Beneath a Navajo Moon
About This Book
What happens when danger and love collide under a Navajo moon?
The search for a woman who disappeared in 1906 has lead cultural anthropologist Erin Dawson to Cedar Canyon, where the iconic terrain of red rock walls and mesas keep Navajo traditions—and maybe criminal evidence—well hidden. When Erin’s search leads her to cross paths with tribal policeman Adam Silverhorn, it’s hardly love at first sight. But everywhere she turns, Adam is already there.
Fighting their feelings for each other, the two are suddenly thrust into a battle far more dangerous—a common quest to rout an insidious drug cartel that has spawned the recent rise in gang violence on the reservation. Adam’s position of authority gives Erin a rare glimpse into Navajo life few outsiders like her ever see—and into a crime ring that no one dares to imagine. As danger mounts, Adam and Erin begin to wonder if they will live to tell how they really feel.
Without a doubt, this book’s greatest strength was the author’s research into and development of the Navajo story world. Having worked with other authors who write about the Navajo people, I know how difficult it is to gain first-hand entry into this reclusive world, but Lisa Carter did so brilliantly. Life on the modern Reservation was honestly and accurately portrayed in all its divided, hopeful, agonizing, traditional beauty, and definitely left me wanting much, much more.
Another of this book’s strengths was its incredibly strong characters. Erin and Adam were equal and intense in their opposite ways, making for several electric confrontations and plenty of romantic chemistry. Adam, in particular, had a very tangible growth journey in this story. Erin’s religious fervor, while part of her character, was a bit distracting at times and didn’t always feel organic to the story, but overall she had a strong internal conflict to overcome. Many secondary characters could easily star in their own books someday, and all lent depth and diversity to the plot and the story world. Adam’s grandfather was perhaps the best written, with his lurking, sinister ways making him almost an allegorical evil personified.
As a Romantic Suspense novel, this story fell under the action/adventure style. There was no mystery about who the villains were; rather, the tension came from wanting to discover how and when the good guys would prevail. As such, there was a lot of external conflict to drive the story forward, but the actions the characters chose to take in response were not always predictable or even moral. Thus the story was well-balanced between personal conflict and external tension, both of which kept me turning the pages.
This story will appeal to adult readers who enjoy action-suspense stories with strong romantic elements. Adam is a very worldly character in a worldly profession, and as such dwells in a world of drugs, alcohol, loose women, and murder—none of which the author shies away from. And even upright Erin willingly walks into reckless and dangerous situations on more than one occasion, making this an edgy story that more conservative readers may not be interested in. On the other hand, the overt religious elements of the story make it unlikely to cross over to a general audience; I would not recommend this story to my non-Christian friends.
The quality of the storytelling left a bit to be desired. The author’s voice was strong, if not entirely original, but at times I felt I was being told what was happening instead of shown. A couple story threads, like Erin’s dissertation, felt completely unresolved or dropped altogether, while others which promised to be integral to the story—namely, the significance of her ancestor’s disappearance—were resolved so quickly and obviously that they didn’t add anything to the story for me.
The dialogue was often awkward, with long monologues spread over multiple pages and many moments in which it wasn’t clear who was speaking or to whom. The historical Indian dialogue was so cliché it drew immediate attention to itself and pulled me out of the story every time.
Toward the end of the story, the structure and pace became rather disjointed. I would’ve preferred to see both the suspense and romance threads resolved simultaneously; instead, the suspense was completely resolved at about eighty percent through the book, after which the plot took a sharp turn into an almost charismatic allegory of the mystical battle between good and evil. While that final conflict was crucial to Adam’s personal journey, it felt like the beginning of a new story instead of the conclusion of the one I’d been reading.
Beneath a Navajo Moon is a gripping and gritty romantic mystery bursting with romantic chemistry and carefully researched insight into Navajo culture. Not shying away from the dark underworld of life on the modern-day Navajo Reservation, this story attempts to shine the light of hope and redemption on a traditional culture that has long waged war against Christianity. Inconsistent prose and awkward technique occasionally hindered the flow of the book, but the overall story world and strong characterizations made for a haunting and very memorable novel I didn’t want to end. I would love to see more of these characters and this setting in future novels from this author.
Available March 4, 2014 from Abingdon Press