Before I start the review of Desert Blood, I should say that the author Ronald Cree is part of my local writers group. We’ve met at local events—but I didn’t realize he’d written a YA mystery until he pointed the fact out to me. It appears that sometimes in the hunt for a good mystery, I could stand to look in my own backyard.
Desert Blood is the story of Gus Gonzalez, an orphan adopted by TV star Nicholas Hernandez. The two live near Los Angeles, and they do their best to avoid the press when possible. But when Gus comes home to catch an intruder in the house, and he narrowly escapes, tabloid stories are the least of their worries.
Gus soon finds out from his adoptive father Nick that there have been threatening letters, and that Gus himself is being targeted. When his best friend Lalo is kidnapped, Gus is determined to expose the culprit, to eventually expose all the mysteries surrounding his father, the adoption, and the stalker who’s out to get him.
The hardest thing for me as a reader was to buy into the whole celebrity father, and Hollywood glitz that’s the backdrop to Desert Blood. But our lead Gus and his best friend Lalo immediately pulled me into the story—and I especially loved the Hispanic flavor of the story, something you rarely see in YA.
The pacing was a little slow at times (for YA), but the narrative was strong, and the suspense and mystery surrounding Gus’ adoptive father and his past was very compelling. The threat to Gus felt real and palpable, and the mystery was well-paced. I also liked that Gus wasn’t afraid to act—too often in YA, the lead laments over what happens, but doesn’t do anything but navel-gaze. In this book, there was no doubt who the hero was.
Although there was some forceful plotting that needed a good amount of explaining at the end, I’m glad to say that this was, in fact, a YA mystery. With a lead who solved it. So Desert Blood is going on the list, with a solid 4 rating.