Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: The Skeleton Picnic: A J.D. Books Mystery (J. D. Books Mysteries) by Michael Norman

  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press (April 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590586115
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590586112

Book Description

Third generation Kanab, Utah residents, Rolly and Abigail Rogers, come from a long line of dedicated pot hunters who scour the desert southwest in search of valuable antiquities. When the couple fails to return from a weekend skeleton picnic, (pot hunting trip)along the desolate Arizona Strip, local Sheriff Charley Sutter turns to BLM Law Enforcement Ranger J.D. Books for help. When Books searches the missing couple’s home for clues about their disappearance, he discovers the house has been burglarized and a valuable collection of ancient Anasazi and Fremont Indian antiquities stolen. Soon a search and rescue operation finds the Rogers’ truck and trailer at an abandoned campsite near an ancient Anasazi ruin that has been recently excavated. Footprints and other evidence lead Books to conclude that the couple may have been overpowered by a small group of unknown assailants. Sheriff Sutter assigns an attractive young deputy, Beth Tanner, to investigate the burglary of the Rogers’ home under the watchful eye of Books. Together they track some of the stolen property to a pawn shop in St. George, and ultimately to a young Navajo man with a criminal record and a serious drug problem. Keeping this man alive long enough to make him talk, however, proves difficult. Books and Tanner soon learn of a shadowy group of armed Indian police who patrol vast swaths of tribal and federal lands in search of anyone desecrating ancient Native American burial sites. They also discover several recent unsolved cases in the Four Corners region where individuals disappeared into the desert wilderness under suspicious circumstances, never to be heard from again. Could the disappearance of the Rogers, and others, be the responsibility of this group? As Books and Tanner close in on those responsible, Books’ own survival skills will be tested when he is unwittingly drawn into a remote part of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. There he is forced into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse, where the hunter becomes the hunted, and only one person gets to go home alive.

About The Author

Michael Norman lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife Diane, and their two pit bulls, Eddie and Joyce (Michael is the two-legged one). On Deadly Ground Norman's third novel, begins the JD Books Series. The Skeleton Picnic is book two. Norman is the author of Silent Witness (2008) and The Commission, one of Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2007.

My Review

This is the first book I've read by Michael Norman.  It is a well written mystery set in one of my favorite locales...the Southwest.  It is mainly set in the town of Kanab, Utah which is very close to one of the most amazing places I've ever been: Zion National Park.

This is a story about pot hunting.  I never realized how prolific pot hunting has been.  I just assumed everyone would leave artifacts in place for the archaeologists to properly very naive of me!  The amazing Tony Hillerman wrote of pot hunters in a few of his mysteries but I never realized the extent that the desecration happens.  This novel is indeed an eye opener.

BLM Ranger J. D. Books is a native of Kanab who has returned their after spending over a decade on the Denver Police Force.  He has family in Kanab who play an important role in this story.  And once the investigation begins it quickly becomes apparent that other disappearances in the Four Corners region could be tied to the disappearance of a local couple.

Excellent story, great characters, and a wonderful setting all make for an excellent read.  It is out on April 3rd.  Be sure to pick up a copy.

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