The Big Gamble by Michael McGarrity
Worth It!, September 8, 2003
from Plano, Texas
Billed as one in the "Kevin Kerney" series, this novel is really more about his estranged son Deputy Sheriff Clayton Istee. While it could be read as a stand alone novel, potential readers would be wise to go back to the beginning and work their way forward to this one. I am deliberately ignoring the back-story involving Clayton and Kevin, as well as numerous other issues which continue in this novel, so as not to run the series for new readers. As this novel opens, a fire is burning in the predawn light of Lincoln County, New Mexico. Deputy Sheriff Clayton Istee watches the fire fade out from the efforts of the volunteer firefighters and is there for the discovery of one and then a second body. Both bodies are found in the cellar rubble of an abandoned fruit stand by the side of the highway and at what is left of one body makes it clear that the body has been there for a very long time. Clayton Istee left the Mescalero Tribal Police and joined the Sheriff's Department three months ago and Sheriff Hewitt wants Clayton to work the case, his first major case in the Sheriff's Department Before long, it is determined that one of the bodies is female and she is identified as Anna Marie Montoya who has been missing for over ten years. As Clayton investigates, he has no choice but to deal with his father, Kevin Kerney, now Chief of Police for Santa Fe, New Mexico. Kerney was the lead investigator for the case ten years ago and was never able to find her or find a lead despite extensive investigation. She vanished without a trace until now. With the identification of the second body, links to the past and present begin to connect leading Clayton and Kerney towards a possible reconciliation as well as towards a showdown with corrupt politicians and criminal enterprises that stretch across state boundaries. As in his other novels, this novel is told from the omnipresent narrator viewpoint, shifting back and forth constantly between the various characters. The characters of Clayton Istee and Kevin Kerney are further developed, but at considerable distance. A lack of emotion even in scenes depicting complex emotion as well as a stiffness in the writing remains for this reader regarding the author, but as the novels begin to stack up, one that is becoming more and more acceptable. Every author has his or her own unique style or idiosyncrasy to the writing and this apparently is Michael McGarrity's own style. While somewhat lacking in the emotionality department, the author has a real talent for bring the culture and landscape of Southwestern New Mexico alive for the reader. Like others in this series, he has once again created a complex twisting mystery full of intrigue and deceit that keeps the reader turning the page and well worth your time.