When the Devil Doesn't Show: A Mystery
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When the Devil Doesn't Show: A Mystery

by Christine Barber
     
 

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WINNER OF THE "BEST NEW MEXICO BOOK" AWARD FROM THE NEW MEXICO-ARIZONA BOOK AWARDS

A RT TIMES BOOK REVIEW REVIEWER'S CHOICE AWARDS NOMINEE FOR BEST CONTEMPORARY MYSTERY

An intriguing contemporary mystery that exposes the dark side of life in historic Santa Fe by Hillerman Prize-winner Christine Barber

Christine Barber's acclaimed

Overview

WINNER OF THE "BEST NEW MEXICO BOOK" AWARD FROM THE NEW MEXICO-ARIZONA BOOK AWARDS

A RT TIMES BOOK REVIEW REVIEWER'S CHOICE AWARDS NOMINEE FOR BEST CONTEMPORARY MYSTERY

An intriguing contemporary mystery that exposes the dark side of life in historic Santa Fe by Hillerman Prize-winner Christine Barber

Christine Barber's acclaimed mysteries explore not just the folklore, Indian heritage, and colonial history that draws people to Santa Fe each year, but also the lives of locals, from the rich retirees to the families that have lived there for generations. These mysteries take place in a modern city that still has strong, unforgettable connections to its history.

In her new novel, When the Devil Doesn't Show, a housefire leads to the discovery of not just the bodies of the homeowners, but also a third, unidentified corpse. The search for the man's identity will lead Detective Gil Montoya not too far from Santa Fe to one of its notorious but rarely discussed neighbors, the Los Alamos National Laboratory. A DNA test reveals that the unknown victim is a native of Northern New Mexico, but Montoya has reason to believe that his ties to the infamous nuclear testing facility hold the solution. And when a second housefire is found to contain more bodies, he's determined to find out the answer no matter the cost.

"The insights that Barber, an Albuquerque resident, offers heighten the pleasure of reading her mysteries and give a fresh take on why Santa Fe is called the City Different." —The Albuquerque Journal

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Christmas in festive, farolito-filled Santa Fe, N.Mex., provides the backdrop for Hillerman Prize–winner Barber’s solid third mystery featuring newspaper editor and volunteer EMT Lucy Newroe (after 2010’s The Bone Fire). While battling a blaze on the outskirts of the city, Lucy is among the firefighters who make a grisly discovery—the bodies of three murdered and brutalized men inside the fire damaged house. Within days there’s a second violent home invasion and then a third, and Det. Sgt. Gil Montoya and partner Joe Phillips find themselves under the gun to capture what appear to be a crew of stone-cold spree killers before they can strike again. As usual, Barber weaves numerous plot elements and multicultural strands of Santa Fe society into an intriguingly complex tapestry. But this time she spreads her attention among so many characters—shortchanging, among others, two who will figure most prominently in the surprising denouement—that her story doesn’t satisfy as much as it should. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

“Barber weaves numerous plot elements and multicultural strands of Santa Fe society into an intriguingly complex tapestry.” —Publishers Weekly

“Barber takes full advantage of the natural beauty of New Mexico and the multiethnic character of Santa Fe, integrating both beautifully into her story.” —Booklist

“Barber hits a confident, fast-paced stride with her third series entry. A past winner of the Tony Hillerman Prize, she is especially good at incorporating the human side into the police procedural. Pair this title with Craig Johnson and Steven Havill for its ensemble cast and style.” —Library Journal

“Successful mysteries combine heroes and villains, of course, but special ones add a rich sense of place. That's what Christine Barber masters in When the Devil Doesn't Show …. Barber, as always, combines a killer plot with endearing characters. And she adds informative lore about Santa Fe's people, their customs and their connections to the conquistadors who settled the area centuries ago. If you like homicide combined with heritage and history, you'll enjoy Barber's latest installment.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch

“An intriguing puzzle which ties past to the present and involves the affairs related to an infamous nuclear testing facility in New Mexico. … Readers will enjoy the interesting back stories and the rich Santa Fe atmosphere.” —Mystery Tribune

