Among the dirt-poor barrios and ultra-wealthy enclaves lining the hills of southern California, a construction project unearths a long-lost Spanish mission. This discovery sets off a chain of events that presents four unrelated people—Reverend Tucker Lockwood, Concha Rivera, Delano Jones, and Detective Harmony Killeen—with difficult choices. In every case, a greater good could be served with a compromise of some basic moral value. Lockwood could steal to feed the poor. Delano Jones could lie—or at least bury the truth—to protect his monument to God's law. Concha Rivera, a Christian with a strong sense of mission, could trespass to preach the Gospel. Detective Killeen could betray her sense of legal responsibility to defend her family. It seems these devil's alternatives will inspire these modern people to perpetuate the very crime that left the mission buried and forgotten 250 years ago—a mystery that is gradually revealed through research into a mysterious triptych excavated at the mission site, as well as through historical flashbacks. At least two themes of magical realism appear repeatedly through the story. First is the appearances of Santos, a mysterious being characterized by a crooked nose, in both the contemporary and historical storylines. And second, the gradual appearance of faces on the triptych as the story's four protagonists—often with the help of a mysterious Hispanic man with the crooked nose—decide whether they will repeat the mistakes of the past.
Lost Mission was not what I was expecting from the description: "Magical Realism." Maybe that was just my misunderstanding, but it never really grabbed my interest. I found the time jumping a bit of a distraction, though once you get used to it and realize the format of the storytelling it isn't a problem. Honestly this is not the kind of novel I would buy and so I found myself laboring to finish it. Dickson is obviously a good writer, it just wasn't my cup of tea.