I started reading Desert Remains, because I had to run a reading for Steven Cooper–I was given the book a few days before and got through the first 150 pages, and–always a recommendation once you reach page 100–I wanted to finish it.
Alex Mills–a Phoenix PD detective, who, married with a son, is not as macho as many of his colleagues. As the book progresses, he opens up to his intuition about people and events.
Gus Parker–this is where much to Cooper’s credit, I stayed with the book. Gus is a psychic. I usually hate the way that someone with “powers” can magically jump the story forward. Gus though is an engaging character with his own limitations, and his powers can lead him and Alex astray as much as they help. If anything, he is the character one most wants to follow.
Beatice Vossenheimer–is the more traditional psychic and larger than life mentor, and would be yenta to Gus, and early in the book she is on a mission to root out fake psychics. These scenes bring energy and humour to the early stages of the book.
However, the true central character is geography: the mountains in and around Phoenix. They are the site of the murders, but also they connect to earlier settlers in the area, and provide a backdrop to put the stories in context. Many of the desert remains of the title are the many petroglyphs that are on rocks and in caves all over the valley. Each death, would be romance, relationship stress, no matter how big they seem, are puny moments on the immense time-lines of human and geological history. I finished the book when I would usually be in Phoenix working at Changing Hands Bookstore–it was a way to be there, but also made me miss that time and those friends intensely. Changing Hands appears in the book renamed Turning Pages–and probably still on Mill.
The mystery is engaging–I caught on at just the right time–the characters are people you want to spend time with, and there is energy and humour in the writing. I’m looking forward to the next Mills and Parker book.