Kirkus Reviews
The victims have two things in common: proximity to a movie set and a biotech lab at Los Alamos. It doesn't get much grislier than this: One corpse has the severed penis of the other in his mouth, and both have knife wounds, bullets in the brain and abundant signs that they've been brutalized while duct-taped to chairs. The third victim met a slightly different fate. He was dangled from a ceiling plant hanger, then doused with gasoline to start the house fire that brought rescue squads, EMT volunteer Lucy Newroe and, finally, Santa Fe police detective Gil Montoya to the scene. The seated bodies belong to Drs. Price and Jacobson, a gay couple with ties to the film industry and the Primary Structural Biosystems department at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Genetics mark the dangler as a descendant of the Crypto-Jews who fled Spain for New Mexico centuries ago, pretending to be of the Catholic faith. A second arson sends another Los Alamos scientist to the hospital, while yet another home invasion sends a retired lab employee's husband to the surgery ward. Fortuitous snooping by the newly sober Lucy, dogged police work by Gil and his assistants Kristen and Joe, and determined plotting by the author reveal a gang of four perps whose number quickly diminishes to one when its leader decides that he doesn't need his pals anymore. The weather turns bleaker; snowdrifts impede the final chase scene; and it's not until the spring thaw that one last body is found, although it doesn't belong to the guy Montoya was hounding. Another case for Montoya (The Bone Fire, 2010, etc.) that's rife with historical tidbits, garish deaths, back stories of the police staff and a love for Santa Fe. If only the author would concentrate a little more on sensible plotting.
Library Journal
The Christmas season in Santa Fe turns grim when a string of incidents point to a serial killer on the loose. Initially, Det. Gil Montoya can't connect a seemingly random series of murders. It starts with a house fire and three victims. Then a similar homicide happens at another house. The possible motive list is huge, ranging from hate crimes (two victims are gay) to work-related issues (Los Alamos National Laboratory is a common employer) to a much-feared prison gang with ties to Montoya's family. When Montoya and his team learn of an escaped prisoner from Texas who's come to Santa Fe to settle his scores, they can narrow their hunt, but time is running out. VERDICT Barber hits a confident, fast-paced stride with her third series entry (after The Replacement Child). A past winner of the Tony Hillerman Prize, she is especially good at incorporating the human side into the police procedural. Pair this title with Craig Johnson and Steven Havill for its ensemble cast and style. [See Prepub Alert, 11/4/12.]

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781250004727
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
04/16/2013
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

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Read an Excerpt

When the Devil Doesn't Show

A Mystery


By Christine Barber

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2013 Christine Barber
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-02385-8


CHAPTER 1

December 20


The devil was wearing a black cowboy hat with red plastic horns when he came out onto the balcony. The crowd started booing, and he waited for a moment for the noise to stop before yelling at them in Spanish to be quiet.

Below him in the dark, a hundred or so people filled the Santa Fe plaza. The block-wide area, lined on four sides by pueblo-style buildings, was packed with snow, as it had been since the end of October. The leafless trees were draped with Christmas lights and porch posts were wrapped in evergreen branches. Farolitos lined the sidewalks and roofs, the candles glowing orange through the paper bags that held them, making the buildings look like triple-tiered birthday cakes.

The devil yelled at them louder, telling the crowd the inn was closed. The people, with a few last hisses and growls, moved en masse to the next balcony, a half block away. They followed behind strumming guitar players and a choir singing in Spanish, all led by a couple dressed as Mary and Joseph. The crowd carried slender white candles that dripped wax onto the snow.

"Daddy, I'm freezing," said Therese Montoya, eleven, not looking up from her cell phone as she texted. Gil Montoya unbuttoned his coat and wrapped it and his arms around his youngest daughter as she stood in front of him, careful to keep his parka sleeves clear of the candle she was holding. The candles had been handed out to the crowd by a local museum as part of their effort to keep the tradition of Las Posadas alive. The outdoor folk play, which told a revised version of the Nativity story, used to last for nine nights when Gil was a child. Now most of the mountain villages had followed Santa Fe's lead, shortening the play so it was over within forty-five minutes.

