THE BIG GAMBLE: A Kevin Kerney Novel

Michael McGarrity, Author . Dutton $23.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-525-94656-4

Smooth writing, well-drawn characters and several neat plot twists distinguish the seventh Kevin Kerney novel from Anthony Award–nominee and former deputy sheriff McGarrity (Tularosa). Never losing sight of his people in the forensic detail, the author skillfully makes us want to know what happens next without unnecessary violence or contrivance. When two murder victims turn up after a fire in an abandoned fruit stand on a rural highway, Kerney, now the police chief of Sante Fe, N.Mex., takes a personal interest in the case. One blackened corpse is a John Doe, stabbed three times, who is soon identified as a homeless Vietnam vet. The other remains belong to a 29- year-old college student, Anna Marie Montoya, who disappeared 11 years before. As it happens, Kerney was involved in the search for the missing Anna Marie. Investigating the John Doe is Kerney's estranged son, Clayton Istee, now a deputy sheriff for the Lincoln County (N.Mex.) police, whose mother was a full-blooded Mescalero Apache. Clayton, a sympathetic character struggling to support a wife and two small kids, eventually finds himself in charge of a task force looking into a much more complex crime. Kerney would like to effect a reconciliation between himself and his son, but the process proves awkward for them both. McGarrity keeps the parallel plots moving nicely along toward a rational solution. This is an exceptionally intelligent, humane mystery in a series that deserves a wide readership. (On sale July 8)

Forecast:McGarrity has been compared by the L.A. Times to James Lee Burke, doing for New Mexico what Burke has done for Louisiana. McGarrity, however, is unlikely to reach Burke's sales heights, unless his books go in for more blood and guts. Blurbs from Jonathan Kellerman and Tony Hillerman will help keep sales healthy.

Reviewed on: 06/10/2002
Release date: 07/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
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