On one side of the border stands a murder; on the other, a killer. In between stands Neil Hamel, a woman with a passion for the truth. “Don’t worry, Chiquita” was the Kid’s answer to almost everything, and right now Neil Hamel missed the Kid - her part-time lover and car mechanic. Neil had gone to Mexico as a favor to a man she shouldn’t be doing favors for, and what it got her was a face-to-face meeting with a corpse, a Mexican lawyer with a diamond pinky ring and a throat slit from ear to ear.
A steady law practice, a stash of tequila, a lover she calls the Kid - only a debt of the heart to her dear, dead aunt Joan could compel Neil Hamel to leave Albuquerque for Montana in search of a bird. No ordinary winged creature, the Arctic falcon is a near-mythic figure, a cool killer who likes the meat around the heart. In pursuit of this elusive species, Neil witnesses a sight even more awesome - a body plunging off a cliff. Soon she is swept into a murder case that brings together militant environmentalists and high-stakes poachers, federal investigators, and even an Arabian prince.
It’s a 104-degree day in Albuquerque when attorney/sleuth Neil Hamel gets a call asking her to go to southern New Mexico to help a wolf advocate who calls himself Juan Sololobo. Juan, who attracts trouble wherever he goes, is visiting the town of Soledad to give an educational program featuring his timber wolf, Sirius. After someone lets Sirius out of his pen, a federal official is murdered and Juan becomes the prime suspect. As Neil defends him she finds herself immersed in a deadly conflict between ranchers and environmentalists over wolf reintroduction.
The “annual” Saint Patrick’s Day party hosted by Tim and Jamie Malone in their small northern New Mexico community is their first in many years. But it also marks their last as they prepare to move to the Midwest. For Albuquerque attorney Neil Hamel, going to the party is a reunion of sorts with various old friends she spent a year carousing with in a small town in Mexico in the late 1960s. Just about everyone seems to have made some move from hippie to mainstream except Lonnie Darmer, who - as in the old days - gets too drunk to drive home.
How could you forget whether or not you murdered somebody? That’s exactly what Albuquerque lawyer-cum-sleuth Neil Hamel asks herself when she takes on the defense of an elderly client who can’t remember whether she ran over the girl her car surely did kill. Early in the morning of November first, Neil and her boyfriend, the Kid, are shaken out of their post-coital bliss when they find a surprise visitor at Neil’s apartment door. The visitor is Martha Conover, a pinched, elegant older woman who looks askance at Neil’s “just-had-sex aura” but still pleads for her help. Martha’s been accused of running over Justine Virga, the girl who accidentally killed her grandson.
She may be a divorce lawyer, but Neil Hamel uses her PI’s instincts when a millionaire’s rare indigo macaw and newly endangered wife are kidnapped together. The unusual search puts her right in the heart of New Mexico’s breathtaking Plains of San Agustin, for a dangerous game of bird smuggling and one-upmanship. Armed with high-tech surveillance equipment and a backpack full of her client’s money, Neil treks to a remote exchange point.
On Colorado’s Thunder Mountain a sudden cold front whips a small, containable fire into a raging inferno, killing nine heroic firefighters. The Forest Service blames the dead; a victim’s grieving mother charges the government with negligence. Into this flammable mix enters Albuquerque lawyer Neil Hamel. Mounting an investigation of her own, Neil hikes the charred remains of the forest where the Hotshots met their end. But after retracing the steps of their flight, she will face the terror of their last gasps of breath - because someone is playing with fire.
As Neil settles into her new house in Albuquerque’s North Valley, she befriends 13-year-old Cheyanne Morales, who lives in a nearby trailer with her mother and her younger half-brother. Cheyanne’s teenage angst is complicated by the pressures that gang culture imposes on her and her peers. Neil gets a harrowing glimpse of these pressures when a 15-year-old is shot to death not far from Neil’s new home. The cops suspect a rival gang member, but late one night, a battered Cheyanne shows up at Neil’s front door to confess that she was the shooter.