By: Mark Combs
Title: Heart Chants
Author: Randy Attwood
Series or Standalone: Series (Phillip McGuire Mysteries #2)
Burnt-out former foreign correspondent Phillip McGuire is happy owning and running a bar in Lawrence, Kansas. He’s happy with his new house in the country. But he’s not happy.
When two female Navajo students go missing from Haskell Indian college, he agrees to shelter a third. And then a mysterious, beautiful, Chinese woman stumbles into his life, pursuing a hidden agenda.
All the while, a half-Navajo young man begins to execute a plan to reopen the gates to the Holy People so that the Navajo may receive new gifts to rid themselves of the White Man.
Told from a shifting perspective, Heart Chants takes the reader deep into the mind of Phillip McGuire, a man tortured by guilt over a recently-defunct relationship, and over some terrorists torturing some information out of him, mangling one of his hands in the process. The book is also told from the perspective of the killer, who is half Indian and half white. It becomes apparent pretty early on that the man is mentally ill, suffering from delusions and hallucinations which drive him to want to kill.
The book opens with McGuire having just been beaten up for protecting Hsu Chi, a young Chinese woman, from being attacked. He ends up providing a safe place to stay for her, and for Zonnie, a young Navajo woman, both of whom care for him as he recuperates from the beating that he took.
The character development in the book is solid. Both main characters, McGuire and the killer, are very well developed. The guilt that McGuire feels for things that happened in his past, though not always at the forefront, is almost always present, showing a fairly large and visible crack in his otherwise solid facade.
The author delved deeply into Navajo culture when developing the killer, and when developing the plot, using words to paint pictures for the reader that were both ugly and beautiful, sad an joyous. Though told mostly from the killer’s perspective, the Navajo Indians’ reverence for Mother Earth was refreshing, especially in a world filled with SUVs, smart phones, and “selfies.”
The book could have ended with the resolution to the killings, but the author took it a step further, giving McGuire a miracle, and giving the reader a kernel of hope.
Bottom line: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a quick read that kept my interest. I cared about McGuire, and want to know what happens to him.
Reviewer’s Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
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