Death in the Time of Pancho Villa: A Rose in Old El Paso Mystery

Written by Marshall Sandra
Review by Loyd Uglow

On a spring evening in 1911, young Rose Westmoreland, with her luggage and a camera named Caroline, steps off a train in El Paso for some husband-hunting—literally. Her accountant spouse Leonard has fallen off the map, weeks after coming to the Texas city to audit a local petroleum firm. Rose takes a room at a boardinghouse, where the pleasant owner named Marty and a young tenant named Luisa provide her with a made-to-order support group. Between indulging their reading habit and eating good home-cooked meals, the three women plan Rose’s efforts to track down Leonard.

Being at the center of Mexico’s brewing revolution, El Paso introduces Rose to some colorful characters. High on the list are Pancho Villa and his frightening lieutenant Rodolfo Fierro, as well as Timothy Turner and other members of the press corps, who mix freely with the revolutionaries they write about. While those men open up to her, she finds her husband’s business associates much less talkative. In fact, they act as if they hardly know Leonard. Rose has her detective work cut out for her, as she follows one disappointing lead after another, slowly forming a picture of what happened to her husband and, more significantly, what kind of a man he really was.

Marshall puts the reader in an enjoyable position—a comfortable domestic situation at the boardinghouse, in the midst of building violence just across the river, and the mystery of Leonard Westmoreland’s disappearance. Put another way, it’s an exciting story that the reader can relax in. Characters are realistic and well developed. It’s altogether a satisfying experience.