Author: Steven F. Havill
ISBN: 1-890208-29-9, Poisoned Pen Press, 2007
Genre: Police Procedural, #1 Posadas County mystery
First Line: The sheriff leaned against the doorjamb of my office without saying a word, lounging there until I finally decided to notice him.
The Undersheriff of Posadas County, New Mexico, retired from the military and now has plenty of years in law enforcement. Bill Gastner has no life outside the law, and he doesn't want one- even if the new sheriff is making retirement sounds whenever Bill's within earshot. When a car full of teens racing from a traffic stop crashes and all are killed, the town of Posadas reels in shock, especially when a bag of cocaine is discovered under one of the seats of the wrecked car. Gastner and star officer Estelle Reyes have their hands full trying to keep the bereaved parents under control while they conduct their investigation.
Although the identity of the "bad guy" was clear to me early on, I didn't much care because of the characters. Undersheriff Bill Gastner is one of those curmudgeons you may not want to live around, but he's certainly a joy to read about. All that gruffness hides a truly caring person who's dedicated his life (and sacrificed his health) to doing right. Although Gastner isn't going quietly into that good night, he does have a fair idea of his limitations, as in when he takes a look at a gun and ankle holster another law enforcement officer wears:
"I don't think I'd be happy with one." Hewitt's expression of polite amusement told me that he could imagine the result as well as I. Grab down, suffer back-muscle spasm, throw out trick knee, stagger sideways and sprain other ankle. Fall and land on left wrist, refracturing an old break.
Although this first book in the series was Gastner's show, his talented protege, Estelle Reyes, did have enough time to show us her smarts and to set the stage for her appearance in other books. I'm looking forward to that. As much as I enjoy Bill Gastner, his creaks and groans are starting to catch up with him. Sooner or later folks aren't going to whisper about retirement; they're going to demand it, and Bill's got to have someone good to step in.
Can you tell that I'm looking forward to reading more of this series? Good, because I am!
[Source: Purchased at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore.]