Murdock Rocks Sedona, by Robert J. Ray: The Mighty Are Falling

Murdock-Rocks-SedonaMurdock Rocks Sedona is the seventh episode (first time in print) in Robert J. Ray’s Matt Murdock Mystery series ($16.95, 366 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-337-2). The adventures of tough-guy detective Murdock began with Bloody Murdock. Camel Press reprinted the first five novels in the series and released book six, Murdock Tackles Taos, in 2013.

Murdock Rocks Sedona brings the detective and his new romantic and sleuthing partner Helene to Arizona, where they investigate a series of deaths by falling.

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“Murdock carries all the qualities of refined sleuth who always has a ‘hunch’ and a stick-to-itiveness when others doubt that his clues will amount to anything. And perfectly complementing his gruff traits, Ray has created his equal—Helene Steinbeck. Although centering on these featured characters, Ray incorporates a host of colorful characters, especially his villains who are not always readily identifiable. That said, Ray does a stellar job of throwing in red herrings just at the right time, which keeps his audience on their toes in their own sleuthing pursuits…. Ray deftly orchestrates all of these elements into one amazing performance to keep his audience absolutely captivated from beginning to end. Quill says: Murdock Rocks Sedona is bound to be both a best seller and an all-time classic!”  Read more….

—Anita Lock for Feathered Quill Book Reviews

“This was a well-done mystery with a large cast of characters. At first it was hard to keep some of the names and relationships straight, but as the story evolved, the connections became clear and the intrigue increased…. Murdock and Helene make a good investigative pair, and they also have a tumultuous relationship that makes for a good subplot to the story. This was a good read that kept me guessing throughout.”  Read more….

—Mary Ann Writes

“In the backdrop of beautiful Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona, Robert Ray weaves a complex and compelling story of lust, greed, ambition, and revenge. Billionaire investor Axel Ackerman’s business partners are dropping like rocks—literally—to their untimely deaths. Ackerman hires Matt Murdock and partner Helene Steinbeck for a twenty-four hour bodyguard gig which soon morphs into a full-fledged investigation to find who’s behind the freefalls. Murder and mayhem abound, pushing Matt and Helene to their limit, while fascinating and sordid characters keep the reader guessing. Tighten those belts for the surprising conclusion to this rollicking ride through the red rocks of Sedona. Matt Murdock at his finest!”

—E. Michael Helms, author of the Mac McClellan Mystery series

“This is my first book from author Robert J. Ray and I have to say that I’m very impressed. I got sucked into the story and couldn’t wait to see who the killer was and their motive. I also felt for Matt and Helene. There is something wrong in their relationship and it doesn’t look like either know how to go about fixing it so they just keep trudging along. There were lots of twists and turns to this story and I will admit that I didn’t know who the killer really was until the end. If you are looking for a great mystery story I recommend getting yourself a copy of this book. Now I’m off to start this series from the first book, Bloody Murdock.” Read more….

—J. Bronder Book Reviews

Murdock Rocks Sedona hits the ground running and actually begins to pick up speed, rocketing along against a vivid physical and cultural landscape populated with true-to-life characters.”  Read more….

—Vic’s Media Room

Wealthy investors in Sedona, Arizona, are dropping like flies—more accurately, lead weights. They are falling down staircases and off mountainsides, decks, and hiking trails. With so many similar “accidents,” the victims had to have been pushed. Other than their wealth and weakness for beautiful young women, what the falling men had in common was a financial interest in Sedona Landing, a historic hotel in Oak Creek Village. They also shared a long history with the chief investor, billionaire Axel Ackerman. Fearing that he too will plunge to his death, Ackerman hires Matt Murdock and Helene Steinbeck to investigate.

During his climb to the top of the heap, Ackerman crushed scores of rivals and broke many hearts. The culling of his “Crew” of investors is clearly personal. So who among this crowded field of enemies would orchestrate such a byzantine scheme of revenge? To keep their client safe, Matt and Helene will have to be on their best game. Too bad their last case in Taos took such a heavy toll, particularly on Helene, and caused a rift in their fragile bond.

