Stranger: A Death Valley Mystery
by Melissa M. Garcia

"Feeling as if she was going insane, she continued to swim. Her arms burned, but she pushed on. She couldn't control the water or the rain. She couldn't control her sight, but she could control her muscles. So she forced them on."

Alex and Ric Delgado own an isolated motel built right on the edge of Death Valley, Nevada. Their isolated situation is no accident. Ric is trying to soothe and heal his sister Alex's traumatic past. He is also fleeing from a seventeen year stint as a police detective in Los Angeles. His efforts are quickly shattered when a dead body is found in one of the rooms. Local Lake City police descend upon the scene, and the Delgados find themselve targets of an investigation led by one Detective Stellar. Ric and Alex set out to solve the murder themselves, mostly to keep Alex from being further traumatized. Soon a web of small desert town policework, journalism, and family dynamics goes into motion. Motives are uncovered and the past comes back to play havoc with everyone's lives.

Garcia style is fast-paced and riveting. Her characters are quirky and intriguing, especially Alex Delgado. The author portrays a woman who is flawed, yet understandable. Issues of justice, revenge, and recovery are balled up inside her. The motel murder acts as catalyst to mobilize Alex which helps her unwind some of the red-hot tensions lying just below the surface. Detective Stellar plays a key role in helping her resolve some of those problems. His character also takes on depth and complexity that goes beyond being a mere cipher for authority. Will Stellar's sexuality and sensitivity are also explored. His family and romantic involvements turn out to have a greater importance for the case than he expects. All together, this dynamic story of secrets, snooping, and ultimate confrontations makes for a modern mystery that goes beyond mere plot twists and unexpected turns. Complexities of the human soul are added to the mix, and it is a rich reward for the reader.

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