Red Mesa Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Red Mesa

Red Mesa
Aimée and David Thurlo
Forge, 2001, 364 pp
ISBN: 0-812-56869-9
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The action starts immediately when Special Investigator Ella Clah, head of the major crimes unit of the Navajo Tribal Police, receives a call on her radio requesting backup for fellow officer Justine Goodluck as she drives home from work. Justine is Ella's cousin and, at the moment, is responding to a call about a robbery in progress at a highway convenience store. When Justine arrived the robber fled the store with Justine chasing him into the darkened lot behind the store. When Ella arrives she proceeds to the area behind the store looking for Justine. Ella spots the robber by a dumpster, when Justine, rounding the corner of the building, mistakes Ella for the robber she is pursuing, and shoots narrowly missing Ella. Relations between Ella and her cousin, who is also her subordinate, have been deteriorating in recent weeks and the shooting incident makes Justine even more edgy. Ella tries to restore their friendship but Justine becomes more moody and withdrawn. When Ella receives a note from Justine asking for a meeting on a remote mesa after dark, she sees it as a chance to patch things up and goes to the meeting. But, instead of Justine, Ella discovers a murder scene. The murder has covered his tracks well and has left behind a body burned beyond recognition. However, in the ashes, investigators discover an earring of Justine's. Ella's position is not good since the only evidence of another person's presence at the scene was hers. Things turn ugly when a matching earring turns up in Ella's office. Under suspicion of murder, Ella is asked to turn in her badge and gun as she is placed on leave.

Not fully convinced that the burned body on the Mesa was Justine's and needing to clear her name to avoid prison, Ella begins her own investigation. Using her wits and some secret help from colleagues in the Navajo Tribal Police and local FBI who remain loyal to her, Ella proceeds to uncover a plot to discredit the Tribal Police and sow discord among members of the tribal community. She also discovers the truth about her cousin's disappearance.

Tony Hillerman fans will find much to enjoy in this story which is set in the same northwestern New Mexico local as Hillerman's books. Like Hillerman, the Thurlos provide an accurate portrayal of Navajo police as they strive to maintain law and order in an area that straddles the Native American and Anglo cultures.
The review of this Book prepared by Chuck Nugent

Aimee & David Thurlo
Forge, Apr 2001, 24.95, 352 pp.
ISBN: 0312870604

    Navaho Police Special Investigator Ella Clah and her cousin, police officer Justine Goodluck loudly argue in public over a recent incident. When a few days later, Justine's burnt bones are found partially buried on the top of RED MESA, everyone, including some members of her own family, conclude that Ella killed Justine. Even Ella's beloved mother believes her daughter has turned evil and wants to protect her infant grandchild from her.

    While Ella flees to buy time and the truth behind Justine's murder, the law chases after her even more convinced she is an escaping killer. As the law gets closer to capturing her, Ella begins to unravel a plot to eliminate her. Will she be able to expose the dastardly scheme before her time runs out?

    The fifth Clah entry is a great tale because the talented duo, Aimee & David Thurlo, never lose sight of the scheme or the personalities of the cast. Even on the lam, Ella remains Ella as fans know her. The plot works because the “plot” against Ella still retains plausibility even with the villains known early in the tale. The Thurlos talent resides in deep and thorough characterizations that lift their Native American police procedurals to a plane shared by the likes of Hillerman.

Harriet Klausner

The review of this Book prepared by Harriet Klausner

Chapter Analysis of Red Mesa

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book descript. of violence and chases 10%Planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 50%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 20%How society works & physical descript. (people, objects, places) 20% Tone of story    -   suspenseful (sophisticated fear) How difficult to spot villain?    -   Difficult, but some clues given Time/era of story:    -   2000+ (Present) What % of story relates directly to the mystery, not the subplot?    -   20% Murder of certain profession?    -   lawmen Kind of investigator    -   no powwow with Indian killers Any non-mystery subplot?    -   feelings towards family/friends Crime Thriller    -   Yes Murder Mystery (killer unknown)    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   police/lawman Age:    -   20's-30's


United States    -   Yes The US:    -   West Desert?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   generic/vague references to death/punishment    -   moderately detailed references to deaths Explicit sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   vague references Unusual forms of death    -   flamed Unusual form of death?    -   Yes Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog    -   significantly more descript than dialog

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Aimee and David Thurlo Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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