Book Review: The Territory

Author: Tricia Fields

Publisher: Minotaur Books

Copyright date: 2011

Pages: 278

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.

Rating: A

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


About Margot

I'm also known as Joyfully Retired. I love to talk. I love to talk about books I've read, movies I've seen, places I've traveled to, people (especially my children and grandchildren), and Food. On the Quirky Girls Read blog I'm trying to read all the books that have won the major awards and then, of course, talk about them.
This entry was posted in Award Winners, Fiction, Posts by Margot and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Book Review: The Territory

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    The though of drug cartels bringing their fight to your town is really scary. I’m glad to see a female law enforcement officer and I’m glad to know the book’s well done.

  2. Margot says:

    I’m glad you picked up on the female police chief angle. I was pleased too as this was not an area where a police chief could sit and wait for the occasional traffic ticket. She had to be physically, mentally and emotionally tough – very tough.

  3. Hope to find this at the Library, because like you and Jay, both of us lovedTony Hillerman and so I’ll want Bill to read this (he emphatically does NOT Kindle!). We used to like the JA Jance series which feature a female sheriff in the Tombstone area of Arizona — Joanna Brady. I don’t think there are any new books in that series, but for you and your commenter above, the old books are worth reading from that angle.

    • Margot says:

      Hi Sallie. Thanks for the tip on J. A. Jance. I checked our library’s web catalog and they have a whole list of the books. They were showing a new book on order. It’s out in 2012. I can’t wait to get going on this series. The Territory gave me a nice taste for another female police officer in the Southwest.

  4. Cath says:

    I’d love to try this one so will keep an eye out for it. Book 1 of Nevada Barr’s ‘Anna Pigeon’ series, Track of the Cat, is set in Texas and gave me a wonderful sense of what the Guadalupe Mountains are like. I highly recommend it. Oddly enough, I have the first Joanna Brady book by J.A. Jance on my library pile right now.

    • Margot says:

      Hi Cath – I am so glad to get your great suggestions for books set in the Southwest. I’ll check out Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon. I hope you can find The Temptation. It had a good feel for the area.

  5. I love Tony Hillerman! I read him a lot when I was in my 20s….this sounds like a great book and a main character one could enjoy!

    • Margot says:

      One of the things that I loved about Hillerman’s books was the culture of the Navajo and other Indian tribes. I miss that. But The Territory had a great feel for the country around south Texas.

  6. The story sounds too close to home for me – living so close to the border I read those kinds of stories in the paper every day! :–)

    • Margot says:

      Jill, I thought about you while reading this book. The setting didn’t make me want to take my body any where near the border. I don’t hear about all of these problems every day like you do.

  7. TheBookGirl says:

    I recommended Hillerman’s books to my mom years ago as she has a keen interest in all things relating to Native American culture and history. I was not aware that there was a literary prize named after him, though. It’s good to know that the book lived up to it’s honoree.

    • Margot says:

      I was pleased they honored Hillerman this way too. The Territory was the third book to be awarded. Within the past few weeks they announced a new prize winner. His book will now be published next year.

  8. Tami says:

    I received a copy of this book as a contest prize, but haven’t gotten to it yet. Sounds like I should move it further up on the TBR list. I’ve only read a couple of Tony Hillerman’s books, but if this book even comes close, it’s worth my time to read.

    Thanks for the review.

    • Margot says:

      If you’re looking for the Native American flavor of Hillerman’s books, you not find that in The Territory. But if you’re looking for a honest look at the desert/border area of the Southwest, this is spot on.

  9. jennygirl says:

    Poor Josie! she has a lot on her plate. Those drug cartels are no joke. I couldn’t even begin to imagine living in a border town. Thanks for the review and recommendation.

  10. Margot says:

    There were times when I felt like “poor Josie” too. She was pretty tough, but the problems were pretty overwhelming.

  11. Margot – just wanted to thank you for taking the time to review The Territory! That’s my book and I’m thrilled that you liked it! You were right – this is the first in a series. Book 2 will be published late next fall. I’m researching book 3 now. I can’t imagine a better place to unearth mystery than West Texas border country!

  12. Jerry says:

    Read this book over the weekend! Awesome ready. I just read an article in “Men’s Journal” the day before concerning drug traffic thru Texas ranches. That was frightening in itself! So reading this book, right after the article, really made an impression!

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