Publisher: Minotaur Books
Copyright date: 2011
Genre: Fiction set in the US Southwest
Award Won: The Tony Hillerman Prize
Reason for Reading: I love Tony Hillerman’s books and I wanted to see if a book award in his name would live up to the expectations and legacy.
Josie Gray is the police chief in the Texas border town of Artemis. The citizens Josie serves prefer the quiet life of a small rural town, but things have changed. Drug cartels are fighting just a few miles away across the Rio Grande and, occasionally, they bring their fight to Josie’s town.
A fight between two rival cartels came to town one night when the leader of one of the cartel families was brought to the health clinic in Artemis. Although in her heart Josie didn’t want to defend the life of this man, she was duty-bound to keep the rival cartel from killing him and the doctor and nurses caring for him. She saved the doctor and nurses but couldn’t save the patient. In the process she killed one rival cartel member and wounded another. Now that cartel is determined to get even.
In addition, Josie has a murder to solve. Someone shot a man who heads the local gun club. Also the man’s huge cache of weapons are missing. This dead man had taken on the Second Amendment as a cause. Many people would call him a fanatic. He also had some shady dealings, though Josie has a hard time proving it. It could be that all these things are tied up together.
There is so much packed into this story: lots of offbeat and well developed characters, and plenty of surprising twists. From chapter one there is amazing action. The author also uses descriptions so the reader gets a real sense of a small town and tastes the grit of south Texas in the middle of a hot July.
Equally important was the education I gained through the eyes of the fictional law enforcement. I saw the complexity and danger of the traffic problem, both people and drugs, back and forth across the border. From this brief look, I can see how impossible the problem must be for those involved every day in a small border town like Artemis.
Josie wondered how long Artemis could hold off that kind of power. People outside the strip joining the border states of Mexixo and the United States failed to realize how dangerous the situation had become. United States citizens were living next to a country facing anarchy.
I’m really high on this book and this new debut author. My husband and I have read and loved all of Tony Hillerman’s novels. We were happy when this prize was developed to honor Hillerman.
I asked Jay to read The Territory. Although we both like Hillerman, we don’t always agree completely. The good news is we agreed on this book. Jay’s only complaint was that he didn’t like the ending. He didn’t feel it was strong enough. I had the feeling it was leading up to book two in a series. Overall, we felt it was a very good representation of the American Southwest. We both highly recommend.
About the award:
Co-sponored by St. Martin’s Press, the Tony Hillerman Prize is awarded annually for the best first mystery set in the Southwest. The prize was established in 2006 to honor Tony Hillerman More information is available here: Woodharvest