Bad Weeds Never Die: A John Santana Novel

Christopher Valen
Conquill Press (2011)
ISBN 9780980001730
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (8/11)

I’ve been a fan of Christopher Valen since early 2008, when I read “White Tombs,” the first of the John Santana novels. I remember thinking how lovely it was that we got another author who could write an intelligent, solid and elegant story with such a strong contemporary element and a rather unusual, but very welcome Hispanic twist to it. I also remember wishing for a sequel. Then came “The Black Minute,” and my enchantment did not diminish. The writing was still great, the story was utterly gripping and I learned a few more things about John Santana. And I was hungry for more. “Bad Weeds Never Die,” the third of the John Santana novels, delivered on all fronts. Once again I enjoyed Mr. Valen’s well-plotted and intriguing mystery for all of the obvious reasons: flowing and well-paced storyline, great dialogue, multi-layered and vivid characters, a great sense of place and time, relevant issues and believable events.

The story of a missing twin, Teresa Blackwood, started in St. Paul. Her late model Mercedes was found blood-spattered in a parking lot, yet she was nowhere to be found. The missing woman turned out to be one of twin daughters of a well known local psychologist who has been in some trouble lately. There were very few clues, but some strong financial reasons for the disappearance of the young woman. John Santana and his partner Kacie Hawkins faced a long line-up of suspects to consider. There was Steven Larson, Teresa’s two-timing live-in boyfriend; then Teresa’s father, Jonathan, whose finances were no longer what they used to be. It was also not out of the question that Teresa’s estranged sister Maria could be involved in the disappearance, with or without the help of a very shady lawyer friend. And if all of those were not enough, Jonathan had made a huge enemy out of a man whose adopted son committed suicide, something he strongly blamed Jonathan for. And then there was the photo of Teresa with a mysterious woman who just might be the one holding the key to the whole enigma. To find her, Santana had to return to Colombia, a country he left at the age of sixteen, and a country where his biggest enemy would quite likely try to kill him again.
I’ve enjoyed “Bad Weeds Never Die” immensely. The main story was utterly engrossing, and I found the side stories equally fascinating. Without giving away too much of the plot, I will only say that I was truly glad when more of John Santana’s family story was revealed, and I can hardly wait to see where all of this will lead in the future books.

While the latest in the series, “Bad Weeds Never Die,” is firmly linked to the two previous novels, it could be equally enjoyed on its own. I would recommend it to any lover of contemporary mysteries, regardless of whether he or she has read the other two or not. And I bet that readers new to the series will want to read the rest of it as well after finishing this one… 

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