Moonbird Boy is the fourth in a series of five mystery novels by Abigail Padgett, published as a series in the mid-1990s. All five novels are excellent and worth tracking down. Moonbird Boyis probably the best of the bunch. It’s a puzzler where all the pieces come together. Star of the series is Bo Bradley, child abuse investigator for Child Protective Services in San Diego, California. A trail of crimes against children typically kick starts each novel.

Our investigator Bo Bradley is also manic-depressive. This potentially crippling condition adds great interest to the stories. For treatment, she comes to stay at the Ghost Flower Lodge, a native-American psychiatric healing center. A murder is committed and the Moonbird Boy of the title is the victim’s now orphaned son. Naturally, his case comes to the attention of CPS and the immediate interest of Bo Bradley, who discovers that her depression carries with it some intuitive advantages.

In most of the Bo Bradley novels, the investigator finds herself tramping around the picturesque back country of San Diego County. This setting is particularly interesting for me since my family played a part in the history of the region. It’s clearly an abiding interest to the author, a longtime San Diego resident.

Author Padgett is also concerned for the native-Americans who live there, various bands of the Kumeyaay people. Sometimes Bo sees them as suspicious, torn between the poverty of their heritage and the corrupting influence of the casino industry. In the Bo Bradley novels, the Indians usually turn out to be innocent.

In Moonbird Boy, there are two evil threats. The first is MedNet, a soulless healthcare corporation, which in order to maximize profit, is moving to co-opt and dominate the Ghost Flower Lodge. The second threat, invisible until the second half of the novel, comes from a nest of suspicious characters claiming a piece of property adjacent to the back country reservation. The only clue to their intentions is a sign painted with a single word: Hadamar. No spoilers here, you can look it up.

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Following the final Bo Bradley adventure, Abigail Padgett created a lesbian detective for the stand-alone novel Blue (1998). Much of its action takes place in the now-familiar Anza-Borrego desert in eastern San Diego county. For some reason, this book didn’t generate a series. It’s possible Bo Bradley has run her course. Personally I miss her and would welcome new adventures of the manic-depressive CPS investigator. – Dan Erwine

Also available by Abigail Padgett: An Unremembered Grave; Child of Silence; Strawgirl; Turtle Baby; The Dollmaker’s Daughters;The Paper Doll Museum; Bone Blind; the Last Blue Plate Special; Blue; The Mandy Dru Mysteries;

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