“Reservations” by Richard Paolinelli is an intriguing mystery/thriller set in the American Southwest. Super FBI agent Jack Del Rio is called upon to investigate bizarre murders in New Mexico. The President of the Navajo Nation contacts an old friend who is high ranking in the FBI for help in finding the killer of three members of the tribal council. The crimes occurred in the area of three Native American reservations; the Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni. These three groups do not always agree and there is often tension between them which complicates the search for the killer or killers.
Del Rio has recently returned from an assignment in Britain where he performed a valuable service for the Queen. While that is not common knowledge, his act is recognized by both the monarchy and insiders in the FBI. Arriving in New Mexico he is assigned Navajo police officer Lucy Chee to assist him. While she is skeptical about the agent’s qualifications her concerns are quickly set aside as she gets to know him. Observing his interactions with local tribal officials she is impressed by his ability to communicate with this sometimes contentious group.
On meeting the Navajo president, Del Rio senses he is holding back some vital information needed to solve the mystery of who is killing these council members. It is apparent to Del Rio there is conflict within the council and he wonders if one of the remaining members might have a hand in the deaths.
As Del Rio investigates the murders he learns more about Lucy Chee and her history. He also learns about Navajo myths and the story of the trickster Coyote that sets him on the right track to find the murderer. However the reason behind the killings eludes him. It is only when President Ben Yazzie at last reveals the secret he has been hiding that things fall into place.
Paolinelli does a great job of familiarizing the reader with the Navajo culture making it easy to follow the story line. This is a well written and obviously well researched book. Paolinelli skillfully introduces the stories of Coyote and applies them effectively. While the characters are well developed the story is definitely plot driven. Fast paced and intriguing it’s hard to put down once you get into the mystery. Clues are laid out but the end is still shocking.
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a solid mystery thriller with a touch of romance. There are some minor editing issues but they in no way affect the flow of the story.