The Cowboy's Baby Surprise

Shadow Force

Shadow Watch By Linda Conrad
(Silh. Int. Mom. #1418, PG $4.99) ISBN 0-373-27488-2
Shadow Watch is the second novel in the “Night Guardians” series. On balance it is a much better story than the first one with characters with greater depth and a better constructed plot.

Dr. Victoria Sommer, known to her few friends as Tory, is taking the opportunity to pay off her medical school debts by serving in the Public Health Service for three years at a clinic on the Navaho Indian Reservation.

The reservation has seen the rise of the evil force personified as Skinwalkers who are shape shifters. Combating this force is a group known as The Brotherhood, the heart of it being Dr. Ben Wauneka. Ben has many issues. Clinically he is going blind from a rare disease of the retina. Emotionally he feels the rise of the Skinwalkers is somehow related to his leaving the reservation for medical school against his mother’s wishes. The members of the Brotherhood are also committed to staying single.

Ben and Tory meet at a high school wrestling match. Tory is there because she feels every high school event should have a doctor present. One match goes awry as one wrestler is suddenly down with a broken leg and the victor is crazed and dangerous. Tory tries to confront him as Ben rushes to her side. The bottom line is that The Skinwalkers have found a new weapon - a drug that will overcome the mind of a youth recruiting him to The Dark Side.

Ben realizes what is happening and takes the kid on. In the tussle, Ben is knocked out; the tribal police stun the youth who dies as a result. Tory follows Ben to the clinic and appoints herself his nurse/doctor.

The next day the head of the clinic tells her about Ben’s coming blindness and entreats her to persuade Ben to seek medical care. She travels to his home and offers to help him recover from his head injury. While there, Shirley Nez, the reservation Plant Tender visits Ben. Tory persuades her to teach her about the healing qualities of plants and Shirley commits to do so. Thus, Tory begins her journey into the ways of the Navajo.

This journey includes a deepening relationship with Ben as he and his friends fight the new weapon of the Skinwalkers.

Conrad has done an excellent job of bringing alive to the reader many of the customs and traditions of the Navajo. The duties of a Plant Tender add a new dimension to the story.

The scene setting is realistic and contributes to the deepening tensions exhibited by her characters, principals or secondary ones. The relationship with Ben is clouded with issues that are fairly predictable but nonetheless contribute to an enjoyable read.

--Thea Davis

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