Wild Penance
by Sandi Ault

Berkley Prime Crime, 2010. ISBN 978-0-425-23232-3.
Reviewed by Rhonda Esakov
Posted on 02/01/2010

Fiction: Mystery

Sandi Ault has a fascinating way of crafting a story comprised of "history, mystery, turmoil and place." Sounds like a spell that a fictional witch would be chanting over her brew, doesn't it? In her latest book, Wild Penance, Ault will bewitch you with her story of Los Penitentes and heroine Jamaica Wild's deep fascination with learning more about this practice.

Out for a run on the canyon rim before her duty shift, BLM Agent Jamaica Wild is shocked to see a sight she hopes to never see again. "...My feet pounded a tempo on the trail as I jogged in place, as if what I witnessed might merely be a temporary detour in my day's trajectory. There I was: out on the rim, too far away to do anything to change what was happening. I saw a body on a cross. Falling into the Rio Grande Gorge. And it did not come back up."

The ensuing investigation, which her superiors would rather she keep her nose out of, leads Jamaica on a wild ride through the canyons and forests of the mountain ranges of Northern New Mexico. Her job is to protect the land, but in doing so, she risks her life as she also searches for answers and information about the illusive religious group that reenacts Jesus' crucifixion and practices excessive penance. Her own penance, given to her by her medicine teacher, Momma Anna, proves to be an assignment that seems impossible to puzzle out. While searching for answers to the murder and its ties with Los Penitentes she is determined to complete her cryptic task.

Although it is the fourth book released in this series, Wild Penance takes the reader back to the beginning days of Jamaica's story, complete with her meeting the mysterious Indian woman from the hills who disappears at a blink; her beginning training in the "Indun Way" by Momma Anna and her meeting with the wolf of her life, Mountain. As always, the breathtaking descriptions of the world around her and the surprise, intense action leave you shocked and thrilled thoroughly enough to keep turning the pages.

Mary Higgins Clark Award winning author Sandi Ault currently lives in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, where—in addition to writing novels—she teaches WILD Writing Workshops, and frequently appears as a speaker on the issues of wilderness, wolves, writing, and many aspects of Indian Country, among other topics. She has served as keynote speaker for the National Endowment for the Arts' Big Read Program and as a major presenter at the Tony Hillerman Writer's Conference. She lives with her husband Tracy, her wolf Tiwa, and her Missouri wildcat, Buckskin. For more information, visit her website.

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