Located along the U.S. New Mexico border, Posadas County has served as the setting for many good books written by Steven F. Havill. This series has seen monumental shifts before and one gets the sense by the end of Double Prey another shift is underway.
A western diamond back rattlesnake is not a snake to play with. Unfortunately, Francisco, the nine year old son of Posada County Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman, and fourteen year old Butch Romero were doing just that. They were playing with it by herding it with a weed trimmer. The boys had planned to corner it and then finally kill it by cutting its head off. The snake did not much care for being messed with and as the boys toyed with it, the snake did what came naturally and repeatedly struck out at the head of the trimmer. At some point, either because Butch's aim was off or the snake hit the trimmer, the flying line ripped open the mouth of the snake and flung a fang into the right eye of Butch Romero. Not only did the fang pierce his eye, it shot venom into him. Because of that, not only may he lose an eye, he may lose his life. The small local hospital run by Estelle’s husband, Francis, does not have the resources to really help the young teenager so he has to be air lifted to the university hospital in Albuquerque. That means his family needs to get there too as fast as possible.
While his parents, George and Tata Romero are easily located and brought to the hospital, his older brother Freddy is nowhere to be found. Missing from school, as is typical for Freddy. Everybody figures he is probably tearing up the surrounding desert country side on his four wheeler like he does most days and no doubt he will turn up soon. Hours pass into another day and with Butch in critical condition; Estelle becomes more and more concerned about the missing teenager. Eventually, Estelle and former sheriff Bill Gastner, about to retire from his latest job as a livestock inspector, begin to hunt for the missing teenager. A hunt that raises many more questions than answers.
Family has always been a major theme of this series. Whether it has been the direct family or extended family that included friends, the importance of family has always been a major theme of the series. Time is a relentless force that causes changes and upheavals that many are powerless to prevent and can only be dealt with from a strong family basis. This has happened when Estelle was shot and gravely wounded, when Gastner retired, and many other events have happened in this very good series. This 17th novel in the series illustrates that concept well with one family's tragedy contrasting against not only happiness coming in Estelle's family that will change everything, but the destruction of yet another family due to events put into motion years ago.
This latest one in the series now being published by Poison Pen Press is another very good one. Filled with complexity and nuance, it is a welcome return to a county and friends that many readers think of as home. It also proves that snakes come in all shapes and sizes and some do not slither.
DOUBLE PREY: THE POSADAS COUNTY MYSTERIES
Steve F. Havill
Poisoned Pen Press
Material supplied by the hard working and much appreciated folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2011