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WALL OF GLASS by Walter Satterthwait: Book Review

I always wonder why an author chooses to stop writing a particular series.  Between 1987 and 1996 Walter Satterthwait published five books about Santa Fe private detectives Rita Mondragon and Joshua Croft, and then he stopped.  Did he tire of the pair?  Did he feel he had said all he needed/wanted to?   Although he has written other mysteries and some Westerns too, his official web page was lasted updated in 2007.  Has he stopped writing completely?  If you know the answer to any of these questions, please let me know.

Wall of Glass is the first of this series.  In it, Rita Mondragon, the owner of the Mondragon Agency, is wheel chair-bound, having been paralyzed from the waist down by a bullet that killed her husband two years earlier.  Joshua Croft is her assistant and “legs.”  He would obviously like to be more, but Rita is still dealing with the injury and is determined to keep their relationship on a professional, not physical, level.

The story revolves around a missing diamond necklace that had been stolen from the home of a Santa Fe builder and his wife a year earlier. The insurance company had paid the Leightons for their loss and considered the case closed although the necklace was never recovered.  Now Frank Biddle comes to the detective agency with a “hypothetical” story about possibly being able to recover a valuable piece of jewelry and needs Croft’s help in getting a finder’s fee from the insurance company.  Croft’s not interested in this bit of double dealing, but he plays along to find out more, and Biddle promises to contact him with more information.  But the next day the man is found dead.

The Leighton family, from whom the necklace was stolen, is dysfunctional at its core.  The husband and wife have an “open marriage,” the teenage son is drinking and doing coke while his parents are away with their “friends,” and their teenage daughter is cowed by her mother’s demeaning behavior toward her.  And Stacey Killebrew, a former convict and former friend of the murdered man, definitely doesn’t want Croft asking questions.

There’s a nice amount of description of the beautiful Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco, The City Different.  Satterthwait obviously loves this city, and he brings the clear blue skies and cinnamon colored hills to life.  Having been to both Santa Fe and Albuquerque, I can see why the state’s license plates read “The Land of Enchantment.”

There’s a fair amount of violence in Wall of Glass, but it’s realistic, not gratuitous.  There are three murders, two attempted murders, a near-fatal barroom brawl, and a car chase.  But Croft keeps his cool throughout, and the ending is believable and quite surprising.

You can read more about Walter Satterthwait at his web site.

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