"Gastner is an incisive investigator whose two most valuable qualities are compassion and insomnia. Unlike other fictional detectives who approach murder as a personal affront, Gastner sees himself as the victims' advocate, striving to even the scales of justice for those no longer able to do it themselves." óBooklist
Bill Gastner, Undersheriff of Posadas County, knows ancient Anna Hocking didn't fall down her fruit cellar stairs by accident. He's also sure that elderly Reuben Fuentes knows nothing about the bodies scattered on his dusty, southern New Mexico ranch. No spring chicken himself, Bill summons his former deputy, Reuben's niece, from Mexico to help clear the old man of suspicion. Eventually this generation-spanning law enforcement team finds a thread tying all the crimes together - a killer with no conscience.
Responding late to a phone call to the Posados County's sheriff's office, laconic New Mexico Undersheriff Bill Gastner (last seen in Bitter Recoil ) finds Anna Hocking, an elderly retired teacher, dead at the bottom of her basement stairs. Gastner, who observes that there are broken cobwebs in the dusty basement too high to have been disturbed by the diminutive woman, is disinclined to write the death off to natural causes. But his attention is taken up by other matters as a real estate agent is found shot on the property of old-timer Reuben Fuentes, who was recently reported to have started wearing a gun. Although Sheriff Martin Holman thinks Gastner should arrest Fuentes and be done with the case, the perceptive undersheriff isn't convinced the old man shot the realtor. As he digs up more clues, Gastner calls Estelle Reyes-Guzman, his former deputy and Fuentes's grandniece, to ask for her help. Gastner finally links all these crimes and a few others as Havill sensitively explores the area's Mexican-American culture in this increasingly estimable regional series.