cover image Red Mesa

Red Mesa

Aimee Thurlo, David Thurlo. Forge, $24.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-312-87060-7

If it's tough being a cop, it's even tougher being a cop's relative, as shown in this fifth fine mystery about Navajo Tribal Police Special Investigator Ella Clah. In previous books (2000's Shooting Chant; etc.), we've seen Ella's father murdered, her mother almost killed in a car crash and brother Clifford also seriously threatened. This time out it's Ella's younger cousin and assistant, Officer Justine Goodluck, who has to suffer for being related to the star of an ongoing series. Not only does the troubled, increasingly unreliable Justine wind up dead on the titular New Mexico mesa, but Ella becomes the prime suspect in her grisly murder. Despite the possibilities for melodrama, the Thurlos maintain a firm hold on reality with convincing details of life and speech patterns on what Ella calls ""the Rez""--the sprawling Navajo settlements around Shiprock. Although the heavies behind Justine's murder are introduced early, with ominous music on the soundtrack, the reasons for the plot against Ella are satisfyingly complicated as they unravel. And the moments that single mom Clah steals from her work to spend with her 18-month-old daughter, Dawn, are poignantly rendered. (Apr. 11) Forecast: This book should benefit from the release in March of the mass market edition of Shooting Chant, as well as from the strong reviews garnered by that title and from blurbs by Tess Gerritsen and Diana Gabaldon about previous Thurlo books. Handselling to readers who find the wait between Tony Hillerman books too long should also boost sales.