Sue McGinty
                  Author of Murder in Los Lobos and
                       Murder at Cuyamaca Beach

               Reviews - Reticence of Ravens

Should you find yourself in an airport with a long flight ahead as I recently did, I can’t think of a better book to while away the hours than M. M. Gornell’s “Reticence of Ravens.” In her newest from Aberdeen Bay Publishing, Gornell once again returns to the haunting theme of her previous mystery, “Death of a Perfect Man”—vulnerable people who flee to California’s Mojave desert to escape the past, only to find it has followed them.

Sense of place is Gornell’s great strength. As a student of PD James and a resident of the high desert town of Newberry Springs (where the annual rainfall averages four inches), she knows whereof she writes. This is the land of creosote bushes and Palo Verde trees set against an endless montage of sand and sky. Readers can almost taste the grit on their tongues, feel the sun on their arms and hear the raucous cry of the ravens.

The writer deftly uses these enigmatic birds as a metaphor for some sinister goings-on:  the murder of a man everyone hated, his developmentally disabled daughter drenched in blood and arrested for his killing, criminal elements that descend seemingly from nowhere. And for what purpose? Everyone knows nothing happens in the desert.  But then again, maybe the ravens know more than we do.

No central casting characters for Gornell. The protagonist, Hubert James Champion III, lugs around  three Roman numerals after his name as well as a lot of baggage. What’s a former East Coast psychologist with possible ties to the FBI doing running a gas station and mini-mart in this god-forsaken place? And why can’t he commit to the attractive Assistant Sheriff who has a hankering for him, and why does he mistrust her deputy? Readers know Hugh has secrets and they won’t be able to close the book until they find out what they are.

A solid High Five for “Reticence of Ravens.”