Says Ray, “The idea for Murdock Rocks Sedona came when my wife and I visited Sedona, AZ. We stayed with friends in Oak Creek Village, a peaceful Desert Eden. From patio or kitchen or bedroom or curved red street, you look up and there’s a rock. Big, burly, beautiful, formidable, majestic, and red. The rocks have names—Bell Rock, Chimney Rock, Cathedral Rock. In the daytime, climbers swarm over the rocks. At night, they hit the bars and bistros. The writing took off when a character fell off a rock. The death by falling gave me the motif that would pull Murdock deep into back story—and here came the What-Ifs. What if the falling man got pushed? What if he’s not the first guy to die from falling? What if a tourist out for a moonlit jog shoots photos of the fall? What if the picture taker is Matt Murdock, private eye? What if Murdock and Helene are here in Sedona to heal after a harsh experience in Taos? But if Murdock is out here running in the moonlight and taking pictures of rocks in the dark, where is Helene? And who or what got that falling man onto Cathedral Rock in the moonlight?”

Robert J. Ray is the author of nine novels: Cage of Mirrors, The Heart of the Game, Bloody Murdock, Murdock for Hire, Dial “M” for Murdock, Merry Christmas, Murdock, Murdock Cracks Ice, Murdock Tackles Taos, and now, Murdock Rocks Sedona. Ray is also the author of a popular non-fiction series on writing, The Weekend Novelist. He shares techniques on writing at A native of Texas, Ray holds a PhD from the University of Texas, Austin. Tuesdays and Fridays, he writes at Louisa’s Bakery and Café in Seattle. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Up close, Axel Ackerman did not look so old, or so bony. His eyes were alive, filled with fire. The bald head was tanned and smooth and powerful. A man born to be king.

He had a beak nose and a winning smile that said he could buy and sell you before you knew what was happening. His teeth were yellow, his lips sensual.

“Is this for you?”

“Yes. To Axel, from Helene. And the date.”

Helene signed his copy of her book. Her hand was jittery. This guy wanted her, this old person, bald and grinning, wanted to fuck her. She handed the book back. He read her words, nodded, held out his hand.

“Giselle was supposed to introduce us. I’m Axel Ackerman.”

“I’m Helene Steinbeck.”

His hand was big and warm, laced with power. He did not squeeze too hard. She was shaking hands with a billion dollars. She had met millionaires before, but Ackerman was her first billionaire. His hand let her go. She felt short of breath. He asked what she thought about the contract.

“Enough money to buy you for twenty-four hours?” he said.

“What about Murdock,” Helene said. “We’re a team. Where’s his name?”

A shadow crossed Ackerman’s eyes. He told Giselle to pencil Murdock in. She used a fancy fountain pen to add Murdock’s name to the contract. Ackerman scribbled, turned to Helene.

“I heard your man was moonlighting, helping out our beleaguered hotel security boys.”

“He likes to stay busy.”

“But you did the Taos killings, right—no help from him?”

“Murdock was right there, backing me up,” Helene said.

“Let’s talk about the contract.”

“Not much to discuss,” Ackerman said. “I’m buying your combined skills—detection and protection—for twenty-four hours. I expect you to go through the motions, digging up dirt on my dead friends, but there’s nothing there. Accidents happen.”

“They both fell, right?”

“Will Tyler fell at twilight—highball time. Milt Coolidge fell because he had a trick knee. You got one drunk and one cripple, case solved.”

Giselle Roux broke in, “Did you check with Walter?”

“I knocked on the goddamn door,” Ackerman said. “No answer. Probably got a floozie in there. Or maybe two.”

“Who’s Walter?” Helene said.

“One of our investors,” Giselle said. “In the money pool. He’s staying in 900, your floor, the suite at the other end.”

“His name is Walt Findlay,” Ackerman said. “Maybe you saw him around. He’s tanned, fit, looks like a Beach Boy. Always on the prowl. His motto is love ’em and leave ’em.”

“Walter thinks like a teenager,” Giselle said. “He has three ex-wives … that we know of.”

“Let’s have breakfast,” Ackerman said. “You, me, Walt Findlay if we can rouse him, your Mr. Detective man. Eight-ish. You can guard my ancient body while in the midst of detecting, to satisfy Giselle. I’m halfway through your true-crime tome. I started at midpoint … anything in the first half?”

“The author fell in love,” Helene said.

“I love writers, the way they conjure.”

Ackerman repeated his invitation to breakfast, eight o’clock, the Bell Rock Bistro, his personal table. The wait staff would know.

Helene watched him walk off, joined by Bruno, who carried a cellphone and a white sports bag with red markings.

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