Monday, 30 November 2015

Richard reviews: Back to Santa Fe by W.T. Durand

The author of this book has kindly offered an ebook copy (any format) to each of two lucky readers. To be in with a chance to win, just leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.
The draw will be announced on Tuesday December 8th.

Back to Santa Fe cover
Back to Santa Fe, by W.T. Durand, is a contemporary book exploring the personal and official investigation of a cold case. Although this initially appears to be a straightforward road accident, subsequent digging around reveals a much more sinister web of events. The central character, Sullivan, becomes determined to find out the truth of the affair, no matter what the personal cost. He works as a skilled carpenter on short-term building projects, and has to constantly juggle multiple priorities - such as earning money for food while trying to unravel the past.

The book deals with a part of America, and a part of American culture, about which I knew almost nothing. As such, there were plenty of slang words and casual expressions which have to be deduced from context, especially in conversation between the various characters. I actually did not find this a barrier, but rather an extension of the sense of uncovering secrets. There is a sense of listening in on a set of people who have no idea you are there, and are simply going about their daily lives as normal.

Santa Fe, from
Santa Fe, from
Secrets are, indeed, at the core of the book, and almost nobody is quite who or what they seem at first sight. The occasional person who is, in fact, entirely straightforward, therefore strikes the reader with a sense of confidence and relief amongst all of the pretence and deceit. The suspicion felt by Sullivan, heading towards paranoia, begins to affect you as reader, and you start to doubt the good intentions of perfectly honest people wanting to help.

Unfortunately for Sullivan, the layers of pretence obscure even his own family members. As this becomes clear to him, so also does the fact of his own lack of understanding and empathy. For a man to whom family loyalty is a major driving force, the revelation of his own insensitivity is a terrible blow, which threatens to crush him completely. He survives by rebuilding relationships on foundations of honesty, and the acceptance of difference.

The railyard, from
The railyard, from
The Kindle version I read had a number of punctuation errors, chiefly arising from missing full stops or commas at the end of quoted speech. These could quite readily be caught by another proof reading sweep, and I did not find them a hindrance to my enjoyment of the book.

A lot of the plot circles around the official police investigation, reopened when some previously hidden facts come to light. I have no idea how realistic these are, but again for me that was unimportant. The draw of the narrative was the way in which, from several different angles, buried secrets were brought into the light so that they could be understood and, so far as possible after the gulf of time, justice enacted.

Sullivan's line of work runs as a background metaphor through the book, and surfaces quite explicitly near the end: "...boards are like people - you can't tell what's under the surface unless you take a little time to find out. It might be really good grain you expose, and it might be sign of internal rot. That's why my plane blades are always sharp."

Considering that we first meet Sullivan aggressive and drunk, and very far indeed from being sharp, this highlights the extent of the personal journey he has made.

All in all, an involving and enjoyable book which drew me progressively into Sullivan's life, as well as the part of America he lives in.

About The Author
A former commune-dwelling goat herding hippie and guitar picker turned tree planter and ski mechanic, illustrator, wood carver and carpenter; author Richard Sutton left college and hitch-hiked to New York in 1972 with forty dollars in his pocket and no preconceptions.

"There, I met my wife, worked in advertising and design until I was an empty, hollow shell, then ran a retail gallery, becoming an Indian Trader in 1985." More travel followed and a home in New Mexico. He finally saw the light of day and began to write fiction more or less full-time, in 1996.

An historical fiction/fantasy The Red Gate began it all in 2009, then a sequel, The Gatekeepers in 2010. 2011, saw the release of his first SciFi novella, Home, and Troll, a prehistoric-fantasy, followed in 2012. 2014, Back to Santa Fe was released April 1st, writing as WT Durand and On Parson's Creek, a YA mystery was just released in October. He lives with his wife and their cats, raccoons and other boarders in New York.

Richard Abbott is the author of In a Milk and Honeyed Land, Scenes From a Life, The Flame Before Us, and most recently Far from the Spaceports. He can be found at his website or blog, on Google+, Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Sharon Bennett Connolly30 November 2015 at 16:48

    Great review. Sounds like an interesting book.

  2. great review of an excellent character sketch hidden inside a most unusual mystery..I loved 'Return to Santa Fe' also

  3. Excellent review - Sounds like an awesome book to read!

  4. Fabulous review. I'm going to have to put this book on my TBR list!

  5. ...and the lucky winners are Louise Rule and Linda Root, congratulations both!
    I'll put you in touch with the author.