Soho Crime. Aug. 2022. 304p. ISBN 9781641293334. $25.95. M
DEBUT The debut novel by New Mexico–based Diné filmmaker Emerson is an atmospheric, haunting thriller that spans genres and introduces a fascinating character. Rita Todacheene was raised by her grandmother in the Navajo Nation in the American Southwest, but she’s since left the reservation and become a forensic photographer for the Albuquerque police. Rita is known for her skills as a photographer (she captures details in her shots that no one else can) but she also has a secret gift: Rita has been able to see ghosts since birth. This supernatural ability aids her forensic photography, as the ghosts of crime victims point her toward clues that investigators have overlooked, but it also wreaks havoc in her personal life. Then, on the scene of a suspected suicide, the victim’s angry ghost tells Rita she’s been murdered and demands revenge, which soon puts Rita’s life in danger from a vicious cartel. Emerson’s novel jumps between the present and moments in Rita’s childhood and early adulthood, setting a menacing undertone that weaves through the pages.
VERDICT The arid New Mexico landscape and Emerson’s stark prose add layers of bone-chilling believability to the story. Fans of thrillers with supernatural elements will enjoy this great first novel.
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