In my other life I am an Arizona Historian, an avocation I’ve enjoyed from childhood. I have researched the history and explored the site of the Stoneman Grade, a military trail built into the heartland of the Apache homeland in 1870.
So when I read that the Arizona Highway Department was proposing modifying US-60 through the Pinal Mountains between Superior and Miami by separating the east and westbound lanes with the new part following the old Stoneman Grade, the seed of The Baleful Owl was planted.
The story begins with a murder at an archeological site in the proposed new US-60 corridor. As part of the impact study for the new route, excavation of a Salado Culture pueblo was begun.
As crews report for the second day of the dig, the body of an archeologist and a second wounded archeologist is found.
As my three rural cops investigate the scene they conclude that the attacks resulted from theft of artifacts. One artifact, a beautifully crafted and unique effigy ceramic, called the Baleful Owl becomes a key to solving the murder.
A second murder, a seemingly impenetrable theft ring, a highly skilled gunman, a world renowned legal dealer, and a deputy who becomes a target, all contribute to the mystery. The unlikely romance between two deputies and the wedding of a third, as well as day to day police work not related to the case provide side stories.
The natural and cultural history of the southwest and the contemporary mix of ranchers, farmers, small towns, Hispanic, Native American, Mormon, and Catholic cultures are prominently featured in the story.
The murder of an archeology student and attempted murder of a second, both involving the unique Baleful Owl effigy, pulls Apache Tribal Officer Al Victor into what seems to him a senseless killing. The Arizona Antiquities Task Force brings Deputies Bren Allred and Manny Sanchez into the case. They find themselves investigating a sophisticated high dollar artifact theft ring. The investigation takes them from the murder scene on upper Queen Creek to Ft. McDowell, Tucson, Safford, and Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Before the case is solved, one of the officers will be the unwitting target of a skilled assassin.
Oak Tree Press Print SRP: $16.95 Kindle e-book SRP: $2.99
Virgil Alexander was born at home in a rural area of Gila County between Globe and Miami, Arizona. His family was highly involved in law enforcement, so he grew up surrounded by “cop talk.” His friends and coworkers came from the diverse population and western, mining, and small town culture that he writes about.
He studied engineering, data processing, and business and worked for forty-two years with an international mining company. A good deal of his career involved technical writing and development of training material.
A few years before his retirement he began working on the non-fiction Ranching in the Heart of Arizona; a project he is still working on. He published his first novel, The Wham Curse in 2012, Saints & Sinners in 2014, and The Baleful Owl in July of 2015. He is a Public Safety Writers Association award winner.
He also contributes to on-line history sites and provides consulting to museums.
FaceBook: Virgil Alexander, Author
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