The crowd stopped in front of a trading post on the southwest side of the plaza, where another devil, this one in a red cape and mask, came out onto the balcony above. The booing got louder, but this devil hissed back and stomped his feet at the crowd. The icicles hanging under the balcony shook but didn't break. The devils were playing the conscience of the innkeepers who'd denied lodging to Mary and Joseph on Christmas Eve. They were the villains of Las Posadas, which had been brought over to New Mexico by the conquistadors in the sixteenth century and reenacted every year since.

Gil looked over at his wife, Susan, whose face had a soft glow from the candle she was holding while she chatted with her aunt. His eldest daughter, Joy, thirteen, seemed to be the only one who was paying attention to the play. "What are they singing?" she asked. Gil strained to make out some of the words. He listened for a moment before saying, "Hermosa Senora ... Danos tus auxilios ... O Madre Divina."

"En Ingles," Joy said. "Por favor." The girls didn't speak Spanish. Like most local teenagers, all they could understand were a few words of the Castilian dialect spoken in Northern New Mexico.

"Loveliest of Ladies, grant us your protection on this divine night," Gil said.

"That's beautiful," Susan said, slipping her arm through his.

Gil had been home for dinner the last twenty-one days. It was a family record. There had been no murders in Santa Fe since the beginning of November, meaning he had been able to keep regular work hours. In that time, he had become less of a detective and more of an administrative assistant, clearing out paperwork and helping with reports. He was surprised how much he liked the normalcy of it. But he knew it wouldn't last. Santa Fe averaged eight homicides annually. This year there had only been three, but there were still eleven days to go before New Year's Day.


* * *

The fire was an orange pinprick across a dark plain dotted with piñon and juniper trees. The glow could have been the angry red of a campfire, except Lucy Newroe knew better. It was a burning home.

She watched the distant flames through the front windshield of the ambulance as it left the fire station. It was 5:23 P.M. Full dark. Yet she could see the shadows of mountains on the horizon and, behind them, muted stars, smudged out by a high haze of cirrus clouds.

In front of the ambulance, the fire engine turned onto the highway. The words PIÑON VOLUNTEER FIRE AND RESCUE — SANTA FE COUNTY were a blur of gold and reflective red on the vehicle's side. The tanker truck carrying the water they would use to fight the fire followed behind the ambulance — a convoy of lights and sirens making its way down the dead quiet highway.

Gerald Trujillo, who was in the driver's seat beside her, keyed the radio, saying, "Santa Fe dispatch, Piñon Medic One responding to the structure fire on Calle del Rio." His voice was calm, as always. Lucy could hear the three firefighters who had hitched a ride with them laughing in the back of the ambulance.

"It's time to do a surround and drown, que no?" She couldn't make out who had said that.

"I don't want to be a hero. I just want to get there," another voice said.

"Hell, I want to be a hero." More laughing.

She was tapping her leg hard against the passenger door, making the window rattle. Gerald looked over at her but didn't comment.

As they pulled up a winding driveway, Lucy got her first look at the house, which seemed strangely intact. She didn't see any flames coming out of the front picture windows. The fire must be in the back of the house. Their headlights swept across the front of the house, which was painted the usual Santa Fe adobe beige with the usual wooden beam vigas jutting out from the roof and the usual chile ristras hanging near the huge carved front doors.

Lucy hopped out of the ambulance and into a drift of snow that went up to her knees. She did her best to stomp most of it off her combat boots before pulling her firefighting gear out of a side compartment. The firefighters in the back of the ambulance piled out with a loud "Let's play," and another set of laughs. But their voices were tense. More fire trucks came up the driveway, with firefighters jumping out even before their vehicles had stopped. Some pulled hoses off the truck beds while others started gearing up, snapping helmets and pulling on gloves. The scene quickly became a cacophony — sirens, yelling, motors, pumps. One truck turned on its roof-mounted stadium lights, instantly bleaching everything in brightness and creating elongated shadows that reached out to the dark trees around them. Lucy tried to ignore it all and concentrate on one thing: Gerald Trujillo's voice.

"What's the first thing you need to know before we go into that house," he was saying over the noise.

"I don't ..." Lucy was trying to put her heavy yellow bunker pants on over her clothes. Left foot in left boot.

"We need to know if there's someone inside," Gerald yelled. Lucy nodded. Right foot in right boot.

"What if we have no way of knowing if someone is inside?" he asked. He was already pulling on his bunker coat. The reflective stripes glowed in the undulating flashes from the emergency lights.

