I am such a sucker for a strong (if sometimes flawed) female protagonist -- and VIPER delivers.
Selena de la Cruz (pictured here) is strong because she's vulnerable, both contemporary and traditional at the same time, which makes for an uneasy road. A former cop now working as an insurance agent, she's brought back into the world of drug smugglers and homicide when her name turns up in the Book of the Dead. She's still alive, but the people whose names precede her are being violently murdered. Suddenly a marked woman, Selena must face an old nemesis -- El Serpiente -- while solving a series of murders that may or may not be part of a plan of divine retribution, and may or may not be a prelude to her own demise.
Exciting stuff, this. The mystery hits several themes -- faith vs unbelief, insider status vs outsider exclusion (and how those edges cut both ways), justice vs retribution. I especially appreciated Selena's struggle to be an assertive, intelligent female in a culture that has traditionally valued a certain home-and-hearth-based passivity even as it produces strong women who buck that trend.
But this book isn't just smart; it's also fast and edgy and laced with murderous tension. Read VIPER, and then do like I'm doing and go get BLEEDER, the first mystery novel by Desjarlais. Or better yet, do it the other way around. But don't miss these books.
(VIPER is due out in July; readers may pre-order at amazon.com here: