Tuesday, June 24, 2008

White Tombs-Christopher Valen

White Tombs
Christopher Valen
Conquill Press, 2008
ISBN 9780980001723

St. Paul Police Detective John Santana left Columbia knowing assassins will come one day to Minnesota to kill him; his regret and guilt for leaving his homeland is his sister who is left behind to perhaps face the wrath of his enemies. He and his partner Rick Anderson currently investigate the murder of Julio Perez, owner of the monthly Hispanic newspaper El Dia, in his home. After searching the crime scene, the two cops visit Rafael Mendoza because the victim’s rolodex is open to the card of the immigration attorney.

They arrive to witness Mendoza fall off his balcony with a man running from the scene. Anderson shoots and kills the fleeing person Ruben Cordova, who turns out to have worked for El Dia. They search Mendoza’s loft finding evidence of fake visa applications and the photo of two John Does in a sexually explicit pose. Meanwhile Internal Review investigates the shooting pulling Anderson and Santana off the investigation as they were getting closer to solving the case. Santana’s boss decides Cordova killed the other two men so has no qualms with reassigning the official investigation to Detective James Kehoe for final cleanup. Santana disagrees with the conclusion and also knows Kehoe will not dig any deeper than he has already done so he keeps investigating on his own time and at his own expense.

WHITE TOMBS is a superb police procedural starring a fascinating lead detective who has a history in his homeland. Santana is a wonderful new addition to the sub-genre as he cares about victims, even dead ones, but especially their grieving loved ones; in this case he pledges justice to Julio’s widow. Alcoholic Anderson is as dedicated in his own way. Readers will appreciate this strong whodunit with a stunning late twist that no one will see coming as Christopher Valen argues that a person’s collective past makes the person’s present as experiences lead to current actions and reactions.

Harriet Klausner

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