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Clicking on a book cover will search for the book in the catalog. If it is not part of our collection, you may request it by clicking on the Can't Find It link. An icon indicates if the book is chosen by a panelist as one of the year's best.

All the Land to Hold Us
By Rick Bass. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $25.00.
Top Pick
What possible sustenance can a love sick young geologist, a despairing woman whose marriage withered 30 years earlier, and a one-legged treasure hunter take from the forbidding West Texas desert? It’s a place where passions bleed out and dreams come to die, where only the toxic greed for artifacts, salt and oil survive. But, “a strange and powerful landscape summons strange and powerful happenings,” according the author, so even though the searing heat can roast an elephant and the quicksand of the deadly drifting salt flats are dotted with the skeletons of luckless adventurers, the possibility of redemption persists at the place where their stories intersect. In this lyrical tour de force, Bass, the winner of multiple awards for both fiction and nonfiction, creates a desert dreamscape somewhere beyond the edge of reason, where the improbable meets the surreal and the surreal bumps up against the truly bizarre, and populates it with characters as vivid as their extraordinary setting is starkly unforgettable. []

Angel Baby
By Richard Lange. Mulholland Books. 304 pp. $26.00.
Lange keeps readers perched on the edges of their seats in this jet-propelled thriller that follows a cartel boss's wife on her desperate flight from Tijuana to escape an abusive marriage and reunite with her child in L.A. Razer-sharp writing, breathless pacing, rich characters, and intricate storytelling from shifting viewpoints make for a wild ride across the Southern California desert. []

Bone Horses
By Lesley Poling-Kempes. La Alameda Press. 353 pp. $20.00.
Mystery and romance converge in this evocative story of a school teacher who visits the small northern New Mexico town where her grandfather unearthed fossils and where her mother met a suspicious death. Poling-Kempes beautifully captures the landscape and spirit of New Mexico's high country, seamlessly blending mysticism and human longing to demonstrate that, indeed, home is where the heart is. []
The title makes sense once we understand that the central character is the granddaughter of a famous archaeologist. Her visit to the small New Mexico town near the site of his discovery opens vistas to a family past she was only vaguely aware of. Poling-Kempes is an excellent writer. Readers wanting a leisurely and enjoyable tale that brings the past and the present together will find this book perfectly suited to their tastes. []

Border is Burning, The
By Ito Romo. University of New Mexico Press. 104 pp. $21.95.
Top Pick
Outstanding! About a dozen short pieces, not stories per se, but life, on the border. There are no innocent people, there is no “normal” life–normal is for fairytales. Enjoyable reading that is finished much too soon. []

Carrion Birds, The
By Urban Waite. William Morrow. 288 pp. $25.99.
The wages of sin are high and redemption comes hard in this stylish noir thriller set in a decaying southeastern New Mexico oil town. Ray Lamar believes he's doing the right thing when he returns home, where years earlier drug violence cost him his wife and left his young son badly injured. Instead, he sets in motion bloody events that tumble like dominoes to a conclusion that is a dramatic as it is inescapable. Lyrical writing, sober reflections on the nature of good and evil, and a cast of characters worthy of Dashell Hammett or James Cain make for an electrifying read. []

Cold Deck
By H. Lee Barnes. University of Nevada Press. 201 pp. $26.95.
Barnes, once a dealer in Vegas, draws upon that experience to spin a tale that begins with the 1980 fire that destroyed the MGM Grand. The narrator, Jude Helms, luckily survived. Now, decades later, divorced and barely making ends meet, a stunningly beautiful woman comes into his life and Jude is drawn into a scheme that will make him rich, or perhaps make him dead. Barnes’ novel slowly unfolds revealing the underbelly of Las Vegas while telling a tale that will appeal especially to the legion of blackjack players. []

Crossing Purgatory
By Gary Schanbacher. Pegasus Books. 320 pp. $25.00.
Top Pick
The year is 1858. The death of his wife and children while he is away trying to get funding from his father to expand his Indiana farm overwhelms Thompson Grey. Bewildered and haunted he takes to the Santa Fe Trail, not sure what the future might bring, or if he even cares. Schanbacher is an excellent storyteller who creates strong characters and sets them in a visible landscape faced with trials and dangers, both natural and man made. []

Days are Gods, The
By Liz Stephens. University of Nebraska Press. 216 pp. $18.95.