"We proceed as if there is a victim inside by doing a left-hand search," she said as she zipped up her pants and struggled into the red suspenders — firefighter red suspenders.

"Right," Gerald said. "At this point, Command says they don't know if anyone's inside, so we go in. But what's our main problem?"

"We don't know how many people could be in there. We could be searching for seven people or just the family dog," Lucy said, zipping on her recycled bunker jacket and slapping closed the Velcro. The department couldn't afford new equipment, so the coat was one that had sat in a box of used gear until she pulled it out. The smell of the jacket always made her a little nauseated: burned plastic in a wet campfire. It was the smell of all the fires the previous owners of the jacket had fought.

"What else do we need to know?" Gerald asked as he pulled a two-inch-diameter attack hose off the bed of the engine.

She couldn't think. Her long hair kept getting in her face as she pulled on her fire retardant hood. "I guess something about what the house is made of?"

"Right. This is a new house made with stucco, so it won't burn that fast, but our main problem is the roof."

She remembered something about that from the firefighting class she had finished two weeks ago. Something about roof joists. All she could think then was, What's a roof joist?

Lucy pulled on her heavy fireproof gloves and yanked a SCBA out of a compartment on the side of the fire truck. She slipped the air tank on like a backpack and pulled the rubber breathing mask over her face, cutting off her peripheral vision and her ability to breathe until she was able to connect with the air hose from the tank. She felt for the tank on her back, trying to grab the hose connected to it, but the heavy gloves made her fumble. Gerald was suddenly in front of her, a hand on her shoulder. He guided her hands to the air hose, which she pulled to her face mask and snapped in place. She took a grateful deep breath, making the seal on her mask whoosh as she breathed in air from the tank. She clicked the clasp of her fire helmet closed. The other firefighters scurrying around her like worker bees wore the traditional red fire helmets, but she and Gerald both had blue helmets with EMT emblazoned across the side.

Gerald got on his handheld radio, and said, "Command, this is the interior team. We are ready to go."

A voice came back, "Interior team, you are cleared to go in. The fifteen minutes has started."

Lucy looked up and tried to focus on the other firefighters on scene, who would stay outside the house, fighting the flames from the exterior. Only she and Gerald would go in, and they were going in for one reason: to look for survivors. They had only fifteen minutes to do their job. The fifteen-minute rule was in place for two very practical reasons: because their tanks held only fifteen minutes of air and because a house on fire would become too unstable after that.

Another voice came over the radio, "Interior team, this is RIT. We are on standby. Stay safe."

"Thanks, RIT," Gerald said into the mike. "Hopefully, we won't need you guys, interior team out."

Lucy could see the four-man Rapid Intervention Team standing off to the side of the scene. They were all geared up like her and Gerald, yet they had nowhere to go unless something went wrong. The only job of RIT was to come get the interior team if they ran into trouble. Lucy hoped the RIT guys would be bored tonight.


* * *

The crowd slowly followed along behind the couple portraying the holy parents, who were actually Ted Ortiz and Sylvia Montoya — a brother and sister from the parish of La Iglesia de Santa Cruz de la Cañada. They had been playing the parts of Mary and Joseph for more than twenty years. The couple stopped again, and the crowd stopped with them, this time in front of the Ore House restaurant on the northeast side of the plaza. Another devil came out onto another balcony. This time it was a man dressed in black leather pants with red face paint. Before the crowd stopped booing and hissing, the man started to yell. He seemed unsure of the words at first but then smoothed out. The voice sounded familiar to Gil. He was trying to make out the man's face in the dark just as Susan leaned over and whispered, "Isn't that your mother's cousin?"

His mother's cousin, Robert, worked for the state museum as a historian, mostly supervising the half dozen or so archeological digs going on in the city at any given time. Robert had helped coordinate Las Posadas for the last few years, but normally he didn't get involved in the celebration. He didn't like crowds, but he seemed to be warming to his role, which was made more menacing by his rough voice, the result of a pack-a-day habit since he was seventeen.

Gil looked down, his arms still around Therese, and caught a look at what she was texting: "That is so lame. LOL. Like she really said that."

"What's so lame?" Gil asked her.

