Deciding to try something new to me, I picked a couple of novels that are not my usual style. One is a western from the new large print books (FYI – it is new to large print but it actually first published in 2018). I don’t know much about this genre but the title caught my eye, The Woman Who Built a Bridge.
The author, C.K. Crigger, has penned a novel with two strong protagonists, January Shutt and Shay Billings. Shay is a friendly guy and has made a success of his small ranch.
January on the other hand is reclusive. She has returned to her family’s land after the death of her father. The pair abandoned the land 13 years ago when her grandfather attacked her. She does everything she can to shield her scars from prying eyes. The only structure left on the land is the old barn but January’s father was a master builder and now she is too. She’s fashioned a cleverly disguised home for herself and her dog inside the barn and makes a living selling butter and eggs.
Besides her home, January also rebuilt the old Kindred Crossing Bridge. For the local ranchers it makes their trips to town much shorter. But the bridge has drawn unwanted attention from Marvin Hammel.
Hammel, the richest man around, is planning something big. He has been damming the river so those that live downstream have to sell to him or risk losing everything. He’s made an offer for Shay’s place but Shay, along with others on the river, refuse to sell. He also wants the bridge but plans to just take it and January’s homestead.
Things escalate as first, a son of one of those who refused to sell is murdered then January finds Shay’s riderless horse covered in blood. He’s been shot in the back but January is able to get him to her place and get the doctor.
With Shay in hiding and recuperating, January finds herself defending both homesteads. She is smart and brave but the men she is up against keep coming. If she and Shay are to survive, they need to figure out what Hammel is planning and stop him.
This is an entertaining read. The good guys are interesting characters, the bad guys easy to dislike, the action is almost nonstop, and the details of January’s disfigurement are revealed throughout the story.
Shutter by Ramona Emerson
My other ‘outside my usual reads’ is a supernatural thriller by Ramona Emerson. Emerson is a Diné writer and her first novel, Shutter, takes place in part on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico.
Rita Todacheene is a forensic photographer for the Albuquerque police department. For Rita it’s a calling and she’s very good at what she does. For her grandmother it’s a fear because she know about Rita’s special gift. Rita can see and hear the spirits of the dead.
Rita was born with her gift (or curse) but has learned to hide it from most people. Her grandma and Mr. Bitsilly, her grandma’s friend and a healer, have prayed and sung over her many times but the spirits remain. Over time Rita has learned to control to some extent the constant presences and to mute the voices. Then she gets called to a horrific scene on Highway I-40.
Erma Singleton has jumped/fallen/been pushed over the overpass then hit by multiple vehicles. What remains of her is scattered down the highway. The images Rita views through the 1015 photos she takes is enough to haunt anyone but for Rita it’s worse.
Erma’s spirit has come and is loud and angry. She doesn’t know what happened but knows she didn’t jump and demands Rita finds the truth and gets justice. Erma won’t be silenced and brings other spirits to haunt Rita day and night.
With things spiraling out of control, to save her sanity and her job, Rita has to give in to Erma’s demands. But as she begins to dig she uncovers connections to other murder scenes she has photographed. Rita also finds Erma’s connection to a Mexican drug cartel.
Rita is in a race to uncover the truth but can she find the right answers before one of her colleagues is photographing her murder?
This novel is not just a crime thriller, it is also the story of Rita’s life. In alternating chapters, the hunt for Erma’s killer and Rita’s life on and off the Reservation from birth to young adulthood are told in alternating chapters.
Books with the supernatural are not usually my cup of tea but Emerson is a compelling writer and Rita, trying to balance two worlds, is an interesting character especially as a child. Once I reconciled murder mystery with talking spirits, this one was hard to put down.
Reviews by Patty Crane, Reference Librarian