Dead Run: The Murder of a Lawman and the Greatest Manhunt of the Modern American West
By Dan Schultz. St. Martin's Press. 320 pp. $25.99.
A veteran crime reporter recounts, in armchair-gripping detail, the 1998 ambush of a Cortez, Colorado, police officer and the subsequent manhunt that launched more than 500 lawmen on a confused, futile search in the Four Corners canyonlands for three camouflage-clad killers. Schultz's skillful use of interviews and investigative documents provides disturbing insight into the terrorist mindset of the assassins and their possible motives, as well as chilling portraits of the militia movement and radical environmentalism as the bastard stepchildren of the Wild West's anti-establishment outlaw tradition. []

Disciple of Las Vegas, The
By Ian Hamilton. Picador. 340 pp. $25.00.
Ava Lee is an accountant, a “money person” with the skills of a tough private investigator and the physical prowess of a champion of the martial arts. When 50 million dollars go missing from a client’s account she begins to follow the money in a globe-trotting chase that will satisfy readers who like their page-turners to give them non-stop action. []

Every Waking Moment
By Chris Fabry. Tyndale House Publishers. 400 pp. $14.99.

Everyone Says That at the End of the World
By Owen Egerton. Soft Skull Press. 360 pp. $15.95.

Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club
By Benjamin Alire Saenz. Cinco Puntos Press. 222 pp. $16.95.
Top Pick
The eponymous bar of this Pen/Faulkner Award-winning collection of seven short stories is located a few blocks south of the Rio Grande. It is the nexus for the otherwise unconnected souls who drift back and forth across the border between El Paso and Juarez, searching for answers, longing for love, and sometimes just looking for trouble. Saenz’s stories, rendered elegantly and with compassion, tell of interior lives that are rich with complexities, restricted psychologically and emotionally by internal boundaries that bind and suffocate. Although we struggle as individuals, our need to break free of the borders that confine us is universal. These are stories to savor, both for their grace and for the truths they reveal. []
The Kentucky Club of this collection of Borderland short stories is a once-elegant Juárez bar, the Tiffany dome and gleaming wood and glass of which remind one character of a church. "[I]sn't that what bars are,” he muses, "churches for people who'd lost their faith?" That sense of loss, of emotional isolation, and of the yearning to connect are common to Sáenz's seven thoughtful, sculpted stories: an aging writer doesn’t know what he’s missing until he gains—and then loses—a lover; the grown children of wealthy, negligent parents seek emotional connection through risky behavior; a boy raised in Juárez is dumped unwanted on his American father’s doorstep and needs to negotiate his fractured world. At some point, they all pass through the Kentucky Club. And in his spare, luminous poet's voice, this one-time priest grants each a measure of redemption. []

Fatal Descent
By Beth Groundwater. Midnight Ink. 279 pp. $14.99.
An offseason river excursion on the Colorado River through Utah’s Canyonlands turns ugly when one of the rafters turns up dead, possibly the victim of a grizzly bear—but more likely at the hand of a fellow vacationer. Fear, suspicion, and attitude aplenty challenge river guides Mandy and Rob, who must bring their clients safely home although the odds—both natural and human-fueled—are against them. []

GQ GQ. Where Are You? Adventures of a Gambel's Quail
By Sharon I. Ritt. Little Five Star. 38 pp. $14.95.
I love the soft watercolor illustrations of Nadia Komorova who studied at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, Slovakia.
I didn't care for the constant repetitve verses in the story line though.
Perhaps this book would make a better song than an actual book for kids. []

Hunting Eve
By Iris Johansen. St. Martin's Press. 352 pp. $27.99.

Love By Drowning
By . El Leon Literary Arts. 396 pp. $24.95.

Make It, Take It
By Rus Bradburd. Cinco Puntos Press. 188 pp. $14.95.
Bradburd was a college basketball coach in the Southwest for a decade and a half before earning an MFA and switching to teaching. Putting those years of experience to literary use he provides a fast-paced tale of the dark side of college basketball recruiting and coaching, setting his tale at a small fictitious university in southern Arizona. []

Miss Illegal Alien Beauty Pageant
By Frank De La Cruz. . 124 pp. .
An over-the-top spoof of a pageant set in Tucson, Arizona, in which the narrator (who was also the announcer/moderator of the pageant) drifts verbally downward until he is finally faced with an audience that wants only to see the end. []

Moon Saw It All, The
By Nancy L. Young. Little Five Star . 39 pp. $11.95.
Top Pick
Another beautifully illustrated picture book written by Nancy L. Young and art work by Nadia Komorova. This story is set in a desert creek bed at night with all of the desert critters joining in for dancing and singing. 'Porcupines whistled with quails all abristle, roadrunners tap-danced in-between.' is one page showing us roadrunners poised to tap dance. Delightful. []

