Shadows among the Ruins, a Murder Mystery Set in the Southwest

“Shadows among the Ruins is a fast-paced and old-school fun mystery read, highly recommended.”

Midwest Book Review

“This ‘who-done-it’ has cops, a surprise ending, great dialog, and stunning vistas. This is the kind of book to dive into in front of a fire or to take on a plane and tune everything out.”

Tradición Revista Magazine

Shadows among the Ruins (194 pp, $12.95, ISBN: 978-1-60381-834-6, 5×8 Trade Paperback), by Marie Romero Cash, is a murder mystery set in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which features a sexy female sleuth and her two macho suitors.

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Buy it for your Kindle or get other ebook editions on Smashwords.

“Marie Romero Cash writes about Santa Fe with a local’s razor-sharp insights, and peoples her exciting mystery with a gallery of colorful, authentic New Mexico characters. The plot moves with the speed and force of a Southwestern thunderstorm.”

—Kirk Ellis, Co-Executive Producer/Screenwriter, HBO’s John Adams

“A gifted writer has entered the ranks of the best of Southwest Mystery Writers. From the first chapters I found myself caught up in the action, stifling a catch in my throat, actually hyperventilating. This book has the kick of a high-powered rifle.”

—Tal Streeter, sculptor and author of many books, including A Kite Journey through India, Art of the Japanese Kite, and Paper Wings Over Japan

Shadows among the Ruins is a great read whose real characters and honest dialog capture the intrigue of New Mexico. Throw in a great plot with a surprise ending, and mystery lovers will be clamoring for the sequel. Marie Romero Cash has taken the gift for prose she demonstrated in Lowrider Blues and applied it to the mystery genre with spectacular results.”

—J. Michael Orenduff, Author, The Pot Thief Murder Mystery Series

Shadows among the Ruins will compel some Southwestern mystery writers take another look at their own work.  Marie Cash made me sit up and take notice. Her come-along plot made me miss dinner, but it was worth it. Now, after I get something to eat, I’m going to read it again. You have to like this book.”

—Forrest Fenn, Santa Fe resident and owner of San Lazaro Pueblo, the setting for Shadows. He has written eight books on history, art, and archaeology.

Forensic psychologist Jemimah Hodge is much in demand for her keen understanding of the criminal mind. So much in demand, in fact, that she decides to escape the pressure by moving from L.A. to New Mexico to take a job with the local sheriff’s office. She expects that her duties will be limited to assessing petty criminals and reporting her findings to the court. Jemimah had hoped to find a simpler life on her small ranch, located in the juniper-covered foothills of the Ortiz Mountains south of Santa Fe. A cowgirl at heart, she envisioned a place where she could spend more time in a saddle than a chair. Instead she finds herself knee deep in an investigation of a series of gruesome murders that took place right smack in the center of an ancient Indian pueblo. This case will not only test Jemimah’s mettle, but also tug at her heartstrings. Now she must work side by side with Detective Rick Romero, a true ‘hey let me be the cop’ kind of guy with a soft spot for a pretty lady on an Appaloosa horse.

“I started writing in the mid-1990s to document a lot of information I had been gathering related to my art field,” says Cash. “Eventually I decided to try my hand at a murder mystery. How difficult could that be? After reading about fifty of the most popular mystery writers, I took the plunge.  It wasn’t long before I found out how difficult it is to write fiction—and a mystery at that. I gained a great deal of respect for mystery writers and how they wind a story around the twists and turns and leave you panting for more.  I threw myself into perfecting this mysterious craft. Many, many edits later, I was fairly content with how the story read.  I have since written a sequel and am working on the third.”

Marie Romero Cash was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to a family that would eventually number seven children, and has lived there most of her life. After graduating from Santa Fe High School, she took a job as a legal secretary, a field that would provide a lifetime of employment. But then, in her mid-thirties, she discovered the traditional arts of northern New Mexico. After twenty years of creating award-winning art, she began to write about it, but decided she needed a higher education to do so. At fifty she enrolled in college and, five years later, graduated with a degree in Southwest Studies. In 1998, she received the prestigious Javits Fellowship to pursue her education.  Since then Marie has written several books about the art and culture of the southwest, including a memoir about growing up in Santa Fe. This novel, her first mystery, is based on the ranch where she spent a lot of time during her marriage to a cowboy. “Don’t get me wrong,” she says, “I’m the last person you would ever picture on a ranch. The alligator boots I purchased in 1987 still look like new!” Click here to find Marie on the Web.

Shadows among the Ruins is available in Kindle ($4.95) and print editions on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, and Amazon.fr. Bookstores and libraries can order by contacting info@Camelpress.com or through Ingram or Baker & Taylor. Other electronic versions can be purchased on Smashwords or at any of the major online ebook stores.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Jemimah reached into her pocket for a wad of Kleenex and sneezed again. She was allergic to almost everything in the air and it dampened her excitement about spending more time out on the Indian ruins. The juniper and chamisa were in full bloom and the winds pushed and dragged their pollen into every corner. It was an hour past dawn. She waited for McCabe to drive up. Two ravens flew overhead twittering and squawking at her unwelcome presence.

Ten minutes later, a cloud of dust in the distance came into view, with McCabe’s silver Hummer just ahead of it. He drove up to the fence, parked next to her Toyota and waved her over as he unlocked the gate. Tossing his baseball cap into the backseat of the Hummer, he grabbed several battery powered lanterns and a flashlight.

“Okay, Jemimah,” he said. “Let’s get cracking! I can’t wait to see what you discovered.”

