Hearts of the Missing
by Potenza, Carol

A prize-winning debut novel follows the experiences of Pueblo Police Sergeant Nicky Matthews, who investigates a personally relevant case involving the serial murders of genetic members of the Fire-Sky tribe by a killer who also deliberately violates spiritual laws. A first novel.

CAROL POTENZA is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at New Mexico State University. She and her husband, Jose, live in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Hearts of the Missing, her debut novel, is the winner of the 2017 Tony Hillerman Prize.

Following her instincts and a series of haunting mystical visions, Sergeant Nicky Matthews of the Tsiba'ashi D'yini (Fire-Sky Pueblo) reservation police launches an off-the-books investigation into the death of Sandra Deering, who was hit by a train after her family reported her missing. Nicky took the missing-persons report from Sandra's desperate family and isn't buying her colleagues' insistence that Sandra committed suicide. Amid the tribe's annual casino-profits disbursements, Nicky's investigation opens a hornet's nest of missing tribe members and possible serial murder, complicated by the tribal leadership's determination to maintain cultural purity as modern America encroaches. Despite her carefully maintained emotional walls, Nicky is shaken when a close friend becomes a suspect, and she begins to suspect that the romantic tension developing with conservation officer Franco Martinez is a ploy to sabotage her investigation. Winner of the Tony Hillerman Prize, Potenza's polished, page-turning debut shares Hillerman's thoughtful exploration of Native identity, story-driving cultural tension, and evocative setting. Readers will crave another story in Nicky Matthews' spunky, driven voice. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

When Sgt. Monique "Nicky" Matthews is asked to investigate the disappearance of a young Fire-Sky Pueblo woman, she finds her search impeded by cultural beliefs, evil spirits, and even members of her own squad. Despite their beautiful New Mexico surroundings, the Fire-Sky Natives cope with serious problems, to the point that suicide-by-train has become a sadly standard event. However, when one mangled corpse is discovered without its heart, Matthews knows that no train did that. According to Pueblo religious culture, a person's body must be intact at burial so the person can attain spiritual peace. When Matthews and her stalwart cohorts investigate further, they uncover a plot that ranges from cultural rites and abuses to earthly evil and greed. Unfortunately for the reader, the author tries to combine too many elements, creating confusion as she swings from one trail to the next. Also, Matthews, whom the reader will like for her tenacity, has so many physical reactions to eve nts ("Nicky's blood fluttered," "her flesh crawled") that the reader is distracted, wondering what body part will act up next. This detracts from the author's strengths—a good ear for dialogue and an understanding and respect for the places and people in the novel. A convoluted plot may leave readers respecting Matthews but too tired to appreciate the exploration of tribal culture and customs. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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