Nightzone: A Posadas County Mystery
By Steven F. Havill. Poisoned Pen Press. 301 pp. $14.95.
With two dozen mysteries published, all with New Mexico and southwestern settings, Havill keeps us turning pages! There is no Posadas County, NM, but his books have created it, peopled it, and tracked murderers through it. Mystery fans who want to visualize the settings for the stories they read will find this, and all of Havill’s stories, exactly to their taste. Once again retired sheriff Gastner gets pulled into a murder investigation and, as always, his thoughtful approach leads the reader to discoveries we can understand and appreciate. []

Old Man's Love Story, The
By Rudolfo Anaya. University of Oklahoma Press. 170 pp. $19.95.
Top Pick
Fiction-, play-, and children-book author Rudolfo Anaya has sometimes drawn from his own experience for his work. This latest novella, which he acknowledges to be a response to the 2010 death of his wife, is a meditation on grief, love, and aging. Opening with the line “There was an old man who dwelt in the land of New Mexico, and he lost his wife,” it is stylistically fable-like. The language is simple, the characters are abstracted, and at some points the action morphs into a realm of magical realism. Much of what passes for action takes places in the old man’s mind: he talks to his wife (and she actually periodically appears as a point of view character); in his effort to hold onto her, he muses on such subjects as the natures of love, memory, God, time, place, the imagination, the shamanic role of the writer.
Lyrical and affecting, it’s a must-read for anyone who loved Bless Me, Ultima.
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Rage Against the Dying
By Becky Masterman. Minotaur Books. 307 pp. $24.99.
Masterman gets the Tucson, and Southern Arizona, setting just right as her female narrator, a retired FBI agent and former undercover operative, cannot resist the chance to identify the serial killer who eluded her while she was still on active duty. As good as police procedurals get! []
So, who’d have thought an acquisitions editor for medical and forensics’ examiners’ textbooks could write a successful thriller on her first try? On a whim (and to keep her retired husband busy), Tucsonan Masterman and said husband each pounded out a novel within a month. The character she created, a retired female FBI agent with attitude, and martial—but few domestic—arts, is called back into service to help solve a serial rapist/murderer case. She puts herself in danger and lies about it to keep peace at home, but escalating threats and perpetuating lies threaten her, others, and her marriage. With an engaging voice (the character’s, in first person), lean, disciplined prose; and unflagging action, it’s an impressive debut. []

Railroad Avenue
By Phyllis de la Garza. Silk Label Books. 205 pp. $14.99.
Author of more than a dozen books set in and around Willcox in southeastern Arizona where she lives, de la Garza is a fine storyteller. Her heros are often heroines (you know what I mean), as here--at the turn of the 20th century, who face stiff challenges in a world of tough, usually mean men. Railroad Avenue runs through the heart of Willcox a town divided by the train tracks that are the very reason for the avenue’s, and the town’s, existence. An enjoyable story with lots of local color and some real historical figures. []

Reflections of Fran Stone
By David E. Bates. Logozon Publishing, LLC. 373 pp. $15.99.

Right Side of Wrong, The: A Red River Mystery
By Reavis Z. Wortham. Poisoned Pen Press. 250 pp. $14.95.

Rules of Wolfe, The: A Border Noir
By James Carlos Blake. Mysterious Press. 240 pp. $17.92.
Top Pick
Readers who like mysteries that have a good “sense of place” will applaud Blake’s handling of scenes that range across the border from Mexico into Texas. But fans of action will be equally pleased as the graphic scenes of mayhem, high-speed auto chases, and a fast-moving plot keep us turning the pages at a rapid clip. []
Master creator of the sympathetic outlaw, James Carlos Blake has cast another good bad boy in this “border noir.” When nineteen-year-old Eddie Gato Wolfe, a hot-headed and ambitious junior member of the Texas Wolfe crime family, tries to jump the line to promotion by joining a Mexican cartel in Sonora, he manages to defend the wrong girl, and the two have to flee north. The cartel pulls out all the stops to capture them, so Eddie and the girl are forced on foot into the desert. Blake’s narrative is drum tight: the action never flags, his signature violence is creative (consider the efficacy of punishing tippling employees by preserving them naked—and dead-- in a glass-topped vat of rum), and he includes the harsh realities of the undocumented attempting to trek across the border. A killer read. []

