Book Review: Michael McGarrity’s Tularosa

Posted August 7, 2012 by Kathy Davie in

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Michael McGarrity’s Tularosa


on April 17, 1996 and has 304 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

First in the Kevin Kerney mystery series revolving around a disabled cop outside Santa Fe, New Mexico.

In 1997, Tularosa was nominated for the Anthony Award for Best First Novel and the Dilys Award.

My Take

This was an excellent story although the writing was rough around the edges and a bit raw, but I couldn’t help but read on, desperate to find out the who, what, why, and how. It’s a betrayal on a huge scale. The men you expect to have your back are more likely to stab it.

Oh brother, red tape, starched-up rules, and CYA left people hanging for too long. Makes ya wonder how anything ever gets done! The way McGarrity left it, I’m dying to learn what happens in Mexican Hat. Nice bit of history.

The Story

You know it’s bad when Yazzi practically begs his old partner to help him. His son Sammy is missing and the army won’t surrender. And Sammy is Kerney’s godson.

The official army line is AWOL, but no one else believes this and Kerney’s investigation turns up all sorts of leads no one else had bothered with. Makes ya wonder… Then a string of anomalies pulls Sara over to Kerney’s side leading to more and more leads. Finally, it takes them both on a horse packing trip, sneaking onto the base where their initial quest is fulfilled.

But there’s ever so much more to uncover. At a higher and higher price.

The Characters

Kevin Kerney has a history in the area. A rancher’s son who went up against the army at White Sands, a soldier in ‘Nam, then a cop betrayed. These days, Kerney gimps about the ranch belonging to Quinn, performing the tasks of a caretaker even as he still dreams of ranching, bum knee and the gut shot not withstanding. Mary Beth dumped him because he was taking too long to heal. Good riddance to her! Quinn is Kerney’s landlord with the lovely library. He presents a lot of medical papers which entails a lot of traveling.

Terry Yazzi was/is an alcoholic. After getting canned from the police department, Maria Littlebird Tafoya, his ex-wife and a renowned jeweler, pulled strings and now he’s barely on the job with the Tribal as chief of police at the pueblo.

Sammy Yazzi is a Specialist 4th Class in the army and is based at White Sands. Technically, he’s a deserter, but everyone likes him. He plays ball, doesn’t do drugs or drink. No gambling. No enemies. His future includes art, and he’ll be attending the Art Institute in Chicago when he gets out of the army.

Captain James Meehan is Sammy’s CO. And he’s hamstringing Sara’s investigation. Master Sergeant William Titus McVay is Sammy’s immediate supervisor. Alonzo Tony, PFC, is Sammy’s best friend and has information he hadn’t given the MPs. Ain’t that a surprise… PFC Bobby Jaeger is one of the people Kerney wants to talk to, but he gets sidelined by Greg, a civilian bad boy who just happens to be in custody. Sara herself is sidelined by NTK. Sergeant Steiner is Sammy’s NCOIC and allowed Sammy to make sketches on his own provided he turned said sketches over for destruction. Specialist Robinson is the mechanic who emptied Sammy’s car including the portfolio. Fred Utley is an archeologist making time with Sara, and Eppi Gutierrez manages bighorn sheep for Game and Fish.

Captain Sara J. Brannon is in charge of the investigation into Sammy’s disappearance and puts tails on Kerney who’s impressed — the captain knows all the moves. Corporal Eddie Tapia goes undercover in Juárez as a jorabado on the Yardman case. Sheriff Andy Baca of Doña Ana county is an old friend of Kerney’s and hires him as a lieutenant to give him some leverage with Brannon. He’d like more cops like Kerney — one of him is worth ten others. Major Thomas Curry is the post provost marshal with dreams of retiring very soon as a lieutenant colonel. Mostly due to Sara’s good work. Bull McVay is retired army and the former base baseball coach who knows Aunt Erma Ferguson a former teacher at the university in Las Cruces.

Dale still runs the Rocking J Ranch and loans Kerney and Sara some horses. Don Enrique De Leon is the VIP in Juárez; Carlos is De Leon’s keen hatchet man.

The Cover and Title

Over a third of the bottom of the cover is a solid black with the author’s name with a photograph of a spectacular sandstone arch at sunrise inside White Sands covers the rest. A double-headed snake in turquoise spans the barrier between the two.

The title is where Kerney was born, Tularosa, on the edge of the current missile base.