Death of an Evangelista

Allana Martin, Author
Allana Martin, Author Thomas Dunne Books $22.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-312-19853-4
Mass Market Paperbound - 978-0-373-26335-6
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Although an evangelist is indeed murdered in this atmospheric but unfocused third adventure (after Death of a Saint Maker) of trading post-owner Texana Jones, her death seems almost an afterthought. During a south-of-the-border trip for cheap dental work, Texana gets into a taxi already occupied by a dead man with a knife in his chest. She talks her way out of Mexican custody (""One does not, in Mexico, voluntarily become a witness to any crime""), but neighbor Claudia Reyes resents Texana for going free while her cousin, the cab driver, remains in jail. The murder victim, readers learn much later, was a German with mysterious family ties to the West Texas site of a WWII prisoner-of-war camp. Meanwhile, Texana's pickup truck is stolen, several horses are poisoned at the ranch of a local power broker, a suspicious trade in religious icons is revealed, and someone runs Texana off the road and robs her, and that evangelist is brutally slain (though her death is connected only loosely to the other events in the novel). Martin displays a rich knowledge of the Texas-Mexico frontier, a hard but enchanting landscape with a complex mix of politics, ethnicity and religion. However, the bloated plotting leaves entire story lines untended for long stretches, while Martin turns to unsatisfying, tacked-on monologues to bundle up the many loose ends. (Mar.)
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