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Liz Adair has produced another Spider Latham mystery just in time to begin the new year. Death on the Red Rocks takes place in Utah’s red rocks country around Kane County and features a beautiful cover depicting the transmission towers atop one of the magnificent peaks found in Southern Utah.
Spider is having a rough adjustment to living in a new place and no longer being a deputy following the death of his wife’s uncle who left them his ranch, beautiful home, and the care of a bipolar niece. When the fancy car he also inherited breaks down in a remote area, he figures he has a long walk to get help. A few miles into his difficult hike, he is surprised by an offer of a ride into town, not in a car or truck, but on the handlebars of a bicycle ridden by a member of the Rwanda Cycling Team who is visiting a scientist in town. When they reach the scientist’s home Spider is intrigued by the man and his work on a radio controlled plane he is preparing for the fly-in scheduled for the following day. Shortly after meeting the scientist, the man is dead and the question is, did he fall from the cliffs or was he pushed?
The bumbling detective investigating the scientist’s death turns to Spider for assistance and the former detective finds himself drawn into the case which is made more difficult because most of the suspects are guests in his own home. Tangled relationships between the various characters serve to complicate the investigation and a close encounter with death leaves Spider wary of becoming the next victim.
The author uses the terrain of the area both as a picturesque background and as an important element of the story. Slot canyons, towering cliffs, vast spaces, and the changeable weather that goes with them add not only a distinctive flavor, but create fascinating possibilities. Adair has a solid grip on the mixture of old and new that makes up the modern West.
Interesting information about cycling and particularly the Rwanda Cycling Team and the scientific discoveries made by scientists working in that country add an international flavor to the situation. The Radio Controlled Fly-in held in Kanab is also incorporated into the events surrounding the scientist’s death and gives the reader a glimpse of the possibilities derived from drones, planes, and even birds operated by handlers on the ground.
Death on the Red Rocks is an intriguing story with likable characters and a sound plot. The scene changes are a little abrupt, yet the story has a comfortable flow and is satisfying on multiple levels.
Liz Adair is the author of nine novels and two novellas. She began life in New Mexico. After living most of her adult life in the Pacific Northwest she and her husband moved to the Utah/Arizona border area where they now reside. They are the parents of seven children.
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DEATH ON THE RED ROCKS by Liz Adair, published by Century Press, 358 pages, soft cover $15.00. Also available for e-Readers.