Scratchgravel Road
By Tricia Fields. Minotaur Books. 308 pp. $24.99.
A body in the desert, a decommissioned nuclear weapons plant, torrential rain, and two endangered women are just a few of the problems confronting small-town police chief Josie Gray. Fields, whose debut novel "The Territory" won the Tony Hillerman Prize, stretches her wings in this nifty police porcedural set in the West Texas borderlands. Fans of Nevada Barr and J.A. Jance will welcome Gray to the sorority of tough, smart, and empathetic female detectives. []
Things are getting hot for small town police chief Josie Grey, and it’s not because of the oppressive summer heat in the tiny Texas town of Artemis. A dead body scarred with mysterious lesions, a heat stroke victim who won’t—or can’t--- say why she was out wandering in the desert, and a nuclear power plant clean-up company with a hidden agenda are all adding up to something beyond business as usual—and when the torrential rains threaten to unleash decades of nuclear waste stored at the old power plant, things really get interesting. Tricia Fields delivers a very readable yarn with plenty of plot twists in this second outing for Chief Josie Grey, first introduced in the Hillerman Award-winner “The Territory.” []

Sister Rabbit's Tricks
By Emmett "Shkeme" Garcia. University of New Mexico Press. 40 pp. $18.95.
This trickster tale is inspired by one of the many rabbit
stories of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico.
While I enjoyed the story, I was put off by the amateur illustrations so will not pick it as a SWBY. []

Son, The
By Philipp Meyer. Ecco/HarperCollins Publisher. 561 pp. $27.99.
Eli McCullough, born in the year of Texas independence, learns a fundamental lesson from the people who killed his family and took him captive as a child: "It had become clear to me that the lives of the rich and famous were not so different from the lives of the Comanches: you did what you pleased and answered to no one." In this breathtakingly original novel, Meyer explodes our cherished myths of frontier settlement as Eli amasses a fortune in cattle and oil, leaving a finely crafted cast of McCullough descendants to deal with the consequences of an old man's obsession. With humor and pathos, Meyer challenges the American dream of wealth and power and assesses the cost of success for the winners and losers. []
Philipp Meyer takes history by the horns this epic saga of the McCulloughs, a family dynasty descended from the first white male born in the newly-established Republic of Texas. Through the simultaneously-told accounts of patriarch Eli, his grandson, Peter, and his great-great-granddaughter, Jeanne, the mythology of the American West is parsed to reveal the resilience and determination of the players, but also (and more importantly) the unfathomable greed, racism and awful violence that marked the struggle for dominance. Kidnapped by Comanches as a boy, pragmatic Eli knows no particular loyalty, raiding with his native captors as freely as with the Rangers. By contrast, Peter is handicapped by his own humanity and rendered a family outcast, and Jeanne eschews fulfilling relationships in her dogged pursuit of recognition in a business world blind to women. Guggenheim Award-winner Meyer delivers an account that is as mesmerizing as it is harrowing. []

Spider Woman's Daughter
By , Anne Hillerman. HarperCollins. 320 pp. $25.99.
Picking up where her late father Tony left off, Hillerman gives us a new episode in the Leaphorn and Chee stories. Her first novel (she has published several other books) starts with a bang, literally, as Officer Bernadette Manuelito (now Mrs. Jim Chee) watches helplessly through a restaurant window as Lieutenant Leaphorn is gunned down in a parking lot. Hillerman has room for improvement to become the magnificent storyteller her father was, but this is a good start in that development. []

Strong Rain Falling
By Jon Land. Forge Books. 368 pp. A Caitlin Strong novel.. $25.99.

Sunland
By Don Waters. University of Nevada Press. 208 pp. $25.95.
Top Pick
He’s unemployed and broken-hearted, but Sid Dulaney’s no criminal and he certainly didn’t set out to be a drug runner when he left Massachusetts and his two-timing girlfriend and came back to Tucson to care for his Grandma. But the rent for his beloved Grandma’s assisted living won’t pay itself, so to keep her in comfort he makes regular forays into Mexico to smuggle out cut-rate medications for her quirky neighbors in the retirement village. Sid is an anti-hero for our times, flying beneath the Border Patrol’ radar in an un-air conditioned Honda Civic while dodging a decidedly off-beat Mexican drug lord, all for the most compassionate of reasons. Dan Waters, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award, offers a first novel rich in quirky characters and gentle humor, and it’s a charming and very readable take on filial love triumphant. []

