June/July 1998

Serpent Gate

Michael McGarrity
Scribner 1998, 320pp
ISBN: 0-684-85076-1

review by Harriet Klausner

In Mountainair, New Mexico, special state police officer Kevin Kerney investigates the local murder of a police officer. The only possible lead in the case is a psychotic, who might have witnessed the murder. Starting with the mentally ill witness, Kevin begins to piece together a story about a bad cop prone to sexual violence.

As the case of the murdered cop winds down, Kerney starts to investigate the stealing of art worth over $8 million from the governor's mansion. Governor Springer wants this case resolved quickly and quietly. As Kevin begins his investigation he finds a link between a frequent female visitor to the mansion, who has disappeared and an old enemy from south of the border. Kevin knows that if this connection leads him to the missing art, it could also lead him to a deadly confrontation with a man who kills without thinking twice.

Serpent Gate is the third Kerney mystery and like the previous two (Tularosa and Mexican Hat), the novel is a tremendous southwest who-done-it. Kevin is a great character, who through his actions, helps the reader better understand the difference between justice and the law. The support cast helps propel the two investigations forward, and they dexterously blend into a fast-paced story line. Michael McGarrity is no longer a rising star... he has obviously arrived.

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