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Out of Seaon : Posadas County Mystery
Elderly Undersheriff Bill Gastner, in Posadas County, New Mexico, is about to lose his vaulable deputy when she goes to Minnesota with her doctor husband. But his life becomes far more complicated than the loss of Estelle when his boss, the sheriff, dies in a private plane crash piloted by his brother-in-law. Questions about why the men were flying (the sheriff hated to fly) in bad weather are overshadowed when the coroner finds that the pilot was killed by gun shots from the ground through the bottom of the plane, and the sheriff could not pilot it down safely.
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.
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Poisoned Pen Press
October 31, 2009
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