Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Bone Fire-Christine Barber

The Bone Fire
Christine Barber
Minotaur, Jul 6 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312593506

In New Mexico at the Fiesta de Santa Fe gala, the annual Zozobra bonfire is lit in front of happy revelers. The next morning after the four-story high puppet burned to the ground, a human baby's skull is found amidst the Zozobra ashes.

Santa Fe Detective Sergeant Gilbert Montoya leads the inquiry. He fears the victim is Brianna Rodriguez, who vanished a year ago. However the already gruesome murder takes an even more horrific twist when infant body parts including extremities, teeth and bones are creepily left at various area churches. Montoya prays the ghastly remains all belong to Brianna as horrid as that thought is; he knows if not all belonging to Brianna than a deadly serial pedophile is stalking the no longer Land of Enchantment. Also investigating between exercising her elbow (at bars) is reporter Lucy Newroe as the case seems to only lead back to where it began when a toddler disappeared from her family’s barbecue.

This is an exhilarating New Mexico police procedural with some journalistic investigative elements starring two intriguing lead investigators though Montoya is the significant player (see The Replacement Child for his previous case). The plot ironically brings alive the charm, in spite of the horrendous nature of the case, of the Santa Fe area The story line is fast-paced from the moment the skull is found and never slows down as Christine Barber looks deeply at the impact of a lost baby in an incestuous family. Although the reason for scattering the bones seems over the top of the Santa Fe Mountains, The Bone Fire is a gripping whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

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