Three bodies are discovered in a burning house in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Further investigation reveals that one of them was hung from the ceiling and set on fire—while still alive. The others, two gay men, were tortured and appear to be the victims of a hate crime. When another house fire occurs and more bodies are found, Detective Gil Montoya, a longtime resident, and his partner, Joe Phillips, an East Coast transplant, feel the pressure to solve the case as quickly as possible—especially when they discover there may be a deeply personal connection between one of the torturers and Montoya’s father, who was a judge.
The detectives are unofficially assisted by Lucy Newroe, a volunteer firefighter and reporter for the local newspaper. Lucy must walk a fine line between helping the investigators and being a good journalist, while dealing with personal family issues, her alcohol problem, and her on-and-off relationship with her ex-boyfriend Nathan.
Christine Barber’s experience as a journalist, firefighter, and emergency medical technician in New Mexico gives the story great authenticity. The author writes with rich detail about the beauty and culture of the region. In addition, the two detectives work together as a sort of good cop/bad cop duo, with Montoya clearly the friendly local boy and Phillips the skeptical outsider. This story is a thrilling combination of suspense, mystery, police procedure, and noir. Highly recommended.