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Amber's Thoughts

Reviews and updates from Amber Foxx, author of the Mae Martin Psychic Mystery Series



Too much of a stretch

Tewa Pueblo is fictitious. Though Pueblo people welcome outsiders to feast days, they value their privacy. Out of respect for that privacy, the author has created an imaginary place influenced by Pueblo culture in general but not portraying any specific Pueblo. Tewa’s religious and spiritual beliefs are compiled from what little of Pueblo spirituality is shared with outsiders and should be regarded as fiction.

Note: Tewa is actually a language spoken on several of the Pueblos north of Santa Fe, and the Pueblo invented for this series is located somewhat closer to Albuquerque. Its people would probably speak Tiwa or Keres.

Tony Hillerman introduced his book Sacred Clowns and its fictitious Tano Pueblo with a preface explaining the fiction and how he constructed it. Doing so was respectful to both the readers and the Pueblo people. This book needed a preface along those lines for readers who don’t know New Mexico and its nineteen Pueblos. https://www.indianpueblo.org/

I mention this because I read reviews of books in Slater's series in which readers seemed to think they had read about a real place. (Maybe she mentions its fictitious nature in end-notes, but I didn't keep reading past the end of the story.)


I debated whether or not I should review this novella. Usually, I hold back when I can’t give a three star or better. But I did finish it, which I seldom do with books that feel like a two-star, so I decided that potential readers might want to see a critical review that could help them decide if they want to buy and read the book or not.


Overall, I could see how some people may have enjoyed it for the plot, but this book and I were not a good match. Living in New Mexico, formerly on one of the eight northern Pueblos, and having a background in exercise science, I was just too picky to enjoy it.


Perhaps the author was trying too hard to disguise the Pueblo. It came across as generic, not unique. This could be an artifact of the novella length. So could the lack of depth and complexity in characterization. The old man Lorenzo is the only character whose inner life felt real, and the one scene I truly loved in the whole book was the one where he is selecting a walking stick.


The following paragraph isn’t a spoiler unless you don’t want to know what’s in the first chapter. Mini-spoiler:

Charlene stretched my credulity. If an author is going to offer one hard-to-accept item from the narrow end of the bell curve, I prefer the other circumstances around it to believable. A six-foot-tall teenaged girl would be extremely remarkable on any of the Pueblos. (The average height among Pueblo people is below the average for Americans in general.) I could accept this anomaly if it weren’t mixed with other harder to believe things. The physiology of pregnancy—altered center of gravity, joint laxity, increased heart rate and core temperature—would affect an athlete, especially in a sport like basketball where fast changes of direction are important, and in which the female knee joint is already injury prone even without pregnancy hormones. I didn’t believe she could compete at a high level all the way into her eighth month with no injuries, no setbacks, no prenatal care, and no one knowing she was pregnant. That’s the third hard-to-believe thing. Athletes share locker rooms, and the showers are often open as well. There are no private changing areas except the toilet stalls, and if one girl suddenly stopped showering and changing with the others, it would be noticed. Toward the end of the story, she performs physical feats that also seem impossible under the circumstances, but maybe she’s not meant to be realistic.


The plot was predictable. I saw the end coming as soon as I read about the baby doll.

End of mini-spoiler.


The writing is polished (with the exception of the character-looking-in-mirror bit to get a description in). No clunky sentences, no awkward transitions. And the pace is tight, a good balance between thriller-level tension and more inward scenes. The terrifying trouble Charlene gets into is effectively creepy. Her escape, however, is too much of a stretch.