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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Review: Wild Penance by Sandi Ault

I was sent this book from the publisher and I couldn't wait to dig in from the tantalizing blurbs.  I will be doing a give away of three Wild Penance books beginning next Monday!!!  I am negotiating an interview with Ms. Ault as well.  This book has grabbed me and I want to share with you my fellow mystery readers.

Author: Sandi Ault

Copyright: 2010 (Berkley); 320 pgs.

Series: #4 in Wild Mysteries
Sensuality: Mild
Mystery sub-genre: Amateur Sleuth

Main Character: Jamaica Wild, Bureau of Land Management Agent (Range Rider)
Setting: Taos New Mexico
Winner of any awards: Wild Sorrow won Mary Higgins Clark Award
Obtained book through: Publisher

Jamaica is out running early one morning along the rim of a rocky chasm with the Rio Grande below when she witnesses two men shove a large wooden cross over the side of the Rio Grande Bridge…with somebody attached. She watches in horror as the cross plunges the 650 feet down to the river below. This is the beginning of a great suspense novel that combines a secretive old Hispanic sect of Catholicism – Los Penitentes - with murder to weave a haunting story.

Jamaica is more involved in the subject matter than even she would have thought. She had been sketching the Los Penitentes shrines and collecting stories and general information about their rites and beliefs. She had even talked with a priest, Father Ignacio Medina, who knew a good bit about them. The incident appears to be Los Penitentes related somehow and Jamaica is the only witness. Just hours after she witnesses the cross plunging off the bridge her Jeep is broken into and her Los Penitentes sketchbook and information is stolen. Then Jamaica receives word that the man dumped into the Rio Grande was Father Ignacio Medina! Danger is stalking closer than she knows – what a time to be pulling duty in remote areas on horseback.
My normal routine would have been to establish a base camp before dark fell and make planned forays from that point, doing the bulk of my range riding during daylight hours. In the remote country where I normally worked, I had few human interactions, and my greatest concern was survival in bad weather. In the areas I patrolled most, I buried caches of supplies and survival gear so that I could travel light. I chose the most beautiful spots for my camps because there was no reason to camp elsewhere. But for this assignment, I would try to cover the fence line first – all the way from one end to the other – so I knew the terrain. After that, I could determine where to place a base camp for the following night, in a spot where I felt it was most important to maintain an active presence. Tonight, I planned to ride just over five miles to meet the forest ranger at our appointed rendezvous site near Canada de la Entranas, more than halfway to Canoncito.
I had not read the earlier books in this series, but I understand that this fourth book in the series is a prequel and gives the beginnings of Jamaica that the other books had not gone into much detail on. I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was suspenseful and Jamaica is a loner that you root for at every step. Ms. Ault’s love of New Mexico richly flavors the pages and her equal love of the wild outdoors brings Jamaica’s soul alive.
"Yeah," he chuckled.  Then he nudged me on the shoulder with the back of his hand.  "You know, you have a little ornery streak in you, don't you?"  He was giving me that devilish grin again, and I had no tools to resist it.  My boundaries seemed to malfunction with this guy.  All my fences turned to open gates, my battlements became highly decorative entry ramps, my moats became swimming pools with neon signs hanging above them reading: Come on in, the water's fine!
There is a romantic interest that begins in this installment and I want to read more to find out how it goes.  The mystery plays out with consistent tension as Jamaica is robbed and followed. Los Penitentes creates an eerie backdrop that makes this a page-turner. Jamaica proves tenacious like a pit bull and her loner-minimalist-lifestyle gives her a bittersweet lonely aura. The solution to the murder is revealed and I had only gotten part of the solution right so that was pleasing. The climax is a suspenseful ride and is burned into my memory.  Overall I was truly pleased with this book and it left imagery of New Mexico alive in my being.

This book has made me a fan and I will be reading the rest in the series.

For your convenience, you may purchase your copy here.

Until next Monday, I wish you many mysterious moments.
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Jill said...

Good review! It's always nice to discover a new series!

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