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When the Devil Doesn't Show by Christine Barber
Cover Artist: Veronica Winters
Review by Mel Jacob
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250004727
Date: 16 April 2013 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

When the Devil Doesn't Show, is another Gil Montoya mystery from Hillerman Award winner, Christine Barber. Set in and around Santa Fe, Detective Montoya and his partner Joe Phillips investigate a series of home invasions involving murder and torture.

The story unfolds through the eyes of Montoya and Lucy Newroe, a volunteer with the local fire department and an EMT. It begins with the Christmas season celebration. Montoya and his family are enjoying the Farolitas, a traditional Christmas walk where various local people act as devils turning away the Holy Family. One particular devil is played this night by another person. Then the call comes in about a fire and dead bodies.

Lucy discovers the first victim when the fire department answers a call about a burning home. The owners were mutilated and killed. Another man was found hanging in another room and had been torched.

The police conclude a gang did the job looking for easy money and electronics, but little is missing. At first, the motive appears robbery of the well-to-do, and they assume the torture of the first men was because they were homosexuals, but later when other victims are found, also tortured, the police change their mind.

As they piece together clues and descriptions, they identify the suspected leader as a man recently released from prison in Texas. The police find no known ties between him and the victims. Some of the victims worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory, but security officers there offer little information, and nothing links the murders to the lab.

The police work through the minutia of the evidence and, having identified the leader, they also use information from Lucy and others to identify the motive. The final chase of the killer leaves both Montoya and Joe injured and in danger from a blizzard in the mountains.

Local color of the Santa Fe area fills the novel. The title comes from one of the Christmas Devils who turn away the holy family, but fails to appear in his usual role. Only later is he discovered as one of the first murder victims. The ambiguous ending may leave some readers unsatisfied.

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