Author: Michael Chavez
Publisher: Quest Books (Regal Crest), 2012
Set in the mountains north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, CREED
unfolds many individual stories and then brings them together in a single plot, giving the reader an exciting and sometimes shocking ride through the politics and economics of this culturally nuanced part of the United States. It also moves us out of the U.S. into a world of intrigue and, one might say, white collar crime: Morocco. What we finally have is two systems of justice laid bare, one as corrupt and human as the other.
At the center are two young gay men living on opposite sides of the world. Theo Jaquez is trusted with the key to Ilyas Bashir’s safety. Theo is a talented and rising chef, whose only motive for smuggling $25,000 into Casablanca is to fulfill the wishes of his neighbor, Jude Armstrong, whom he befriended as she was dying of cancer. The money is part of an inheritance for Ilyas, who is Jude’s grandson, and who was taken to live with his father’s Muslim relatives when his mother, Jude’s daughter, died. Now a young adult, Ilyas has been imprisoned for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and his father needs money to give to Moroccan officials unofficially.
Martin Chenoweth, Jude’s former colleague and companion in journalistic assignments, has come to settle her estate and finds some irregularities. Theo is known to the authorities, who are quick to label him drug addicted like his father and, thus, obviously, up to no good. Politically ambitious Lt. Kerry Snyder of the New Mexico State Police eagerly puts Theo in the prosecutor’s sights with circumstantial evidence for two killings. David Lujan, while trying to put his life back together after his divorce, defends him. Father Bonafacio, Theo’s close friend and mentor, is singled out in the investigation, accused of corrupting the soul of the young man. (Here Chavez has done a commendable job of updating a stock character from traditional Southwestern fiction.)CREED
is deftly written and finely textured. Jude, in her last years, has become a weaver, and one feels compelled to use that metaphor to describe the way these several lives become threaded and interdependent in creating the story’s design. The result is a satisfying interpretation of cross-cultural contact in the Twenty-First Century. It is also a glimpse – or several glimpses – of people who could or should love one another, but do not quite stay connected.
Chavez is authentic in so many ways. He knows first-hand how New Mexico’s pueblo and village societies deteriorated under the pressures of incomer encroachments and the mobility of natives. He understands the cultural bias and self-protective impulses of authorities. As for Morocco, Chavez has traveled extensively there, with open eyes and a searching mind. On two counts especially, Chavez deserves credit for restraint. One, in making the subject of homosexuality important to the momentum of the story, he is instructive rather than polemical. The other, he has avoided making CREED a sprawling saga, which it certainly could have been, given its complexity. This novel may not reach the Bestseller list, but it has resonance far greater than the usual mystery or thriller set in the Southwest, however entertaining they may be. CREED
is to some degree romantic, but it is not a romantic escape or a time killer. It is realistic, and you will remember it. Follow Here To Purchase Creed