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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
The Poison of War is a murder mystery novella written by Jennifer Leeper. Detectives Frank Silva and Arturo Vega examined the bodies of Joaquin Carrillo and Diego Vasquez, which had been found by hikers on the border of the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation. They had also recovered eight pounds of heroin with the bodies. The detectives noted how the killer had used arrows to dispatch the victims. Each body was pierced with some precision, hitting a vital organ. Sixteen-year-old Graham Soto and fifteen-year-old Russell Torres were the students Silva and Vega thought of first in their investigations, but Silva felt there was much more to the story than a teen acting out. He hoped that the two of them might be able to lead the detectives to the real culprit. Who on the reservation was as skilled as they? Could it be their coach, Emilio Acuna? His grandfather was a shaman who knew how to make the arrowheads that had been used. Then there was the matter of the poison found on the arrowheads. It was made from a weed still growing wild in the area -- but who knew how to prepare it?
Jennifer Leeper’s The Poison of War offers the reader a well-written intriguing murder to solve as it educates them on the challenges facing the Tohono O’odham Nation, whose territory is bifurcated by the border of the US and Mexico. I was saddened to learn how simply going a few miles to visit relatives was becoming increasingly difficult for them and could understand the frustration they feel at the drug-running that violent gangs were conducting on their land. Leeper’s plot is ingenious and well-crafted, and her characters are finely honed and authentic. I love her portrayal of desert southwest culture which is so reminiscent of the early work of Hillerman. The Poison of War is most highly recommended.