Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review: Murder at Black Dog Springs by Sarah Black

Sarah Black
Murder at Black Dog Springs
Revised Kindle edition, 2011

Links: Author’s website | Twitter | Goodreads | Buy ebook here

Code Talker Logan Kee returns to Lukachukai Mountain in 1947, hoping to forget the horrors of war in the Pacific. But there is talk of uranium mining in Dinetah. When one of the mining executives is found shot to death on his land, Logan and his lover, Mike, a former Seabee, have to find the killer before the wrong man is accused of murder.

Genre & Keywords:
M/M Romance, Navajo, War, Murder, Mystery, Friendship, 1947, Exploitation, Nature, Mining

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Heat level: 1 out of 3

Somehow Sarah Black’s writing style always has a pull on me, draws me in like a mot to a flame. And I can't put my finger on how she does that, it's not the writing itself alone. It's a combination with her layered characters and the fascinating setting that are slowly unfolding themselves the further you are drawn into the narrating. But the minute I open the book I know I won't be able to put it down easily. And when I absolutely have to, because of trivial stuff like sleep or food, the story stays with me and has the tendency to distract me from what I'm doing because I can't completely leave the world it unravels.

In the case of Murder at Black Dog Springs this world is the world of a Navajo reservoir, to which Logan returns after the war and where he seeks out a secluded spot up against the mountain - away from his wife and her family. Soon after his return Mike joins him there and helps him build his own house. The main characters don't stay secluded very long. The author makes sure they are surrounded by a bigger cast, of friends and family who are sometimes on their side and sometimes not. This creates an interesting dynamic within the community and forms a good base for the development of Mike and Logan's relationship.

Considering this story takes place in 1947 their relationship is quite easily accepted by their close friends and relatives. It's never a big issue that the men are gay, which is maybe slightly odd. But I guess Ms. Black had more important topics to address. For instance, the deep camaraderie between men who’ve fought in a war together, the injustice of social exploitation of native Americans by big companies for the sake of higher profits, and the beauty of poetry and literary classics which can bring inner peace as well is excitement, like the next quote shows:
"I’d watched the color deepen in Mike’s face when I read Walt Whitman, felt a small flame of heat deep in my belly. I’d read to Mike again tonight, when we were alone, watch how his body responded to those words, to my voice."
I already enjoyed Ms. Black's referrals to literary fiction in one of her other books (Idaho Battlegrounds that I reviewed here) and it seems as if this is a recurring aspect in her work.

Another element I rather liked in this novel was the suspense arc. There has been a murder, as the title already suggests. And although the whodunit mystery isn't particularly thrilling, it 's a well-built and clever frame for the love story and the social topics that are addressed.

When you’re looking for hot, steamy m/m erotica, Sarah Black’s stories are not for you. When you want raw romances embedded in a narrative that offers much more than a string of romantic moments (like suspense, views on socially relevant topics and a sense of the deeper values in life), you’ll probably find what you’re looking for in Black’s work.
More so, instead of steamy, explicit sex scenes we get sensual, romantic and beautiful descriptions like this one from Murder at Black Dog Springs:
"I woke early. Mike was wrapped around me, and his sleeping skin smelled like pears. I’d eaten a ripe pear for the first time in California, before we shipped out with the Second Marines. I still remembered the shock of the taste, sweet and buttery, such a strange yellow flavor, juice dripping down my chin."

Overall, this revised version of Murder at Black Dog Springs, which has been published before in a Partners in Crime installment, had my full attention from the first to the last page. It's entertaining and thought-provoking while the characters have won my heart and made me want to join them there on that Lukachukai Mountain in their poetic and unusual world.


  1. I love these kind of stories. Thanks for sharing, I need to check this author out.

  2. Huh, I think I read this in Partners in Crime. But I'm not sure. :)

  3. Nice review.
    Though i can't think that much, a virus on my comp!


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