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by Sandra Ruttan
Down & Out Books, September 2018
288 pages
ISBN: 1948235273

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Long ago, when Kendall Moreau was a little girl, her mother told her that she had to go on a trip but she never came back and no one ever found her. Kendall ended up in the foster care system, moving from household to household, and suffering isolation not only from that but also from being of mixed race. Kendall's mother was what Canadians call Indigenous Native American in the States.

Now an adult, Kendall has never been able to get past the loss of her mother. Therefore she has worked hard and long to become a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and has been able to get her first assignment in the rural mountainous area of Western Canada where she last lived with her mother. Her plan is to sleuth out every scrap of police information she can about her mother's disappearance and, on her own time, begin the long hard work of cracking that cold case.

Out of the blue, when she is on her way to this perfect first assignment, she is notified that she has been re-assigned to join a newly forming investigative team in a distant but equally rural, mountainous, and remote town where drug-running over the US border is rampant and the level of crime rising out of control. Given no choice, she heads to the re-assignment and learns quickly that the men on this force do not want her to work with them any more than she wants to be there.

In her first day on the job, Kendall is faced with the gruesome death of a teenage boy on private property on the side of a mountain, a partner who is from that town and generally hated for returning to it, a chief whose instructions make no sense and whose overall plans remain secret, a really surly and prejudiced fellow constable, and an assortment of others on the staff who are mostly able and a couple that she is not sure are competent. Like it or not, Kendall's skills are truly needed on this task force and with or without recognition or gratitude she is quickly drawn deeply into the circumstances of this murder made to look at first like a suicide.

There are indications throughout the novel that she has failed a person at the place she thought she was being assigned to, a woman whose mother also disappeared long ago. There are also references to coyotes the animal named in Indian lore as the Trickster and it is clear that exploring this facet of being aboriginal attracts Kendall. But the unfolding criminal case takes all of her waking time and her partner steadily demonstrates that he is not what he appears to be now and possibly was never what the town knew him as back when.

The reader realizes more and more that there is something wrong with this whole law enforcement group, from the chief on down. And that's really nicely done. People do things badly or not at all, are not where they are supposed to be with no explanation, and interrelated in all kinds of ways in this outpost. Local teenagers are jerks. Or not. Grown ups too. It is confusing but also intriguing.

One of the qualities of author Sandra Ruttan's writing style is that she does not feel compelled to tie up every loose end in sight. In fact, she doesn't resolve a ton. But this makes the whole story a lot more realistic than most mysteries I review mysteries: most are carefully packaged by the end. Even without the subtitle, THE SPYING MOON (Integrated Border Enforcement Team) (Volume 1), the reader knows that this is the opening foray into a series of novels about Kendall Moreau.

There are things to quibble about, but on the whole, turning this into a series is a good thing.

Diana Borse is retired from teaching English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and savoring the chance to read as much as she always wanted to.

Reviewed by Diana Borse, November 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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