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The Territory by Tricia Fields
Cover Artist: David Baldeosingh Rotstein
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312613785
Date: 25 October 2011 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

In Mexico, two warring drug cartels, La Beastia and Medrano, have taken possession of Piedra Labrada. They are intent on creating a new drug route that crosses the Rio Grande into the small, isolated West-Texas town of Artemis. Because of her determination to prevent this, Police Chief Josie Gray is threatened and endangered by drug lords, corrupt cops and gun fanatics. One such gun fanatic, Red Goff, the leader of the Gunners, is found shot to death. Red's body has been moved and neatly laid on the couch of his neighbor's trailer in which a beautiful, young woman, Pegasus Winning, lives.

The timely plot for Tricia Fields' debut, The Territory, appears to have been ripped from today's newspaper headlines. For example, El Porvenir, a small Mexican border town, has been taken over by one of the country's most notorious drug cartels, which has threatened to massacre all the children. Unable to pay protection money, many citizens are sending their children across the border into Fort Hancock. Fearing for its safety, this small town is preparing for violence to spread across the Rio Grande. Similar incidents are being repeated in border towns throughout Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California. Most of the violence began only within the past year.

The Territory gives much needed press to a growing threat to the safety of American citizens living near the Mexican border. Thrown into the plot is the controversy involving private citizens stockpiling their own weapons. Like many other noir involving treacherous gangsters, there are also greedy, rogue police officers. All of this occurs against a unique Texas setting that is both beautiful and treacherous. Water runoff from mountains creates scenic gardens of hardy grasses and trees amidst barren desert land. Sudden sandstorms and underground dens containing hundreds of rattlers are a threat to both men and cattle.

Police Chief Josie Gray is an unforgettable character. Standing 5' 7", she is a slender woman who is very quick and agile. She has a strange diet consisting of eating canned fruit with hot sauce and drinking bourbon as a sleep aid. She often tries to stave off the latter but doesn't always succeed. Her father, a police officer, was killed in the line of duty. Josie's mom, Beverly, unable to cope, ignored Josie and became an alcoholic floozy. Josie escaped her mom by fleeing to the peace and solitude of Artemis. However, her boss, Mayor Moss, hates women in positions of power. Believing herself to be damaged goods, she is unable to commit to her on-again, off-again boyfriend, accountant Dillon Reese, who yearns for a family.

I was snared at the novel's literally explosive beginning when members of the La Beastia drug cartel storm the Artemis Trauma Center, charge into the emergency room and open fire on Hector Medrano lying on the operating table. From then on, I expected a blood-drenched noir with many gruesome, brutal killings. There were a few car chases and shootouts and a hostage situation but, overall, the novel's violence became relatively mild. Perhaps this is a reflection on Josie's ability to keep the violence from escalating into a bloodbath that engulfs the innocent citizens of Artemis as well as members of the drug cartel. Josie, a good role model for young women, is favorably looked upon as a hero.

The novel's central mystery, the murder of Red Goff, was easily resolved without any major revelations that shocked or disturbed me. Numerous loose ends necessitate a sequel. The two drug cartels continue to war against each other in Piedra Labrada. In the future, the new head of the Medrano cartel, the Bishop, will probably seek vengeance against Josie Gray for continuously foiling his plans. There is also the question of whether or not Josie and Dillon will take their relationship one step further. It will be interesting to see how this series reflects the real-life events that continue to unfold along the Mexican bolder. I never realized until reading this novel the danger in which many Americans are living.

Tricia Fields' The Territory is an exciting debut in a series that has much promise. It is highly recommended for fans of noir, especially Texas noir such as Milton T. Burton's Nights of the Red Moon. Also, for those who find Josie Gray appealing as a strong police chief, fans may also want to read Todd Ritter's terrifying mysteries, Death Notice and Bad Moon, and Wallace Stroby's Gone 'til November. However, Texas isn't the only state having problems with Mexican drug cartels. Fans of The Territory may also want to read Darryl Wimberley's Devil's Slew; Florida is the setting for money laundering between U. S. Marines and a Mexican drug cartel known as the Zetas.

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