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Desolation Flats (Art Oveson) by Andrew Hunt
Cover Artist: Car on the Bonneville Salt Flats by Heritage Image Partnership Ltd. / Almy
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover/ eBook  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250064615
Date: 15 November 2016

Links: Author's Facebook / Show Official Info /

In 1938, at Utah's Bonneville Speedway, Detective Art Oveson is assisting his cousins with their land speed racer. A British motorist, Clive Underhill, and a German motorist, Rudy Heinrich, are competing against each other to break the world land speed record. During a test run, Clive crashes his vehicle and Art pulls him to safety from the burning wreckage. A grateful Clive invites Art to the swanky Coconut Grove for dinner with him and members of his strange entourage.

The next morning, Art goes to the Hotel Utah and is shocked to learn that Clive is missing; Clive's asinine brother, Nigel, has been strangled to death; and his friend and former coworker, Roscoe Lund, has been arrested for Nigel's murder. Art faces opposition from the Salt Lake City Police Department (SLCPD), the FBI, and his own family as he endeavors to free Roscoe. The body count increases as Art delves deeper into a conspiracy involving perverted racists.

Andrew Huntís novel, A Killing in Zion, is a superb mystery involving evil polygamists. I didn't think its sequel could possibly be more intriguing, captivating and emotional. I was wrong. Desolation Flats is one of the best historical mysteries I've read in many years. The ending made me cry. In fact, much of the entire novel was very heart-wrenching. It takes place approximately one year prior to Germany's invasion of Poland and the beginning of WWII.

Andrew Hunt
Art Oveson Mysteries:
* City of Saints
* A Killing in Zion
* Desolation Flats

Racism is the primary focal point of Desolation Flats. Historical characters are brought into play--primarily Hitler. There are racists in Salt Lake City. A group known as the Platinum Legion has extremely radical views that strongly parallel Nazism. Some very disturbing events are brought into the light. Innocent people, because of the color of their skin, have been falsely accused and executed. Detective Art Oveson, who works in Missing Persons at the SLCPD, makes some startling revelations.

Art, a devout Mormon, is a good man who is currently having his faith tested to the utmost. He is being pulled in many directions. His wife, Clara, has been diagnosed with post-natal melancholy. Her melancholy, more likely, stems from her anger towards Art. His family, she feels, constantly harassed her, saying she wasn't a good mother because she worked. Guilt-ridden, she finally quits her teaching position. Art's refusal to defend her was perceived as an act of betrayal.

All of Art's superiors believe his investigation into Clive Underhill's disappearance is hampered by his friendship with the suspect, Roscoe Lund. Art, they claim, will do anything, even fabricate conspiracies, to prove his innocence. Unfortunately, Art is correct about the conspiracies: People are lying to conceal how Nigel actually died. No one can be trusted. A rift in the Oveson clan is created because Art clashes with his big brother Frank, who is head of the FBI office in Salt Lake City. Frank, like so many others in positions of power, is a bully.

As I stated earlier, the Germans are in town. Some of them in Heinrich's entourage are good and some are evil, murderously evil. Some members of Underhill's entourage can't be trusted either. Art discovers numerous secrets, many of them involving genealogy. I didn't realize until reading this novel that Mormons love to study genealogy. They established the Family History Library in downtown Salt Lake City in hopes everyone would research their family trees.

On a bright note, it is nice to learn that Art's fifteen-year-old daughter, Sarah Jane, is quite the political activist and humanitarian. She is passing around a petition, and collecting donations, in order to help establish a Jewish homeland in lower California. Furthermore, her hero is Eleanor Roosevelt; she writes her a letter, beseeching her to allow Jewish refugees into America. I wish all Americans could be this sympathetic towards the plight of those less fortunate.

I think I read the last fifty pages of Andrew Hunt's Desolation Flats without batting a single eyelash. I feared for Art Oveson's life. I kept asking myself, "How is he going to survive this?" He is attacked by some extremely evil villains. Desolation Flats is an awesome historical mystery that will be enjoyed by those who love a complex whodunit that is rife with killing, gore, and drama--the type of drama that will make you cry.

I can't wait for the next installment in the highly acclaimed Detective Art Oveson series.

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