Sonora Moonlight

Written by Florence B. Weinberg
Review by John Kachuba

In the 18th century, Spanish missionaries struggle to convert and educate the Native American population of Sonora, Northwest New Spain (Mexico). Father Ygnacio Pfefferkorn, a historical Jesuit missionary, finds himself assigned to the faltering mission at Guevavi, replacing an alcoholic priest who let the mission fall into disrepair, ravaged both by the harsh environment and frequent Apache raids.

Pfefferkorn’s obstacles seem insurmountable; he is suffering from malaria; the mission is falling down around him; and many of the peaceful Pima Indians at the mission have been scared away by the Apaches, or have been lured away from Christianity by the enigmatic and charismatic medicine man Jevho. Add to those problems the Irish ranchers in the area that seem to be, on the surface, welcoming and supportive, yet could also be harboring some secret, and Pfefferkorn finds that he will need all the strength, both personal and spiritual, that he can muster to make the mission a success.

When Patrick O’Meara discovers the horribly mutilated body of his brother Michael in the desert, killed in a macabre crucifixion fashion, Pfefferkorn becomes a detective as he tries to discover who killed O’Meara and why. Could the killer be one of the Irish ranchers? The Apaches? Jehvo the medicine man, or worse, one of the padre’s own Pima converts? He finds his own life, as well as the life of the mission in jeopardy until he can find the answer.

Weinberg tells an exciting and engrossing story of the old Southwest, loaded with geographical and historical details, many of them based upon her childhood experiences growing up in New Mexico’s ranching country only a few miles from the Mescalero Apache Reservation. A finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award, this novel is a must-read for anyone with a passion for Southwest history and culture.