Thanks to James Eflin, prolific review writer on Amazon. Does he seek a future in reviewing books? If so, he certainly deserves a shot! Read on.
“Gamble stays in the American Southwest with this story, which centers on Kanab, Utah, and pits FBI Agent Zack Tolliver against the historical might and deeds of the Latter Day Saints. Is there a conspiracy afoot? It seems like a tall order for Gamble to take on an organized religious group as the adversary. He walks a high-wire by not painting Mormons overall as bad guys. Just a few of them seem to meet that description: high-ranking and influential Church leaders – although Tolliver and his allies can never be sure who is in the conspiracy that unfolds.
“Hunters discover the body of a high school boy, impaled on a sharply carved stick thrusting up from a table-like slab of sandstone at the bottom of a cliff on Canaan Mountain. Nearby is a cave, and it holds dark secrets. After law enforcement personnel arrive at the scene of the gruesome murder, the cave is found to be littered with a lot of bones that appear to be from humans. Whose are they? Something, or someone, doesn’t want the cave entered by officers of the law or anthropologists who are commissioned to study the bones. An injunction from the Governor puts the crime scene and the cave off-limits, further expanding the conspiratorial tone of the plot.
“Although Tolliver retired early from the FBI to spend more time with his wife and son in Arizona, he is invited to Kanab after parallels are made with the current murder and his past cases. Soon after, two more people are found dead and suspicions arise as to whether they are connected with the impaled boy. Tolliver is officially summoned out of retirement, but his side-kick Eagle Feather of the Navajo Reservation is told to keep a low profile – in essence, be nonexistent. He nevertheless uncovers key information that helps keep the investigation moving along. Many angles are pursued to investigate the suspicious deaths, and the number of suspects increases seemingly as fast as the bodies are found. Who’s on whose side in these events? Even agents within the FBI can’t be ruled out as playing some roles in the unfolding conspiracy. It takes Tolliver and his trusted (?) associates much action and intrigue to lead them up the ladder to find out who is responsible for the killings – and for those bones.
“Some linkages back to the history of White settlement in Utah, exploration of the Colorado Plateau, and the expansion of Mormon culture on the scene in the 19th century are intertwined with contemporary events to give weight to the unfolding plot. In fact, that history is the plot. This is one of the longer books in the series, which gives Gamble room to develop subplots quite well. We learn more about Tolliver’s relationship with Libby, his wife; Eagle Feather develops a romantic interest and chews peyote buttons with a local shaman; local law enforcement officers drink a lot of coffee and eat a lot of huevos rancheros in quaint, small-town cafes; and landscapes of southwestern Utah are vividly described. There are so many sub-characters that it is somewhat difficult to keep them all sorted out. But, the reader is treated to the smell of arid vegetation and feels the heat of the sun as Gamble takes us through the passages of diurnal cycles and the complications of loyalty to the Church – either the mainstream LDS or the smaller, and highly local, Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). Tensions among their adherents, and uncertainties about either of them by Tolliver and his associates, keep us intrigued to the very end.
“‘Canaan’s Secret’ ends in a typical Gamble dramatic style, written almost as if it were meant to be a cinematic extravaganza. Certainly, cinematographers would appreciate the vivid colors of the atmosphere and landscapes with which they could work, and they would not be overly constrained by city sets; while some of the action takes place in towns in southern Utah, most of it is in the arid landscape that is dominated by the dry, red sandstone. That is where Tolliver and Eagle Feather are at home. And so are we.”
Thanks and Gamble Ace to James Eflin.