In "The Madera Murder" by Deanne Blackhurst, there's a little bit of just about everything one would expect given the title.
There's a murder — actually a couple — and everybody is a suspect. There's a treasure to be found. There's deception, some intrigue and some romance. There's a secret diary that tells the truth about the family shame.
But somehow it's all kept pretty light and moves along rather quickly.
It's a bit hard to sink into the story because the heroine, Ashley, who came to Mexico to reconnect with her father, just gets to the Mexican hacienda and meets a student group on an archeological dig that is also staying there when somebody dies.
From there, the game is afoot, so to speak. She has to solve the mystery to exonerate her father, and she becomes a threat to the real killer.
Ashley, while trying to understand her drunken dad and figure out why she came to Mexico with him, tries to unravel the mysteries around her.
She sees a ghost. She finds a secret passageway. She nearly falls from the top of an ancient ruin and she's nearly suffocated on a stone altar.
She meets two guys who complicate matters for her, and in addition she picks up a tag-along kid who has a crush on her.
She's basically a good member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who trying to get this all over with and get back home.
Along the way, she refuses some tea and makes others aware that she isn't a drinker of alcohol.
While the nod to Mormonism is a touch forced, it's in there and the book stays pretty clean and free of sex and violence unless you count the diary entries where an evil man has his way with the "ghost" of the hacienda.
It's a book that's easy enough to read but in the end fails to be really compelling.
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years' experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.
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