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Laguna    by Michael Putegnat order for
by Michael Putegnat
Order:  USA  Can
Synergy, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* *   Reviewed by Sally Selvadurai

Murder and mystery are subroutines in this ecological thriller, where the interests of, and loyalties to, old Texas money take second place to the survival of a sensitive ecosystem.

The Magne dynasty has dominated the economic and political interests of the region around Port Mansfield for four generations, and continues to survive by following the family motto, 'Forward, by all means'. The current patriarch, John Magne IV, is plagued with debt but, because of a deathbed promise to his father, cannot sell off any of the family lands to pay off these mounting debts. However, natural gas reserves have been found in areas surrounding his ranch and he will go to any lengths to get permission to drill on his land, in the area abutting the Laguna Madre. The Laguna Madre is an extremely sensitive ecosystem, and supports many species of wildlife, as well as the local shrimp fishermen; any drilling activities will devastate this fragile environment.

With the aid of Washington politicians and the local Mayor, John Magne knows he will be able to push through any permits, and connections with the corrupt New York investment banking industry will enable him to get the needed start-up funds to commence drilling. However, a recent environmental impact assessment report is not favourable; this is taken care of through bribes and the release of an altered document but a single, original copy remains.

Michael Putegnat knows his subject well, and the intrigue and shady political dealings ring true. His historical knowledge and local detail make the story highly compelling; with his snappy writing style the tale moves along at a decent pace and there is an element of surprise in the final outcome. Laguna is a good first novel.

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