Viper by John Desjarlais

Viper is an intriguing mystery novel starring Selena De La Cruz, a Latina insurance agent who used to work as a Special Agent with the DEA. At the beginning of the novel, Selena agrees to meet her old supervisor, Del Bragg, soon after All Souls Day (and the subsequent El Dia de Los Muertos, on November 2, a Mexican national holiday) at her home church where she learns that her name is recorded in the parish’s Book of the Dead, preceded by several other names of men who are being murdered one by one in the order they are listed.

Selena finds out that a young girl has been seeing “visions” of a “Blue Lady,” who announces the next killing. Selena is asked to return to her old job in order to assist law enforcement in solving the mystery before the killer reaches her name on the list.

Selena is unsure who the culprit could be, whether it’s her nemesis, “The Snake,” a notorious drug dealer Selena helped to put in prison, or perhaps someone more insidious.

I loved everything about Selena (from her ‘69 Dodge Charger to her zapatos) and found her to be believable and well-rounded. In the midst of this mystery, Selena finds herself returning to the Catholic faith of her childhood. I liked the fact that her boyfriend is Reed Stubblefield (protagonist from Desjarlais’s previous novel, Bleeder) and I thought this was a nice touch. I especially appreciated the relationship that Selena develops with the little girl who is seeing visions of a “Blue Lady.”

Good novelists make us believe that the characters are actual living, breathing persons. The author (a non-Hispanic male) handles the ethnic Hispanic part of the novel so expertly that I truly felt I knew Selena. Desjarlais is a top notch writer and he has created a well-developed, believable cast of characters and dialogue. I especially loved the rich and well-researched history of the Aztecs and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Not only did I enjoy this story immensely, I also learned a lot about Aztec history.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys an intriguing mystery with great characters!

Viper will be released on July 1st, 2011 and is available for pre-order on or from the publisher, Sophia Press.

And…I’ll be running an excerpt of this book this Friday, June 24th for Fiction Friday.

Copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach