Book Review: White Tombs

Recently, I reviewed the fifth book in Christopher Valen’s John Santana saga, Death’s Way. White Tombs is the first title in the series. (I now have all of the five books, and as I read them I will post reviews as well).whitetombs

When Julio Perez in found murdered, Minnesota detective John Santana has a few leads to investigate. Perez made a phone call to an attorney before his death. It seems like a good place to start. Santana and his partner, Rick Anderson, start their hunt. Santana has promised Perez’s wife that he will find whoever is responsible for the death of her husband.

The investigation goes sideways fast. The people Santana and Anderson need to question about Perez’s death are dead. One murdered, the other a possible suicide. It looks like the person who committed suicide was the killer. All evidence points in that direction. The mayor’s investigator, James Kehoe wants the case wrapped up and closed quickly.

Unwilling to be bullied into wrapping up and closing the case quickly, Santana continues his detecting. Anderson is useless to him, and so  Santana is forced to work the leads on his own. The roads lead him across the Mexican border. It is impossible for Santana not to re-visit his own past inside his mind. The events from his childhood are what made him into the man he is today. His trip may also have uncovered truths about the case, possible motives, and more questions about who might be behind the series of killings and suspected suicides in the states. With more than meets the eye, Santana must sort through immigrants illegally entering the country, uncovered incriminating photographs, plots of possible blackmail, and . . . too many plausible motives for revenge.
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Santana’s violent past, his search for the truth behind who killed Perez, and his promise to Perez’s wife to bring the murderer to justice could cost Santana more than his job on the force. . .it could cost him his life!

Like I indicated above, this is now the second book I have read by Christopher Valen. Even though I read the books out of order, fifth and first in the series, it didn’t matter. I wasn’t confused, or lost. It was great reading White Tombs, seeing Santana’s Mexican history, and the reason behind why he became an officer instead of a doctor. As expected, Valen’s writing is crisp and smooth. He peppers his narrative with plenty of history. I feel like I’ve received an education without having realized it. I shiver when scenes role out in Minnesota, and feel a need to look over my shoulder when Santana is in Mexico. There is a gritty, yet poetic way to Valen’s writing. Valen’s writing and complex storylines are parellel to that of John Sanford, and surpass anything I’ve ever read by James Patterson. I do not dish out compliments like that lightly. If you enjoy heartfelt thrillers with a puzzle that needs to be pieced together, I highly recommend books by Christopher Valen. Do yourself a favor, start with White Tombs and work your way forward!

Phillip Tomasso
Author of Blood River and The Vaccination Trilogy

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