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Mexican Hat: A Kevin Kerney Novel    by Michael McGarrity order for
Mexican Hat
by Michael McGarrity
Order:  USA  Can
W. W. Norton, 2009 (1997)

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* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Thanks to his years as a deputy sheriff in New Mexico, author Michael McGarrity had a wealth of experience to draw upon when began writing the Kevin Kerney mystery series.

McGarrity's training as a psychotherapist also came in handy as you'll discover when you read this newly released paperback version of one of the Santa Fe resident's classic Kerney crime novels.

In Mexican Hat, the series' central character is working as a seasonal forest ranger in the Gila Wilderness area. As the story opens, the only major problem the ex-cop is facing, besides his old knee injury acting up, is the cat-and-mouse game he's been forced to play with some local militia members. A few of them have been trying to ward off environmentalists by planting pipe bombs on some of the hiking trails that skirt their land.

A relatively quiet summer quickly gets nasty, though, when Kerney finds a dead bear, apparently killed by a poacher. Close upon the heels of that grisly discovery, the body of a tourist turns up. Forced to call upon his investigative expertise, Kerney teams up with a young fish and game officer to find a poacher who might well also be a murderer.

The trail leads the two men into an even more a more puzzling situation. The evidence seems to point towards land rich twin brothers who have been locked in a feud for sixty years. One of the brother's daughters is the assistant district attorney and she becomes drawn into the investigation. Torn between wanting to see justice done and protecting her father, Karen Cox adds another complication to what has become a very intriguing case.

Michael McGarrity's novels have been lauded for his use of the southwestern landscape and the realism he brings to the investigative process. With both these elements present in Mexican Hat, you'll find this is a novel that is difficult to set aside. Once you begin reading you'll stay at it until you've read the final page. Then, more likely than not, you'll be inclined to not only tip your hat to the author but also start looking for other books in the series.

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