Grisly murders are rocking the small county of Bear Butte where Julie Collins has spent the last few months learning the PI business without the guidance of her best friend and business partner, Kevin Wells.  Enter dangerous, charismatic entrepreneur Tony Martinez, who convinces Julie to take a case involving a missing five-year-old Native American girl, the innocent pawn in her parents’ child custody dispute.  Although skeptical about Martinez’ motives in hiring her, and confused by her strange attraction to him, Julie nevertheless sees the opportunity to hone her investigative skills outside her office.  But something in the case doesn’t ring true.  The girl’s father is foreman on the controversial new Indian casino under construction at the base of the sacred Mato Paha, and the girl’s mother is secretly working for a rival casino rumored to have ties to an east coast crime family.  Local ranchers—including her father—a Lakota holy group, and casino owners from nearby Deadwood are determined to stop the gaming facility from opening.  With the body count rising, the odds are stacked against Julie to discover the truth behind these hidden agendas before the murderer buries it forever.  And when Julie unwittingly attracts the attention of the killer, she realizes no place is safe…not even hallowed ground. 

What a great book!  Armstrong’s sophomore outing is, if anything, stronger than her first (Blood Ties…which was also riveting).  The mystery is first and foremost here, with a pseudo love triangle between Julie, Kevin and Tony reminiscent of Evanovich’s Ranger and Joe, but more believable.  Armstrong writes gritty extraordinarily well, but none of the violence is gratuitous and the mystery itself is extraordinarily well done, with red herrings abounding.  The ending made sense and was satisfying, as was the relationship with the two men in her life.  Tony is the complete anti-hero, the ruthless head honcho of a motorcycle gang with toes dipped in all kinds of illicit activities, but you can’t help but like him and root for him.  If you like Tami Hoag’s later works (Dark Horse), then you’ll love Armstrong’s books.

If this sounds like your cup of tea…but it here

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