Santa Fe Mourning

Written by Amanda Allen
Review by Ellen Keith

Santa Fe Mourning is the promising start to a new series. It is set in the 1920s when losses from the First World War were fresh and Prohibition meant everyone knew a bootlegger. Madeline Vaughn-Alwin is a well-born New Yorker whose husband died in Flanders. She shocks her society family by moving to Santa Fe, where she is free to live as a painter, among friends who are not the upper crust. When Tomas Anaya, Maddie’s gardener, married to her housekeeper Juanita, is murdered, his teen son Eddie is arrested. Maddie is protective of the Anayas and determined to prove Eddie’s innocence.

Allen covers a great deal of ground in a natural narrative- and character-driven way. She touches on the insularity of pueblo life, from which Tomas and Juanita have been expelled; the deadly effects of bootlegging; and the calculations of a false medium who preys on those who want to hear from their lost loved ones. Maddie has a love interest in a handsome British doctor as well as a gay best friend, a novelist who is as supportive of Maddie’s career as her family is dismissive of it. Santa Fe is the perfect setting for this collection of artists, people trying to make a fresh start, and, unfortunately, those who would take advantage of them. Although this mystery is resolved, the book ends with a cliffhanger, setting the stage for Maddie’s next mystery.