By Aimee and David Thurlo

Tom Doherty Associates, April 2013 ($24.99)

ISBN-13: 978-0-7653-2452-8

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
(February, 2014)

The Outpost, a trading post on the edge of the Navajo nation, has been a fixture for both the Anglo and Native American population around Farmington, New Mexico for decades. The owner, Tom Stuart, is well-liked by all and adored by his employees. No one loves him more than Josephine Buck, a young Navajo to whom Tom is a father figure and friend as well as an employer. He has always encouraged her in all she does, including her quest to become a traditional healer.

It is Jo who finds his lifeless body in the small house behind the Outpost. Detective Katie Wells deems it a suicide, but those who knew Tom have serious doubts about that. It is obvious to them that someone did not adore Tom, and took his life. Tom's estranged son Ben arrives on leave from the Army to learn that the reconciliation he'd hoped for is not to be. He gets another shock when he finds out his father left the trading post to Jo, not him. At first he regards Jo with hostility, suspecting her of using her charms to convince Tom to leave the property to her, but after a few days working with her and the other employees he sees what really motivated his father's actions. The passion he and Jo shared back in high school is rekindled, although both try to fight it.

Ben and Jo both have reason to doubt Detective Wells' investigative techniques, and they join forces to find out what really happened to Tom Stuart. Troubling evidence comes to light that suggests Tom had been keeping secrets, even that he might have been involved in something illegal. Someone, presumably his killer or killers, is looking for something, and make several attempts to find it. When the attempts fail, they take more drastic steps.

Ben and Jo's investigation brings them and those they care about into grave danger, and bring them into contact with evil men and corrupt officials. They uncover truths about themselves, and discover strength they did not know they had.

The Thurlos also write the Ella Clah novels, the Lee Nez novels, and the Sister Agatha novels. Their sense of place in the beauty and harshness of the southwest and their depiction of Native American culture place them among the worthy successors of Tony HIllerman, albeit with more emphasis on the romantic element. The characters, good, bad, and in-between, are well-developed and believable, and the story reflects what is happening in the area today. This is another winner in a winning series.

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