cover image Blue Corn Murders

Blue Corn Murders

Nancy Pickard. Delacorte Press, $21.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-385-31224-0

In The 27-Ingredient Chili con Carne Murders Pickard carried forward the Eugenia Potter series created by the late Virginia Rich (The Cooking School Murders, etc.). In this second story based on Rich's notes, Pickard ably blends Native American history into a modern murder mystery. Genia, a 64-year-old Arizona rancher and cook, moves out from the kitchen and into the desert after she finds a pottery shard and inscribed seashell in one of her pastures. Her curiosity piqued, she signs up for a five-day interpretive hike for women at the Medicine Wheel Archaeological Dig in Colorado. What she finds at the camp is discord among her fellow hikers and among the camp's trustees, one of whom is out to fire the camp director. Then a camper from a different group is killed and a group of Texas teenagers goes missing. In a series of ritual Talking Circles, where an ear of blue corn is passed from participant to participant, deadly secrets are revealed. After a young archeologist who shares a secret with Genia and her group falls to her death during an overnight hike, it appears that one among them may be a killer. Keeping a low profile, Genia ferrets out the guilty party. In the process, readers are treated to both Genia's astute observations on human nature and to various theories on the Anasazi's abrupt migration from their southern Colorado pueblos. Mystery Guild alternate selection. (Aug.)