When Marilyn Brown Oden’s new mystery, “Santa Fe Secret,” appeared on my desk, I was immediately drawn in by the cover photo of that New Mexico City’s famous sunlit ancient plaza — an …
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When Marilyn Brown Oden’s new mystery, “Santa Fe Secret,” appeared on my desk, I was immediately drawn in by the cover photo of that New Mexico City’s famous sunlit ancient plaza — an all-time favorite place to visit.
And quite immediately, Oden’s narrator, Bishop Lynn Peterson — on renewal leave in Santa Fe with her history professor husband, Galen — is calmly enjoying a coffee on a plaza balcony and witnesses an evil act committed by the “Plaza Poisoner”! The reader is off on a convoluted path to discover who did it — and why? And soon, another murder is discovered — an FBI agent. Are they related? How?
Multiple cleverly-woven parallel stories evolve, including an assortment of distinctive characters in Santa Fe, nearby Los Alamos, the nation’s capital … The seemingly local crime soon has national implications. Fortunately, recently retired, extremely resourceful FBI agent Dan Dickerson lives nearby and, with Bishop Lynn, deftly follows trails related to more than a murder.
Official press releases to the media called the death of mild-mannered Los Alamos employee Carlos Martinez “a heart attack,” although the coroner has told local agents that the man was poisoned … Something is amiss!
It seems that a Los Alamos scientist has developed a highly secret deadly toxin with the power to kill millions if unleashed on the world. Possible motives regarding its use emerge as the complex tale is spun. The formula has been stolen.
This is apparently not the first time author Oden has introduced some of these characters. Some appeared in a previous book. But their actions here work on their own, with one possible exception.
Oden, who recently moved with her husband from Santa Fe to Wind Crest Retirement Community in Highlands Ranch, has previously written nine books, including “Crested Butte: A Novel,” followed by “The Dead Saint,” set in New Orleans and described as international intrigue — we have not seen those two, but will probably want to backtrack!
Rivalries between security agencies — and individual agents — surface here, reflecting stories of real rivalries in our daily media accounts of national and world intrigue.
Characters are believable and have individual quirks that distinguish them — both good guys and bad guys — and there are some gray areas when one is not quite sure of a character’s qualities at first.
Oden uses a dinner party at the archbishop’s home to introduce a Korean scientist and his wife; Matt, a newly appointed Catholic Bishop of Santa Fe — who is an old friend to Lynn — and a wealthy Japanese shipping magnate and his lovely wife. All will reappear.
An American Indian scholar, Chev Tupatu, with Tewa background, shows the very perceptive Galen Peterson his pueblo home at San Ildefonso and contributes to local background in a smooth insertion of history here and there. Galen is visiting scholar at the prestigious SAR (School for Advanced Research, formerly School of American Research). Humorous insights on how a professional scholar might think — and operate — add a light touch.
And on a different plane, we also listen in on secret phone calls between the woman who is U.S. president and Lynn, who happens to be a distant relative. These women are well acquainted and depend on each other … Madame President is naturally concerned about the deadly toxin — and especially the loss of control over it.
A mysterious character named Zacharia Zeller surfaces out of the past to protect Lynn (again) and the villain has a fixation on A and B and considerable technical skill …
A climactic almost-final scene makes a reader want to go and hide!
Pretty perfect summer reading for the mystery fan … Published by Western Reflections Publishing Company in Lake City, Colorado (westernreflectionspublishing.com). Order at your bookstore.
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