Deborah J Ledford
Thomas & Mercer 2023
In Deborah J. Ledford’s latest thriller, “Redemption,” Taos Pueblo native and Taos County sheriff’s deputy Eva Duran discovers a woman’s body on the boundary between Pueblo land and Taos County. The mystery ignites when she recognizes the victim as one of four Pueblo women reported missing. One of them is her best friend, Paloma, a famous hoop-dancer.
… Ledford’s Deputy Duran is a formidable character …
Because Duran recognizes there could be issues over jurisdiction, she is prepared if necessary to launch her own investigation — she will “fly under the radar— off duty and out of uniform” to locate the other three missing women.
The drama progresses through the voices of the main characters, beginning with the villain herself, Alice Jones, a traveling nurse. Jones had been granted permission to set up a mobile clinic on tribal land. She wants to make an impression by developing a “cure for heroin addiction” so she could keep her job and be celebrated by medical professionals. But she needs addicts to test out her formula so she kidnaps four native women she finds strung out at a drug-dealer’s hideout on Pueblo land. Jones loads the women into her Winnebago, takes them to an abandoned home on Pueblo land, and locks them up.
In the meantime, Eva’s new search for her friend is constantly aborted by Paloma’s son, Kai, who is desperate to find his mother. At one point, Kai threatens to jump off the Rio Grande Bridge. Then, in a nail-biting scene, Duran drives to her grandfather’s abandoned house where Paloma is being held captive, but doesn’t enter the dwelling because Kai calls her right then and says it is an emergency.
Also complicating matters is a deputy for the Pueblo police force, Cruz Romero, who wants to reestablish an old love relationship with Duran, but cooperating with a Taos County deputy could cause him problems with the tribe. Yet another key character is Paloma’s brother, Santiago, an important man on the Tribal Council, suspected of knowing more than he wants to share with Duran regarding Paloma. Meanwhile, two of the other women’s bodies are found and pressure builds for Duran to rescue Paloma.
The story offers the typical suspense novel formula and it keeps the reader guessing even through the killer is revealed at the outset. But what is distracting is the author’s choice of where to situate the drama. As a New Mexican growing up near the Taos Pueblo, I was uncomfortable with her portrayal of the tribe’s unique and very private cultural practices. That said, Ledford’s Deputy Duran is a formidable character if Ledford chooses to develop a crime series.