Please welcome Aubrey Hamilton to the blog today as she reviews the latest installment of one of my all time favorite series.....
Come Dark by Steven F. Havill (Poisoned Pen Press, 2016) is the 21st title in the Posadas County contemporary mystery series. Set in fictional Posadas County, New Mexico, a few miles from the Mexico border, this series began with Undersheriff Bill Gastner as the protagonist and shifted in the 10th title to Estelle Reyes-Guzman, originally a detective in the sheriff’s office who later moved up in rank. Books 16 and 18, according to the publication dates, feature Gastner again, as Havill decided to go back in time to expand on some of the characters’ history in those stories. Otherwise each book builds logically on the previous books.
Havill’s entry on Stop! You’re Killing Me sorts the books in chronological sequence according to the story line, not the publication date. Readers new to the series might find this list helpful. And yes, it is possible to read each book as a stand-alone. Havill is adept at sketching enough backstory for the reader to grasp context and characterization. However, these books are so good that it is not likely anyone will want to read just one.
In this latest entry, the huge astronomy park rancher Miles Waddell is building inches closer to completion, with the train that will convey visitors finished enough to allow journalists and local politicians to ride to the top of the mountain where the park is sited. However, the park’s massive satellite dish falls victim to the anonymous graffiti artist who has been decorating the schools and other buildings in town. In addition, one of the patrolling officers runs a routine check on a car with an out-of-state license plate to learn the plate is not on the vehicle it’s registered to and the people in the car don’t have a good explanation. On the same day the young wife of a banker walks into a big box store, leaving her baby and puppy in a hot car with the windows closed, and does not return. To spread the staff of the Sheriff’s Office even thinner, the high school custodian goes to the school Saturday to clean up after the big game the night before and finds the body of the coach in the showers. With multiple visible gunshot wounds, the cause of death is not in question. On the homefront Estelle’s mother is celebrating a milestone birthday and Francisco, Estelle’s musical genius of a son, arrives unexpectedly from the conservatory where he is studying to participate. Bill Gastner is still recovering from the hip fracture incurred in the previous book.
All of the usual characters are present, if a couple of them are only mentioned by the others. For instance, Estelle doesn’t want to bring Linda Real, the department photographer, to the crime scene because she is in the last stages of pregnancy and Estelle thinks there’s no need for her take chances. New officers and some temporary personnel bring a sense of realism to the department, which is perennially short-staffed and underfunded as any rural sheriff’s office is likely to be.
The plot lines unfold in a coherent manner; pacing is smooth and unrushed. My only quibble here is with the subplot involving Francisco, the musical prodigy, and it isn’t intrinsic to the story. Highly recommended, as is the entire series.
Series: Posadas County Mysteries (Book 21)
Hardcover: 308 pages
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press (April 5, 2016)
Aubrey Hamilton ©2017
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal IT projects by day and reads mysteries at night.