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Head Wounds: A Kevin Kerney Novel

Review

Head Wounds: A Kevin Kerney Novel

Over the past quarter-century, Michael McGarrity has crafted more than a dozen gritty novels featuring Santa Fe Police Chief Kevin Kerney, who is now retired. McGarrity, who also penned an acclaimed trilogy centering on the Kerney family’s history in New Mexico from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries, recently indicated that he was putting the finishing touches on the final installment of the Kerney series. The book in question, HEAD WOUNDS, has now been published and is full of surprises.

"McGarrity’s descriptions of the people and places on both sides of the southern border of the United States make for terrific reading, and the journey through the tale is more than worth it..."

The biggest surprise is that Kerney, who celebrates his 70th birthday in the book, only makes sporadic appearances, with his first being about a third of the way into the proceedings. The focus is primarily on Doña Ana County Sheriff's Detective Clayton Istee, who is brought in to investigate the murder of a couple he knows at a Las Cruces motel. He learns that they had quickly exited Las Cruces for parts unknown after stealing a significant amount of money from a guest at a nearby casino. Istee is puzzled that the pair had returned, but an even bigger mystery is the manner of their deaths; they were scalped and had their throats cut. He suspects that the murders might have been drug-related, but the trouble goes deeper than that.

Istee’s investigation, aided by a veteran DEA agent, puts him on the trail of a shadowy assassin for hire known as El Jefe. Meanwhile, other players on both sides of the law and the border become involved in the situation, so what appeared to be a bizarre double-murder has far-reaching implications that could put Istee’s family in danger. Istee is advised to stand down but just can’t do that, and unofficially joins forces with members of a couple of other law enforcement agencies to see that El Jefe is brought to justice. Kerney, who is Istee’s father thanks to a brief relationship, is occasionally asked for advice but is more often than not relegated to the position of observer as the series winds down to a violent and satisfactory conclusion.

HEAD WOUNDS has a somewhat meandering plot that settles down about two-thirds of the way through. As always, McGarrity’s descriptions of the people and places on both sides of the southern border of the United States make for terrific reading, and the journey through the tale is more than worth it, regardless of who is and isn’t prominently featured. It is a fitting end to a well-crafted series.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 13, 2020

Head Wounds: A Kevin Kerney Novel
by Michael McGarrity

  • Publication Date: November 10, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
  • ISBN-10: 1324002859
  • ISBN-13: 9781324002857