"Daddy," Therese said, pulling the cell phone to her so he couldn't see the screen. "Stop looking."

"Just show him. He'll read it later anyway," Joy said to her sister. "You know he checks our phones, right? And our e-mail. And the names of who we hang out with."

"No, he doesn't," Therese said. "You're teasing."

"He's a cop, silly," Joy said. "You don't think he investigates his own daughters?"

Therese looked up at him and asked, "Do you really read our e-mails?"

"No, honey," he said; then added, "but I'll start reading your sister's if she doesn't leave you alone." Joy rolled her eyes in mock annoyance.

Gil glanced over to his wife, Susan, who was chatting to a neighbor she had run into, when he felt the phone clipped to his belt begin to vibrate. He assumed it was work, but when he looked down, he saw that it was his mother. He let it go to voice mail.


* * *

Gerald hauled the attack hose over his shoulder then made a signal to the engineer at the control panel to flood it with water. The hose sprang to life, going from a limp line to one that tried to twist its way out of Gerald's grip. Lucy grabbed a section of the hose farther down and, like Gerald, pulled it over her shoulder, trying to steady its bucking movements. With her free hand, she grabbed an axe from the side of the truck. Then they walked slowly forward into the house, pulling the fire hose behind them. Her movements felt stilted in the heavy bunker gear and boots, like trying to swim in pudding.

They reached the front door, which someone had smashed open before rescue crews got there. It had a gray wisp of smoke coming out of it. They immediately dropped to all fours. Gerald crawled through the door to the right, keeping one hand on the wall as he pulled the hose behind him with the other. Lucy did the same behind him, her right hand holding the axe and guiding the hose, her left hand holding Gerald's right ankle, like in a weird game of Twister. As the nozzle man, Gerald's job was to find them a low path through the house and take care of any flames they might run into. Lucy's job was to search for survivors.

Within a few feet, they went from being able to make out hazy furniture to seeing only stark blackness. This was why she and Gerald had to stay in physical contact, so they wouldn't lose each other in the smoke. She could barely make out his silhouette two feet in front of her. Their game of Twister had become one of hide-and-seek. With the head of the axe in her right hand, she made arched sweeping movements across the foyer floor with the axe shaft, searching. If the handle connected with something, they would stop to investigate, but at the moment, she was reaching out into open space. She could feel hard tile under her knees as she crawled. She moved the axe as far she could reach to the right, but she didn't make contact with any furniture or walls. She might as well have been reaching into a black abyss.

The house was making noises that she could hear through her hood — loud banging and long groaning: the sounds of walls and floors warping from the heat. She heard her radio squawk and tried to listen as the outside teams confirmed that electricity to the house had been cut off. Gerald turned, and her grip on his ankle slipped. He stopped until she found it again.

They moved into a hallway. Hallways were good. If she wanted to, she could feel across to the other side of the space as they crawled, but she wouldn't. Her left hand stayed on Gerald's ankle and his left hand stayed on the wall. Period. They were doing a left-hand search, and that was protocol. Firefighters who didn't follow protocol died. If something happened, the RIT guys would know exactly where she and Gerald were — they just had to follow the left wall.

She stopped every few feet to pull the hose along. Then put her hand back on Gerald's ankle before crawling forward and reaching out with the axe handle, bumping and scraping its way along the other wall. It was awkward and slow. Her knees were getting sore and her back ached, but she knew that if she stood up to stretch, the upper gas and smoke layers would quickly kill her. She was safe only down here, on her knees, but being safe didn't mean being comfortable. She was so hot. She forgot what she was wearing and tried to wipe the sweat off her forehead, only to have her gloved hand meet with the plastic of her face mask. For a second she panicked, and then took a few deep breaths to calm herself.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from When the Devil Doesn't Show by Christine Barber. Copyright © 2013 Christine Barber. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

CHRISTINE BARBER is an award-winning journalist as well as a certified emergency medical technician and firefighter. She has worked as an editor at the Santa Fe New Mexican and a writer for the Albuquerque Journal and Gallup Independent. She is the author of The Replacement Child, which won the Tony Hillerman Prize and was named a New York Times Notable Crime Novel, and The Bone Fire, which won a New Mexico Book Award. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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