A Jamaica Wild Mystery by Sandi Ault
Review: The second mystery to feature Jamaica Wild, Wild Inferno by Sandi Ault, has the Bureau of Land Management agent traveling to Colorado to assist in battling a wildfire that has broken out on the Southern Ute Indian reservation.
Jamaica's first assignment upon arriving is to locate, and evacuate, an old Ute named Grampa Ned. Instead, she finds a badly burned firefighter whose final words before slipping into a coma are, "Save the grandmother." When Grampa Ned is later found dead, it's quickly determined that he didn't die from the fires but from a shovel to the back of the head. Now Jamaica has several puzzles on her hands: What was so important to cause Grampa Ned to rush into a firestorm, shovel in hand? Who killed him and why? And what did the downed firefighter mean when he asked her to save the grandmother?
Wild Inferno would seem to have all the elements of a terrific mystery. There's the suspenseful environment in which the story takes place (a raging and unpredictable wildfire), a murdered man (a whodunit), a mysterious plea ("save the grandmother"), and compelling characters (Jamaica herself, the Ute Indians, and in a not so minor role, Jamaica's wolf Mountain). But it is really the characters, and particularly the stories and rituals of the Utes, which make Wild Inferno a compelling novel.
With the exception of the opening and closing chapters, the wildfires aren't really a factor in the story. The whodunit aspect is also somewhat secondary; though it's mentioned that everyone hated Grampa Ned, there really aren't that many characters in the book, and most are Jamaica's colleagues, associates, or friends. With only a couple of people left, it's not too hard to figure out who killed Grampa Ned.
What's left are the characters themselves. Ault cleverly weaves a mystery plot into the tapestry that is a tale of the Ute people and their customs. At one point, in reference to a conversation with Momma Anna, a medicine woman and close friend, Jamaica says, "She spoke in riddles, gave strange instructions, and generally set me off on missions I didn't understand. As was often the case, I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about, yet I sensed she expected me to act on the information she had just imparted." The story in Wild Inferno is crafted in much the same way. It's very well done and fascinating to read.
Acknowledgment: Blanco & Peace provided a copy of Wild Inferno for this review.
Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Wild Inferno: Colorado
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Wild Inferno by Sandi Ault — A Jamaica Wild Mystery
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Publication Date: February 2008
List Price: $23.95