They walked up the short incline to the high shallow cave at Medicine Rock. She pushed on the boulder to show him how it moved. McCabe whistled and together they rolled the rock over on its side.

“Unbelievable. I’ve sat on that rock a hundred times. Let’s see what else we can find. Holy smokes, I feel like a kid on a scavenger hunt!” he chuckled.

“Lead the way,” Jemimah said.

McCabe handed her one of his lamps. She followed closely behind him once they descended the rungs of the ladder.

“It’s not so dark here,” she said. “But it will be farther on.” She kicked herself for making such a dumb statement.

Jemimah was giddy as a ten-year-old as they embarked on their adventure. She hoped they would encounter great treasures stored for centuries in the depths of the cave. She held on to McCabe’s belt loop as they trudged ahead, beyond the point where she encountered the rattler. She told McCabe that the effigy that had frightened her was up ahead. She hadn’t known how to describe it, and now he stood two feet from it.

“My God,” he said. “I can’t believe my eyes. This is unlike anything I expected to find on these ruins. I have to show this to Laura.” He snapped a quick photo with his digital camera.

They continued on, McCabe positioning the two lanterns so that one shone forward and the other upward. Jemimah directed the beam of her flashlight downward, the memory of the snake momentarily crossing her mind.

“I think this is where my batteries gave out” she said. “It’s as far as I went before I turned back.” They continued forward, McCabe in a state of total amazement at these new underground surroundings. They walked in silence for a few minutes.

“I figure we’re about a thousand feet in,” McCabe said. “It’s hard to gauge, particularly since we’re not moving at a steady pace. The shaft seems to continue on ahead of us. Can’t tell how far it goes into the earth.”

Jemimah walked into a large cobweb and stifled a scream. She hoped McCabe would not think her a scaredy-cat, but the cobweb had caught her off guard. Oh hells bells, she was a scaredy-cat, no denying it. She was glad she hadn’t ventured this far alone.

“Watch your head there, Jemimah. The ceiling drops off a short distance up ahead, and there’s a little bit of an incline.”

They continued at a slow pace. McCabe leaned down to pick up a small brown piece of bone. “A flute!”

Jemimah could detect the excitement in his voice, although she saw nothing exciting about a musical instrument. She doubted the Indians had flutes, but then, what did she know about their culture?

“What would they use a flute for? They didn’t have chamber music, did they?”

“Awesome.” McCabe was kind enough not to give her the you-idiot look. “This little flute was probably used to make bird calls,” he said. “Maybe to woo an Indian maid. This is no time to stop and gawk. I still can’t help wondering why they dug this tunnel. Maybe to hide from marauding enemies? Damn, I can’t wait to get back down here with some real lighting equipment.”

Jemimah shuddered, she almost walked into another stringy web, where a huge black spider was knitting its way toward the ceiling. McCabe swatted with his leather glove and stepped on it, grinding it under his boot.

“Under ordinary circumstances I wouldn’t have done that. I imagine some of these critters have been hanging around in here for a long time, but we can’t afford to be bitten right now,” he said. “Ahead of us, the ground seems to be pretty virginal. No footprints that I can make out. I doubt if anyone has been down here in a long, long time. Nothing has been disturbed.”

They seemed to have walked for a mile. Jemimah felt closed-in. She could feel her heart racing. Was it just from the lack of oxygen? Years ago she visited Carlsbad Caverns in southern New Mexico and walked through the massive caves and tunnels. She remembered the guide assuring them there was plenty of oxygen to go around. Hold that thought, she told herself. She traipsed behind McCabe, using as many mind-calming techniques as she could remember from sessions with her shrink. She was conscious of every breath. At least she wasn’t alone this time. She wouldn’t have gone this far even if her flashlight hadn’t given out.

“Man oh man, I’m speechless,” said McCabe. “How you doing there, Jemimah?”

She jumped as McCabe’s voice brought her back to the present. “Whew … all right. I imagine you have a lot of unanswered questions.”

“That’s an understatement if I ever heard one,” he chuckled.

A few feet ahead they encountered a small alcove that appeared to be about six foot square.

“Half a dozen people could easily stand in here,” he said. “What do you think, Jemimah, shall we keep going? For all we know this tunnel might go all the way to Galisteo.”

“That’s more than five miles,” she said, stifling a need to hyperventilate.

“Unless there are air vents that have been covered up all these years, it’s unlikely that it could go that far,” McCabe said. A mining shaft can go pretty far into a mountain, but this is nowhere large enough for that.”

“It seems to be just high enough to walk upright, though,” Jemimah said.

“Yes, and from the research I’ve done, the Tano were short in stature like many Pueblo Indians. If that were true, it doesn’t account for the tunnel not being much over six feet in height.” There was only about a foot between the ceiling of the tunnel and McCabe’s head.

“Maybe they had to allow for carrying torches?” she offered.

“By gosh, Jemimah, you could be right,” he said.

As they rounded a slight turn in the tunnel, a strong odor assailed them both. McCabe put his arm out abruptly, stopping Jemimah in her tracks and almost knocking her over.

“Jemimah,” he said, raising his voice. “Go back to the entrance and call Detective Romero.”

“What is it? What’s there?” she said, shining her light up ahead. “Oh, my God,” she swallowed deeply to stifle a scream that insisted on emerging from her throat. Five feet ahead they could see several bodies, all seated on the floor, propped up against the wall of the tunnel. They were in various stages of decomposition—no way to tell by their appearance how long they’d been there. The stench was overwhelming.

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