Ramona Emerson Pages: 293 Published: 2022

The book: Rita Todacheene, a Navajo, is a forensic photographer working for the Albuquerque police force. She is exceptionally good at what she does. Her secret? She has some extra help: Ghosts talk to her.

When Rita is sent to photograph a supposed suicide, the ghost of the victim claims she was murdered and refuses to leave Rita alone. Can Rita work out the truth? Will doing so lead her into danger?

You might like it because: It’s a superb thriller with lots of twists and turns. It is an original take on the idea that ghosts can talk to the living. Emerson creates a vivid picture of the New Mexico landscape and the array of characters that populate her story. I could not put this book down.

What did other people say? 
This story is way more than a thriller, more than a ghost story.  It is one of family and history, of culture, of past and present, of walking set boundaries and of discovering oneself.” – USA Today

“A perfect blend of thriller, horror, and coming-of-age story.” – The Boston Globe

Awards & Recognition
Longlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction
Finalist for the 2023 PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel
The Boston Globe Best Books of 2022
An NPR Best Book of 2022

How quickly will you get into the book? The first paragraph grabbed my attention and the next few pages sucked me into the story. There is no slow build here; it’s straight into the incident at the heart of the story.

You might not like it because: There are some very gruesome scenes in the novel. They are described in a clinical manner and are not sensationalized. Nonetheless, some readers might find it a bit too much. 

The plot line moves back and forth between the present and Rita’s childhood. There is a lot of backstory. Some readers may not care so much for these deviations from the main murder plot.

What might you read next?
You could stick with New Mexico and read Tony Hillerman’s Skinwalkers. This is the first of his detective novels to feature both Leaphorn and Chee, two Navajo Tribal Police officers, together in the same storyline.

Alternatively, go back a bit further in time and read Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop, a tale of two priests sent from France to New Mexico on a mission.

Or choose a Native American story set in another part of the USA and read Louise Eldrich’s The Round House, which won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2012.

© Book Curious 2023