ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The witty and glib Hubie Schuze leads a busy life. Schuze owns a store in Old Town. He occasionally steals pots. He reads up on New Mexico historical figures. In his spare time he solves murders.
Welcome back Hubie to J. Michael Orenduff’s forthcoming “The Pot Thief Who Studied the Woman at Otowi Crossing,” the ninth breezy murder-mystery in the popular Pot Thief series.
The unnamed woman in the title is Edith Warner, who worked at a freight station on a narrow-gauge railroad over the Rio Grande near Los Alamos, had a San Ildefonso Pueblo man as her companion and befriended top Manhattan Project scientists.
As intriguing as Warner may be, she takes a back seat to Schuze’s crime-solving and fast-moving events in his personal and professional life.
As for the murder probe, amateur sleuth Schuze wants to learn more about how and why the man died. He especially wants to determine his identity so he can figure out how he and the dead man are related, a novel-long inquiry.
There are interludes of lively conversations with his girlfriend Sharice about impending marriage and fatherhood, and cantina chats with Schuze’s drinking buddy Susannah.
On the professional side, Schuze is named interim head of the University of New Mexico Art Department. The appointment tests his handling of the academic bureaucracy, regulations, personalities and paperwork, topics Orenduff is familiar with; he is a former president of New Mexico State University.
The author, however, overdoes name-dropping. The Frontier restaurant near UNM and Treasure House Books & Gifts in Old Town are destinations.
But the name-dropping gets out of hand when Schuze tests his “encyclopedia” memory about present and former New Mexico murder-mystery authors whose books can be found on a shelf at Treasure House.
Hubie identifies 15 writers, recalled alphabetically. Two pages later, Susannah points out that he missed some. She comes up with 12 more in-state murder-mystery writers.
In between their recollections, Hubie cleverly squeezes in three more authors but not for their mystery writing – the preeminent Tony Hillerman (for a class syllabus), his daughter Anne Hillerman (for a guide book with maps), and the recently deceased Rudolfo Anaya (for “Bless Me, Ãšltima”). Anaya did write a series of mysteries.
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Of the writers on Schuze’s visualized bookshelf, one of them is Patricia Smith Wood of Albuquerque. Wood’s recent cozy mystery “Murder at the Petroglyphs” is the fourth in her Harrie McKinsey Mystery series.
In this latest charming installment, Harrie – short for Harriet – and her sidekick Ginger are out to solve the murder of an unidentified man at Petroglyph National Monument on Albuquerque’s West Side. This pair of amateur detectives seems to have more on the ball than do local cops or federal agents.
The women also have Harrie’s prophetic dreams advising them. As Wood describes a recent dream, “A crumpled body lay in a heap inside a circular structure, which seemed open to the air.” How strangely coincidental; Nick Ellis, a ranger new to the monument, just discovered a body in the monument’s small amphitheater.
The book won first prize in the New Mexico Presswomen’s 2020 Communication Contest (adult division).
Wood has begun writing the first chapters on a fifth book in the series, which she said may be set during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
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Randy Shamlian isn’t on Schuze’s or Susannah’s list of writers. The Albuquerque-based writer is the author of “Deadly Recipe,” the first book in his planned Murder in the Kitchen suspense-thriller series.
Installment No. 1 is centered on an alluring, deadly young woman named Martha “Marty” Kittering. She has just killed a male culinary arts professor, she declares, partly out of rage, partly for the thrill of it.
That killing, Marty says, was so “erotically pleasing. Like getting that first waft on the nose and then the taste of cherry on the tongue from a luscious Russian Valley Pinot Noir.”
Shamlian’s book is brimming with food and wine metaphors, sex and graphic descriptions of killings, including death by barbecue.
Shamlian is also the author of an earlier culinary memoir “A Slice of Apple Pie.” He is a baker, pastry chef and business owner.
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