Cry of a Cactus Wren

Written by Donna M. Vesely
Review by Eileen Charbonneau

In this western set in post-Civil War New Mexico, a traveling gun-for-hire meets a solitary young woman who local desert dwellers call La Loca Santa, the holy crazy one. She is the last remaining member of a mission community whose members fled once a gang came and killed their beloved padre, who was raising the girl he called Dominica. She is the grown-up child that the gunman and his wife once rescued and nurtured after her family was massacred by outlaws. Her plight begins to engage his killing-machine heart. Now, sure the El Lobo gang will be coming for her, the gunman who she refers to as “Mister” takes her on a journey through Apacheria to find security, safety and a new life. But he’s also pursuing a vendetta he’s been on for years to find the killers of his wife.

Two lonely lives join in this journey-of-discovery tale. Cry of a Cactus Wren is richly atmospheric, grim and brutally unforgiving. The notes of grace are few, but treasured. An impressive debut.