Gwen Florio | Arizona backdrop for Reservations

Veteran Missoula journalist Gwen Florio covers new ground in latest mystery

Books & Writers
Gwen Florio | Reservations
Veteran journalist Gwen Florio covers new ground in Reservations.

In her fourth mystery, Gwen Florio once again crafts a story that’s nimble and timely.

Frustrated journalist Lola Wicks doesn’t want a belated honeymoon to Arizona. Still reeling from an incident in Wyoming that almost got herself and her daughter killed, she’s keeping close to her Montana home in Magpie, where she’s a reporter for the local daily. It’s a far cry from the old days as a war correspondent in Afghanistan. But it’s safe.

Husband Charlie, a Blackfeet Indian who serves as sheriff in the county adjacent to the reservation, is determined to visit his brother and wife, both attorneys on the Navajo Reservation. Their daughter, Margaret, is just a few years younger than Edgar and Naomi’s daughter, Juliana, and Charlie hasn’t seen his brother in years.

They arrive in the wake of a bomb blast that knocked down a billboard advertising the reservation’s largest employer, Conrad Coal, and killed a venerable elder. And a day into their visit, while exploring an ancient cliff dwelling, they watch a coal-filled truck explode as it rumbles away from the nearby mine.

Charlie offers to serve as a bodyguard for Naomi after she receives a threatening letter. This leaves Wicks to care for the two girls, even as “the strands of breaking-news DNA, tamped into a deep place more than a year earlier, began to move about, stretching and uncoiling.”

The author’s narrative flits from the perspective of the bomber, to the ghosts of those he’s killed, to the intrepid reporter. She offers a fresh view of the Arizona desert, and the conflicted history of the Navajo and Hopi – who revere their home and need the income derived from the mine that’s destroying it.

Florio, a veteran journalist who has covered stories around the globe, is currently the Missoulian’s city editor. Kirkus Reviews describes her latest thriller as a “ripped-from-the-headlines story with a shocking ending.”

– Kristi Niemeyer