Tainted Mountain
By Shannon Baker. Midnight Ink. 345 pp. $14.99.
Readers of romance-fiction who want their heroines tough, their heroes ruggedly handsome and their geographical settings accurate will enjoy Baker’s tale of a ski lift in northern Arizona that is in serious trouble; too little snow, too much interference from in-laws and too much hostility from the nearby Hopi tribe. []

The NIght Detectives: A David Mapstone Mystery
By Jon Talton. Poisoned Pen Press. 250 pp. $14.95.
Historian-turned-sleuth David Mapstone and his partner, former Maricopa County sheriff Mike Peralta, hit the shimmering Phoenix freeways in an adrenaline-fueled hunt for the killers of a high-priced call girl. Talton, a former Arizona Republic columnist, knows the urban desert terrain and delivers scathing commentary on twenty-first century Phoenix in this tightly plotted thriller delivered in lean, muscular prose. A side-trip to San Diego allows Talton to make some biting comparisons. Fans of this popular series will not be disappointed. []

Time of Change, A
By Aimee Thurlo, David Thurlo. Forge Books. 352 pp. $24.99.
The Thurlo team’s novels, more than 30 published so far, but who’s counting, are set in Navajo country. Over the years the storylines have shifted from what we might call “straight mysteries” (e.g., the Sister Agatha series) to mysteries that also qualify as romances. In this latest, a soldier comes home for his murdered father’s funeral and finds himself working with an old flame who has been his father’s best employee. When the police seem less than interested in finding the killer, these two try to do what the cops don’t care about, and there’s that old attraction too! Slick writing make this a page-turner. []

Victor, the Reluctant Vulture
By Jonathan Hanson. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Press. 35 pp. $16.95.
Top Pick
A beautifully illustrated picture book written for older children about Victor, a southwestern vulture who has some doubts about his role in life. He doesn't really want to be a vulture and would rather fly as a raptor, eagle or hawk. He tries hunting and keeps on crashing and colliding with other bird friends.
After a nightmare about stench filled carcasses and a visit from raptor bird friends who thank him for his job cleaning up carrion, Victor feels better and gets to work eating roadkill. []

When the Devil Doesn't Show
By Christine Barber. Minotaur Books. 288 pp. $24.99.
Barber packs a lot of Santa Fe and northern New Mexico scenery and history into this murder mystery. Three men are dead, killed before their house was torched, and Detective Gil Montoya follows leads to that still top-secret place, the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Mystery fans who like a regional flavor will be delighted with this one. []
The sights, sounds, smells, and taste of northern New Mexico flavor this crisp police procedural set during the festivities leading up to Christmas. When three bound and mutilated bodies turn up in a house fire, Santa Fe police detective Gil Montoya at first suspects a hate crime until the evidence leads him to Los Alamos National Laboratory and something more sinister. A cast of likeable characters and Barber's obvious love of native and Hispanic history and folklore make for an enjoyable read. []

Where They Bury You
By Steven W. Kohlhagen. Sunstone Press. 344 pp. $32.95 hardcover; 24.95 paperback.
The Civil War in the Southwest, Kit Carson's Navajo Campaign, and the mysterious death of Maj. Joseph Cummings provide the charged backdrop for this fast-paced novel of fraud and murder on the turbulent western frontier. Kohlhagen knows his history and concocts a plausible story about a gang of con artists, tied to Arizona politician and mine owner Sylvester Mowry, who infiltrate the Union high command during the Confederate invasion of New Mexico and Arizona. A reader's guide poses discussion points for better understanding historical issues and their relation to the fictional world he has created. []
Kohlhagen has touched many of the bases that connect Arizona to the Civil War in this page-turner of a novel. And although it is his first published long fiction, he demonstrates remarkable skill with both description and dialog, letting the latter tell most of the story as the words come from Kit Carson, Major General Edward Canby and even Apache leader Cochise when they speak for themselves. []

Winter of the Metal People: The Untold Story of America's First Indian War
By Dennis Herrick. Sunbury Press. 244 pp. $16.95.
A fictionalized retelling of the Coronado expedition into the Southwest. []

Wraiths of the Broken Land
By S. Craig Zahler. Raw Dog Screaming Press. 256 pp. $14.95.
The setting: the southern border of frontier-era New Mexico. The storyline: a small group of tough men sets out to find two stolen girls. The descriptions: brutal, with graphic violence. Zahler’s background includes work as a cinematographer and this book, with characters sporting names like Patch Up and Deep Lakes, seems to be aimed at becoming the basis for a movie script. This tale is for readers with a taste for blood and guts.
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