Time for another adventure with private detective BJ Vinson. The case this time involves the theft, or “duck-knapping”, of a prize duck from a ranch in the boot-heel of New Mexico near the Mexican border. As BJ digs into the crime, the border, and what comes across it plays a key part in unraveling the case.
Like the previous books in the series, “The City of Rocks” has strong element of travelogue about it as it explores yet another part of the state of New Mexico. The author really ought to have all his publishing costs paid by the state visitors bureau. Not that the exotic settings detract from the story in any way. They're so richly described and so well woven into the plot that they become characters in themselves.
Although the action in this case, like the last one, mostly takes place far away from BJ's home in Albuquerque, he does manage to bring his partner Paul along some of the time. Somewhat surprisingly, Paul proves more than equal to holding his own when he and BJ get into a scrape or two. However, while he plays a bigger role in this book, we still don't get to know too much more about Paul's character. Of course, this is a detective mystery, not a romance, so it's not absolutely necessary for us to have a deeper understanding of Paul, but it still seems like a shortcoming of the series so far.
Perhaps it's just that the lack of depth is thrown into highlight when compared to the characters BJ meets in his cases. As in all the books so far, there are some colorful and curious people involved in this mystery, from the tough old cowgirl that owns the purloined duck to the hands that work her ranch. It's yet another wild ride as we follow BJ as he solves his latest big case.
“The City of Rocks” is available from Amazon.