While on an early morning run, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agent Jamaica Wild saw a harrowing sight. A body attached to a white cross sailed over the railing of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge landing on the edge of the bank far below.
Authorities determined the incident appeared to be related to the Los Penitentes, who believe in self-flagellation as a form of penance. Only this time, the body on the cross was assisted over the edge by two men who had removed the cross from a truck
For several years, Jamaica had been drawing sketches of various penitentsí shrines and icons, keeping detailed research notes, and writing a history of the religious sect and their beliefs. Several months before she saw the cross at the bridge, she had contacted Father Ignacio Medina, himself a Penitentes expert, to gather further information.
Jamaica was a protection agent working out of the Taos, New Mexico BLM office. She was recently assigned nights on the upper range following several acts of vandalism in that area. She was to ride Redhead throughout the night overseeing the area for whoever might be up to mischief. Kerry Reed of the Forest Service was assigned to work with Jamaica.
Shortly after the discovery of the cross, Jamaicaís sketchbook was stolen and it appeared someone was trying to stop her from delving further into the secret historic cult. As Jessica and her BLM and Forest Service contacts sought to find out who killed the man on the cross, more bodies began to appear. It soon became apparent that someone also wanted Jamaica dead as well.
The answers to a growing number of questions raised by Jamaica, provides a fast-paced, chilling story.
Wild Penance is the fourth Jamaica Wild mystery by Sandi Ault, but the first I have read. What an introduction to what appears to be a substantial and successful series.
The author has provided a well-written prequel to the first three Wild novels. In Wild Penance, the reader is introduced to Forest Service Ranger Kerry Reed and Jamaicaís medicine woman, Momma Anna Santana, whom she just met a couple months before.
The men and women Jamaica works with are easy to like. As much as she wants to be left alone in her remote cabin, she has a strong group of loyal people around her who keep an eye out for her safety.
The author is adept at weaving together a mystery with historical information and strong characters. As the story unfolds, the writing becomes more vibrant and the characters colorful.
The book is rather short considering the richness of time, place, and character it contains. That is a testament to Aultís ability to provide depth without long exposition. The author has gained a new fan.
A special thank you goes to Berkley Prime Crime for providing a complimentary copy of Wild Penance, a Wild Mystery, for review.
If you are interested in purchasing any of the four Wild mysteries, they are available on Amazon.com.