Pickard: The Blue Corn Murders
(A Eugenia Potter Mystery,
based on the character created by Virginia Rich)
Dell Publishing (Paperback), ISBN 0440217652
Thank you, Nancy Pickard and Dell, for not letting a wonderful character die off. I never knew Virginia Rich, but she always inspired warm fuzzy feelings in me, because I liked her character, Eugenia Potter, so much. I'm delighted that her estate chose a writer of Pickard's talent to continue the series.
The Blue Corn Murders opens with Eugenia (Genia to her friends) Potter on her ranch, Las Palomas, near Tucson. She assumed management of the ranch after the death of her faithful and much loved manager (recounted in The 27-Ingredient Chili Con Carne Murders, also by Pickard) and found to her surprise she enjoyed it.
While walking one of her pastures with her neighbor, Genia stumbles over shards of ancient pottery. The find inspires dreams of finding other relics and possibly connecting her land with its ancient Native American past. The find also reminds Genia of a brochure advertising the Medicine Wheel Archaeological Camp located in Colorado's Mesa Verde, home of the Anasazi cliff dwellings.
But instead of pursuing her archeological dreams at Medicine Wheel, Genia finds herself foundering in someone else's nightmare. Naomi, the camp manager, has fallen victim to circumstances she can't understand or explain. No matter what Naomi orders, the food and supplies delivered to the camp prove to be wrong. No matter how hard Naomi scrimps, expenses always exceed her budget. Naomi knows she's about to be fired for mismanagement; she just hopes that's the worst that will happen.
Fortunately, Naomi finds an ally in Genia, because Naomi soon stands to lose much more than her job. A guest is found dead after dancing a last, mad, unpartnered dance in a moonlit meadow. Mountain lions, a vicious bank manager and multiple murders raise the stakes still higher. Meanwhile, Genia learns that unearthing the truth behind Naomi's troubles can be far more difficult and infinitely more deadly than excavating the most precious Indian artifact.
The Blue Corn Murders serves up a tasty dish of murder, with ancient Native American ruins, not to mention wonderful descriptions of the West.
I have just reached page 102 and am putting away The Blue Corn Murders for good, although I am an avid reader and always complete the books I start.
After a touching forward about the history of the production of this book and the obvious care entailed in researching archeology and Native American culture, why is Nancy Pickard unable to offer us anything other than stereotypical descriptions of African-Americans? "Her complexion was so dark, it was difficult to see her features clearly in the surrounding darkness…" "…her hazel eyes eager in her brown face…" "…a white t-shirt that made the rich walnut shade of her complexion look even darker than usual…" "My ancestors were imported, not native…."
Clearly Teri is in the book only to offer the reader some “color,” which of course is not apparent in the complexions of any Caucasians who spends their days living and working in the southwestern sun. Why not just call her darkie? Why do research on African-Americans and note that some of their ancestors have to be Native Americans and Europeans unless they just arrived from a special kind of isolated upbringing in Africa?
Needless to say I am disappointed. What seemed at the start to be a well-researched and enlightening mystery turns out to be nothing more than the usual racist claptrap. Wake up, Nancy Pickard, if it's not too late.
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