The Sand God by Jan E. Housley

The Sand God (iUniverse, 316 pp. $20.99, paper; $3.99, Kindle) by Jan E. Housley is a mysterious, mystical, pulp-like murder mystery set in the American Southwest.

You have to love a story that begins with this sentence: “I don’t know if all of what I think I remember going through really happened to me.” The novel covers five years, and following a series of traumatic events that main character Andy Bling went through in 1980.It’s a story Bling says, “that no one believes.” Bling, by the way, readily admits that he’s voluntarily living in a mental health facility.

Though he’s an Anglo, Bling works at the Indian Desk of The Albuquerque Journal in New Mexico, reporting on Native American affairs. He served three years as a Military Policeman in the Army, and his parents were internationally renowned archaeologists. Housely, a member of Vietnam Veterans of America, served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam, Germany, Japan, and elsewhere.

Bling is assigned to cover the disappearance of a young woman from a small town. He decides to fictionalize the name of the town, in this already fictional story, making the unfortunate decision to refer to it as Bullsnort. “It was a place represented by a dot on the map that looked like the period at the end of this sentence,” Housely cleverly writes.

On his drive to Bullsnort Bling is “mesmerized,” loses track of time, and senses “that something had happened to me.” Pulling into the town, he feels as though he is outside of reality in the place, which “looks to be near perfect with its beautifully painted buildings and very little traffic.” He checks into a motor court that used to be a jail, planning to stay a few days. But that turns into several weeks as Bling finds himself drawn into the mystery of the girl’s disappearance. The townspeople seem strangely unconcerned that she’s missing.

Before long, Bling is getting headaches and receiving messages from disembodied voices encouraging him to keep seeking the truth, while also steering him away from danger. Housely writes about Kachina dolls, dream catchers, premonitions, Indian naming ceremonies, dust devils, sweat lodges, Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, carnivorous plants, and a secret group called The Brotherhood.

Reading this novel will not change your life, but it will giver you a fun, intriguing way to spend a few hours. On hot summer afternoons that’s often enough.

–Bill McCloud