5 new mysteries set in Colorado and other Western states

Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of mystery writers set their stories in Colorado and the mountain states. Here is a sampling of some newer ones.

“Till Death Do Us Port,” by Kate Lansing (Berkley Prime Crime)

Parker Valentine is ready to pour the wine at her cousin’s reception when the wedding planner turns up dead, tulle from a bridesmaid’s gown wrapped around her neck.  Having solved crimes in four previous Kate Lansing mysteries, the Boulder vintner jumps in to find the killer.  And, to her surprise, her mother, critical of Parker’s sleuthing in the past, joins her.

There is no question that the killer is a member of the bridal party.  Suspicion falls on the bride’s mother. It’s up to Parker to prove the woman didn’t send nasty emails to the planner.  In fact, Parker believes the self-centered stepmother is a better suspect.  Still others have reason to do in the wedding planner, including bridesmaids and groomsmen.

Solving the murder is not Parker’s only dilemma in this endearing mystery filled with plenty of wine lore.  She must also sort out her feelings for Reid, her love interest. Does she see marriage in the future, or does she want to continue independently as a successful vintner and wine bar owner?

“Fireworks on the Fourth,” by B.J. Bowen (Camel Press)

What happens when a man is shot to death during Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture?”  Well, nothing, if the timing’s right.  Who can hear a gunshot over all those fireworks?  So it’s a mystery who murdered despised local land developer Curtis Strange during an outdoor concert.

Flutist Emily Wilson’s friend KC is the prime suspect.  KC went out with Strange only three times, but he was obsessed with her, and police find her picture posted all over the dead man’s house.  Emily’s solved a couple of murders in previous B.J. Bowen mysteries, and is the one KC turns to for help.

Emily discovers that Strange was involved in several lawsuits because of his shoddy construction practices.  And he had plans to destroy a wildlife area by paving it over and erecting houses.  Homeowners and environmentalists hated Strange.  And as a member of the symphony board, he was hated by both board members and musicians.  Who wouldn’t want him dead?

Solving the murder is a big challenge for Emily, who has a slate of teaching sessions and performances to keep her busy in oboist Bowen’s “Fireworks on the Fourth.” Meanwhile, Emily’s boyfriend, Barry, is pushing her for a closer relationship.  Seems like it’s time for female sleuths to make up their minds, since Emily — like Parker in “Till Death Do Us Port” — has to decide if she wants commitment or independence.

“Saguaro Sanction,” by Scott Graham (Torrey House)

Archaeologist Chuck Bender is searching for petroglyphs when he and his wife, Janelle, stumble across the body of a dead man. To their horror, they discover he is Janelle’s cousin, Francisco.  The couple is in Arizona not only to study rock art but to also help Francisco and his twin brother escape across the desert from Juarez and find sanctuary in the U.S. Now Francisco is dead, and his brother is missing.

Chuck and Janelle search for the missing twin — and the murderer.  The problem is that one of the crew members helping them may actually be the killer.

At the same time, Chuck is exploring petroglyphs and makes an amazing discovery that backs his theory that designs carved in desert stone are not just pictures but a way that ancient peoples communicated. Colorado author Scott Graham writes so vividly about rock art that you want to see it yourself.

“Saguaro Sanction” is No. 8 in Graham’s National Park mystery series. Set against a background of the life-threatening desert between Mexico and Tucson, the book tells of the desperate trip immigrants make for a better life in the United States.

“Storm Watch,” by C.J. Box (Putnam)

Joe Pickett is hunting a wounded elk when he comes across the mutilated body of a University of Wyoming college professor.  Battling a fierce blizzard, Pickett leaves the body; when he returns, it is gone. Joe thinks the murder has something to do with a mysterious high-tech shed on the site, but he can’t figure out the purpose of the structure.

Meanwhile, his buddy, Nate Romanowski, is approached by a shady character who wants him to join a local militia. Nate isn’t much for government intervention and is intrigued, although the group seems to be made up of misfits.  It’s controlled by a mysterious man known as the Big Fish — whose No. 1 priority is to kill Joe.

Of course, the murderer and the militant group intersect, and that could put Joe and Nate on opposite sides, according to the press release. Nah. We know better. But it is interesting to see where the two men disagree on the government’s role. Chalk up another good one for C.J. Box.

“The Way of the Bear,” by Anne Hillerman (Harper)

Bernadette Manuelito and husband Jim Chee have taken a couple of days off to visit Bluff, Utah. Chee wants to celebrate his promotion to lieutenant and meet with a Navajo medicine man to discuss an apprenticeship.  Bernie, meanwhile, needs time alone to deal with her disappointment about being denied a promotion to detective.  When she goes for a hike in remote Bears Ears National Monument, she discovers a suspicious dig for fossils. Then she’s chased down and shot at by two people in a truck.

After her escape, she comes across a woman in labor and helps deliver the baby.  If that isn’t enough, the husband of the woman staying in the next motel room is murdered.  Finally, when a man Chee is supposed to contact about a donation to a Navajo officers’ memorial fund disappears, the two cops find themselves involved in a deep mystery where the pieces of the puzzle don’t fit.  Oh, and did I mention there is a blizzard, too?

“The Way of the Bear” is the eighth book in Anne Hillerman’s Chee-Manuelito-Leaphorn series, started by her father. It centers around an illegal fossil dig and the theft of an important fossil, one valuable enough to kill for.

Oh, by the way, Joe Leaphorn, the legendary lieutenant, is all but written off in this one. He’s in Hawaii with Louisa.

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