The first chapter of Skeleton Picnic by Michael Norman immediately delves into the abduction of Rolly and Abigail Rogers while they were scouting out the site where they would start digging for antiquities the next morning. It was early evening, yet dark . . . “And then came out of the darkness, several large black figures running directly at them spread out in a ragged skirmish line. They hardly looked human. Abby screamed.” This is how the first chapter ends, and one cannot help but immediately start reading the next only to find another cliffhanger after each chapter.
Since the Rogers’ didn’t show up for church on Sunday the family got concerned and reported them missing. Sheriff Charley Sutter requisitions assistance from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Law Enforcement Ranger J. D. Books. Sheriff Sutter also puts Beth Tanner, a recently hired new deputy, on the case. The plot continues at an urgent pace only to discover Rogers’ home was burglarized and the ancient Anasazi and Fremont Indian antiquities were missing. As well, the couple’s truck and RV were found near a recently excavated ruin. Signs of struggle were noticed in the area giving it even more urgency to find Rolly and Abigail Rogers.
Before long, a BLM agent gets involved and soon after the FBI. Suspects are exposed; the plot thickens; the pace escalates; and the pages are turned quickly. Michael Norman keeps the reader in the thick of the plot through his brilliant writing.
As the story unfolds, author Michael Norman brings in a variety of characters, from law enforcement to possible suspects. Each is given a place in the memory of the reader through keen character development. The makeup of each person is developed to a point the reader is able to imagine each one as real; the scenes and terrain of the area are shown in detail placing the reader at the scene immediately.
On a personal note, I was not familiar with the term “pot hunters.” After some research, I found there are pot hunters that dig up ruins to excavate artifacts from past civilizations without adhering to professional standards of archaeology. As well, the Antiquities Act of 1906 restricts the use of public land owned by the federal government, as was the case in Skeleton Picnic.
If you are looking for a good mystery set in the picturesque Utah and the Four Corners region, I encourage you to consider Skeleton Picnic by Michael Norman which provides a very good read — one that encapsulates greed turning to murder.
Note to the author and publisher:
I found a noticeable amount of misspellings and issues with sentence structure, which I had to re-read to figure out what was written. As well, there is one place where a character named Jimmy is referred to as “Timmy.” My copy was a final printing not an ARC.