cover image Picnic in the Ruins

Picnic in the Ruins

Todd Robert Petersen. Counterpoint, $16.95 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-64009-322-5

Petersen (It Needs to Look Like We Tried) serves up a rollicking mystery full of heroes, mystics, petty criminals, and evil capitalists on the border of Utah and Arizona. After the shadowy Kristine Frangos hires the local Ashdown brothers to steal some maps of ancient sites from amateur collector Bruce Cluff, Bruce and one of the maps go missing. Meanwhile, anthropologist Sophia Shepard and park ranger Paul Thrift are exploring ancient Pauite sites—Sophia for research, Paul for an ulterior motive involving a pilfered artifact. Thrown together with a German tourist on a mystical hero’s quest, and helped by a reclusive savant called Dreamweaver, Sophia and Paul must outsmart an assassin hired by Frangos—who wants to pillage the sacred desert for minerals and more—to clean up the mess made by the Ashdowns. While a few too many coincidences pile on in the last pages, Peterson keeps up plenty of action and suspense while also offering philosophical insights on who owns the land. Petersen’s offbeat adventure keeps the reader turning the pages. (Jan.)