In the mid-80s, border town physician Dr. Noah Grady tends to the health needs of the people of Amoret, Texas, and those of numerous folks nearby in even tinier communities. He works his ranch outside of town on his "off" days alongside his hired man and friend, Gilberto, and Gilberto's grandson, Hector. However, occasionally, in the dark, early pre-dawn hours, Noah and two friends slip away to a secret meeting spot on a lonely highway that tracks the Rio Grande River and the border to help groups of illegal immigrants coming through the desert from Mexico.
The men feel this is a humanitarian mission and take the travelers to a remote motel whose owner is willing to look the other way. Noah offers them health exams and minor treatment before they are picked up the following day and moved to their next destination. Many have never seen a doctor before Noah and are glad of the opportunity. All has been going smoothly, and quite a few of the rescued immigrants settled in the area to the relief and approval of the residents languishing there, watching what resources and amenities they had leaving due to lack of population. Noah met his wife, Angelica, among one of the groups. She and her son, Miguel, had fled their past and some very bad men back in Mexico.
Noah and his partners had developed a workable system to get these people situated north of the border. Although they suspected law enforcement might be turning a blind eye, they were always cautious and on their guard. During one such transfer, the Mexican guide alerted Noah to the presence of a young man he'd seen on his desert trek. He'd had to leave him unconscious, sunburned, and in dire condition at the time. Together, he and Noah retrieved the young man and took him to the motel so Noah could try and save his life.
As fate would have it, the young man wasn't a simple immigrant looking for a better life but a drug smuggler, his heavy backpack filled with cocaine belonging to an extremely dangerous Mexican cartel, who were most likely already searching for their missing product and someone to punish. Noah quickly gets him in good enough shape to continue his journey, extracting a promise that he won't talk about his rescue. But Noah worries and his partners are convinced that helping this man has been a fatal mistake, and they are all loose ends the cartel must now handle.
On returning to Amoret, Noah and his friends hear that one of the town's prominent citizens has gone missing. Blaine Beckett taught theology at the local religious college and had married the girl Noah had loved from childhood. Darla had married Blaine Beckett, who was from a distinguished old Boston family, right out of college, rather than the local boy with fewer prospects, under pressure from her wealthy family. However, the two lovers had secretly kept up their liaison for over 20 years until Noah had met Angelica and completely broken things off.
When Blaine's burned-out vehicle was found near Noah's ranch, and the police discovered some old love letters from Noah to Darla in Blaine's desk drawer, Noah was suddenly the sheriff's prime suspect in Blaine's disappearance and possible murder.
The Bones of Amoret is the second book I’ve read by this author and the second one that I didn't want to put down once I started reading it. The story bowls along, and I was carried right along with it. Noah is a great character, the protector of his family, friends, and the unnamed immigrants and poor along the border. He is forced to make some impossible decisions, some of which result in unthinkable costs, heartbreaking and shocking.
The tale is being related in the present time. The now elderly Dr. Grady tells his story to a reporter researching a 40-year-old mystery. Grady only occasionally refers to his audience, the young female reporter, and the whole device is subtle and entertaining on its own.
Amoret is populated by people we all know and recognize. I was delighted to see that the sheriff was portrayed as an intelligent and capable man, as were his deputies, and not a bunch of bumbling country bumpkin incompetents. In fact, the sheriff is a good man and a force to be reckoned with, a friend of Noah's, and becomes a person for him to fear during the investigation.
The author describes the town and surrounding countryside in such a way that I felt I knew where I was. I'm somewhat familiar with the general area and conditions from having spent time there, and I could clearly see the setting in my mind's eye. But you aren't bogged down with a lot of exposition; the story takes off and flows, the details are incorporated smoothly, and the places really come to life.
The plot is fast-paced and will surprise you with its twists and turns as it crashes to a remarkable and satisfying ending. Although the book is a follow-up to the author's The Cuts That Cure, it can be read and enjoyed as a standalone novel. I am personally looking forward to more from Arthur Herbert.
I recommend THE BONES OF AMORET to mystery and thriller readers, especially those who enjoy a medical-themed story or one set in southwest Texas's desert-like borderland.
I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Lone Star Literary Life/Lone Star Book Blog Tours.