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by Shannon Baker
Midnight Ink, March 2015
277 pages
ISBN: 0738740632

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In TATTERED LEGACY, the third Nora Abbot mystery set in the southwest, Shannon Baker has created a thrilling mystery that explores the clash between Hopi culture, polygamist Mormons, and environmentalists. As the book opens, Nora's friend Lisa is killed while filming an environmental documentary near Moab and Canyonlands National Park, and it is not clear whether her death is an accident or murder. Nora heads to Moab from her home in Boulder, Colorado, and immediately becomes entrenched in both trying to find the missing film and discovering what happened to her friend. Her mother, Abigail, arrives to help support Lisa's partner, and Nora and Abigail reconnect as Nora learns more about her heritage.

While Nora and Abigail circle around one another, they uncover the secrets of a very nasty polygamist patriarch who has ties to Abigail's past and who brings into question Nora's lineage. Much of the book is taken up with Nora's concerns about her ancestry and with relationship issues. However, the real strength of Baker's writing shines through as she brings the setting to life. Her love of the landscape and understanding of both its beauty and its danger transport the reader to Moab and its surroundings. Whether Nora is serenely greeting the morning sun, climbing solo in the red rocks, or attempting to survive a flash flood, these are the moments when the pages fly by as the reader is completely immersed in the plot.

This is the third in the series, but the first I've read. The fact that I missed out on character development that undoubtedly started in the first of the series, TAINTED MOUNTAIN, resulted in my feeling that the characters were rather flat. Nonetheless, the book can be read as a standalone. Baker provides all of the background information that is needed to understand TATTERED LEGACY, and there is much in the plot and setting to engage the reader. So many past details are provided that I'm torn about whether to go back to read the earlier books. If Baker was able to bring their settings to life in the way she did here, though, the step back will be well justified.

Sharon Mensing is the Head of School of Emerald Mountain School, an independent school in the mountains of Colorado, where she lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, April 2015

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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