From Publishers Weekly
The seventh southwestern mystery featuring undersheriff Bill Gastner (after Prolonged Exposure) again demonstrates Havill's talent for combining amiable characters with believable suspense. The author's realistic ranchers, loners and small-town politicians inhabit a desolate region of New Mexico that lends itself well to the drama of farmers trying to survive a downturn in profits. The large, sparsely populated county of Posadas has a small police force headed by a political administrator, Sheriff Martin Holman. Gastner, the aging undersheriff, oversees the real police work done by chief of detectives Estelle Reyes-Guzman and a cadre of young officers. At the novel's start, the police department is facing a major shakeup: Estelle will soon move to Minnesota with her husband; the sergeant is about to marry the chief dispatcher; Gastner himself will retire in a few months. When a small plane crashes with Sheriff Holman and his brother-in-law aboard, and an autopsy reveals that a bullet struck the pilot, the whole department pulls together to find out what happened. Though the shot may have been an accident, Holman was pursuing an investigation on his own when he died, so more sinister possibilities must be explored. Gastner's calm, experienced leadership guides his staff, as well as FAA officials, through several prickly conflicts with a couple of fiercely independent ranchers. For readers, his considerate, methodical approach will prove a welcome change from the angry, violent paths trod by so many cops in other novels. Full of bright local color and suffused with a compassionate understanding of human motivation, this intelligent, understated mystery deserves a wide and appreciative readership. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Overweight sixtysomething Bill Gastner, undersheriff of Posadas County, New Mexico, is part Marshall Dillon, part curmudgeonly western grandpap, but as much as he tries to hold back the long, slow slide that threatens to turn an old-fashioned small town in rural New Mexico into a mini-Albuquerque, he knows he's losing the West, not winning it. And now he's losing his troops: his superb detective, Estelle Reyes-Guzman, is leaving Posadas for Minnesota, and now, as this seventh Gastner novel opens, his boss, Sheriff Martin Holman, the good-hearted bureaucrat, is killed in a plane crash, caused by rifle fire from the ground. As a last hurrah before his own retirement and Reyes-Guzman's departure, Gastner sets out to determine what happened. Not only does Havill offer a melancholy reinterpretation of that grand western myth of the slow-talking, fast-thinking lawman, he also writes crisp, marvelously detailed police procedurals in which a mix of technical know-how and informed common sense gets things done. A consistently strong, underappreciated series. Bill Ott