Book Review: Skeleton Picnic

Rolly and Abigail Rogers grew up collecting Indian artifacts during outings euphemistically referred to as skeleton picnics. Over the years, the Rogers amassed an impressive collection of pottery, projectile points, axes, fiber items and more as well as several excellent pieces of native made jewelry. Anxious to get a jump on the competition, the Rogers head off on a dig one spring evening and donít return. Concerned family members alert authorities about the missing couple but are generally uncooperative due to the nature of their parentís activities. Bureau of Land Management Ranger J.D. Books and Kane County Sheriff Charley Sutter discover the coupleís home had been burglarized, their valuable collections stolen and the family pet killed. Quite naturally, law enforcement suspects there is a connection between the Rogerís disappearance and the break-in but it isnít until some jewelry pieces show up at a pawnshop that Books, rookie deputy Beth Tanner and other authorities begin solving the sinister kidnap/murder. As Books contends with family issues including his ďfatherísĒ cancer, his motherís infidelity, a recent divorce and financially strapped relatives, he must teach Tanner the ropes and face down a killer.

Normanís second J.D. Books mystery is a pleasant, undemanding law enforcement procedural set in the frequently harsh southwest. The evenly paced tale raises ethical questions about pot hunting and lying to potential suspects without digging especially deep or slowing the flow. Books is a good-hearted if slightly dense lead character whoís determination to see justice done is laudable though he fails to recognize a potentially deadly ruse. The motivations and criminalís identities wonít come as any surprise but it is still a reasonably satisfying conclusion as Books apparently gets to enjoy a quieter life.

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