Review: Bureau of Land Management ranger J. D. Books is tasked with finding a missing couple along the vast and largely deserted Arizona/Utah border in Skeleton Picnic, the second mystery in this series by Michael Norman.
Although it is against the law to be "pot hunters" — searching for valuable Indian artifacts and bones in the desert Southwest — Abigail and Roland "Rolly" Rogers head out one Friday evening from their home in Kanab, Utah to do just that, setting up a camp for a "skeleton picnic" somewhere along Utah's border with Arizona. When they don't return home by Sunday, their daughter calls the police advising that her parents are missing. Books heads to the Roger's home and finds it had been broken into, the couple's valuable collection of antiquities stolen. He soon locates their truck and camping trailer at an abandoned campsite near a recently excavated Indian ruin … and it appears that the couple may have been kidnapped. In checking with law enforcement agencies in the towns surrounding the area, Books learns that this may not be an isolated case. There are records over the past few years of other pot hunters having disappeared under similar circumstances, their bodies never found, the mysteries as yet unsolved.
Skeleton Picnic is one of those subtle mysteries that slowly but surely draws the reader in, one that proceeds along at a measured pace, the plot moving towards an inevitable confrontation that will likely prove deadly for someone. It's a good way to introduce and maintain suspense in a crime novel, one that works exceptionally well here. Books is not investigating alone; his newest and only female deputy is Beth Tanner, an engaging character all on her own. The combination of a strongly developed storyline and the magnificent backdrop of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument make for a very compelling read.
Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Skeleton Picnic.
Acknowledgment: Maryglenn McCombs Book Publicity provided an ARC of Skeleton Picnic for this review.
Review Copyright © 2012 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
On Deadly Ground
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), March 2010
ISBN-13: 9781590586921; ISBN-10: 1590586921
Location(s) referenced in Skeleton Picnic: Utah, Arizona
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Skeleton Picnic by Michael Norman — A J. D. Books Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: April 2012
List Price: $24.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
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