A review by Evie Kendal
Coyote is the third book in Rhonda Roberts’ time-travel detective series, Kannon Dupree Timestalker. The first novel of the series, Gladiatrix, introduced readers to Kannon, the kidnapped daughter of a National Time Administration (NTA) Time Marshall, Victoria Dupree, as she is thrown into the world of time-travel crime investigation.
In this novel Kannon discovers who she is and sets about rescuing her mother from a gladiator ring in Ancient Rome. At the end of this novel Kannon is given the opportunity to train with the NTA and become a time-travel detective herself. Hoodwink, the second instalment of the series, covers Kannon’s first case, one she is tricked into taking before she has even finished her basic training as a field agent. In this novel, Kannon investigates the suspicious death of a 1930s Hollywood producer at the request of his dying wife.
In the first novel, Kannon’s love interest is a male slave and former Spartan warrior named Alexander. At the end of Gladiatrix Kannon rescues Alex and takes him back with her to the modern-day United States. Like many other reviewers I found the way Alex is completely written out of the series after book 1 to be disappointing.
The love interest in Hoodwink is a work colleague named Daniel Honeycutt, who is carried over as Kannon’s lover in Coyote. Sadly, he continues to be a poor substitute for Alex, and is more often seen to be undermining Kannon’s self-confidence and under-estimating her skills than providing any useful assistance. However, since at the beginning of the novel it appeared as if he too had been similarly and equally inexplicably vanished from the narrative, it was at least a comfort to discover Kannon was capable of maintaining a relationship beyond the boundaries of one novel.
At the beginning of Coyote, Kannon is one of only three students to have graduated and become a qualified field agent with the NTA. However, her gender and age are against her, with the other two graduates playing the “boys club” card and using cheap media tricks to keep Kannon out of work.
All three agents are sent by the NTA to attend a university historical criminology lecture for publicity, in the hope this will generate business for their agency. This lecture is given by Professor Wauhope, and focuses on the “Wild West hero,” Hector Kershaw, and his enemy, an Indian known as Coyote Jack. Wauhope recounts the story of an “unprovoked massacre” Coyote Jack supposedly instigated against the citizens of Santa Fe in 1867.
This leads another Professor in the lecture theatre (distressingly described as “a dangerous mix of too many warrior nations, at least one of which could be Native American”) to publicly refute his claim, protesting Coyote Jack’s innocence. Wauhope ridicules Professor Jackson River though, challenging his claims that he has evidence of his ancestor’s innocence. The audience laugh River off the stage and security force him to leave.
Having already ridiculed the visiting NTA agents, Kannon and her companions decide it is time for them to leave Wauhope’s lecture as well, but are set on by reporters as they exit. Kannon soon realises the male time agents set up this media ambush in order to humiliate her for being the only one of them currently unemployed.
While they are bragging about the jobs they have lined up for the next two years she is unable to respond to questions regarding what her own investigations will be. At this point River wrenches away one of the microphones and announces to the media that he will prove Coyote Jack’s innocence by finding Kershaw’s diary from the time of the Santa Fe massacre.
Kannon then decides to hide from the media by returning to Wauhope’s lecture. At this point a variety of things happen that indicate someone doesn’t want the Santa Fe massacre investigated. First, the lights in the lecture theatre go out. Second, a rhumba of riled-up rattlesnakes is released into the panicked crowd (and yes, a group of rattlesnakes is apparently called a rhumba!). Third, all communications are blocked so attendees cannot phone for help. Fourth, the building is set on fire and the fire exits are blocked. Fifth, the lifts are sabotaged. And sixth, the external fire-escape collapses, taking with it many people from among the fleeing audience.
Given the fact both Gladiatrix and Hoodwink began a little slow, this rapid flow of action at the beginning of Coyote distinguishes it from these earlier instalments and succeeds in capturing the reader’s interest.
As expected, Kannon’s mission becomes proving what really happened in 1867. Travelling back to a war zone, Kannon searches for Kershaw’s diary and any clues about Coyote Jack, believing River will destroy the diary in the present if he discovers it doesn’t corroborate his version of events. It soon becomes clear Kannon has been manipulated by a variety of players in the present day, including relatives of both Coyote Jack and Hector Kershaw. Returning to San Francisco in the present she continues her investigation, at the same time trying to get her fledgling business off the ground and negotiating her relationship with Daniel.
Coyote is a fast-paced detective novel that provides enough backstory for readers to jump in at this point of the series and understand what is going on. In fact, for readers who haven’t read the first instalment of the series it might even be beneficial to skip it, as I believe this is the only way to feel anything but raging disappointment at the absence of Alex in the subsequent novels. As with the other instalments, at 562 pages Coyote is only suitable for readers who are able to make a substantial time commitment. Recommended for anyone who likes alternate histories, time-travel narratives or detective stories.