While the westerns he has written don’t seem to be carried here, Steven Havill’s mysteries always have long wait times for patrons. The latest was no exception to the rule and another good one.

Final Payment: A Posadas County Mystery

By Steven F. Havill

Thomas Dunne Books

http://minotaurbooks.com

June 2007

ISBN #978-0-312-35415-2

Hardback

275 Pages

Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman finds herself in a bit of a predicament as this latest read in a great series opens. The tourists are coming to town and in a big way. The village of Posadas, New Mexico is hosting in less than 48 hours a grueling bicycle race named the “Posadas 100” or as Estelle calls it, “The Blood and Broken Bones One Hundred.” Her point has proven true with two hard crashes during practice already involving riders that went off the mesa into the ravines below.

Her concerns about the event are interrupted by the discovery of three well dressed but very deceased individuals in the scrub brush at one end of the runway at a small isolated airstrip owned by the local gas company. When she arrives on scene and begins to investigate she soon realizes that the three did not die of exposure caused by the summer heat as one would expect considering the harsh landscape. No, it was a clear execution for reasons unknown. While at the airport she also discovers that a private airplane, a Cessna 206, has been used by someone and put back so as not to be caught. Estelle believes that the two cases are linked in a fast paced novel that concludes in a violent altercation 48 hours later.

This series originally began with the Sheriff Bill Gastner books before switching over to Estelle Reyes-Guzman several novels ago. With this being the fifth novel in the overall story arc dealing primarily with Estelle, it is obvious that Author Steven F. Havill made a conscious decision to all but shove the Gastner character off stage. He is hardly present at all in this novel and only makes an appearance a couple of times directly while being briefly talked about in the course of events approximately twice more. Estelle is front and center throughout the novel and it shows in style, tone, and action.

As the overall series arc has shifted to Estelle and the series was renamed a “Posadas County Mystery” the tone and style shifted. What had been a warm folksy style with the cantankerous Gastner shifted to a cool distant style reflecting the lead character. Gone are the frequent mentions of Gastner’s insomnia and middle of the night drives which found him prowling around unable to sleep. Now, it is Estelle, prayed on by her family worries that finds herself unable to sleep in the wee hours of the morning as well as by a case that must be solved quickly. Estelle, while she may stress about their future or important events in the children’s lives, is always cool and calm under pressure and displays none of Gastner’s sharp tongue or fiery temper. This is certainly true in this novel where Estelle is pressured to new limits and in ways she has never dealt with before.

Once again Steven F. Havill brings an attention to detail, an appreciation of the harsh beauty of the New Mexico landscape, and rich characters to bear on another twisting tale of greed and murder. Something that is a familiar event in Posadas County and appreciated once again by his loyal fans. This latest entry is another strong read and while Gastner’s lack of presence is noted and missed, so too is the fact that Estelle is becoming a powerful character in her own right. This is good stuff and well worth your reading investment.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2007

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