnaturedescriptions are always evocative and occasionally brilliant. And the way he relates what the land has meant to various peoples over this century — Native Americans, white ranchers, and some of the eggheads who trooped here to worship at the altar of the atom — has a Steinbeckian authenticity that gives the book its singular heart and soul.
This one's a keeper. McGarrity really knows what he's doing. I plan to read his earlier books as soon as I can find them.