The National Park Mystery Series, by Scott Graham, features contract archaeologist Chuck Bender, Chuck’s paramedic wife, Janelle Ortega, and Chuck’s stepdaughters. The contract archeological work moves Chuck Bender and the family to different parks each summer vacation, setting the scene for stories dealing with environmental, political, and social justice issues. Janelle lends her objective suggestions to help solve the mysteries, sometimes uses her paramedic expertise, and always displays a steadying influence on Chuck and the girls.
The series began in the Grand Canyon with “Canyon Sacrifice,” a resounding success as a debut novel. A kidnapping and a murder place the family in harm’s way on the Bender honeymoon camping trip as Chuck navigates parenthood and spousal responsibilities for the first time. Readers will be mesmerized by Graham’s imageries of the Grand Canyon and the achievements/artifacts of the ancient Anasazi Indians that Bender discovered on an earlier contract dig. Prepare to be swept into the world of outdoor recreation and the wonders of archeology in the West.
Book #2, “Mountain Rampage,” moves Bender and the family to Rocky Mountain National Park where he runs a college archeology field school. The book takes place over a three-day period, with murder and mayhem that involves his brother-in-law and false accusations, and plenty of adventure to go around.
“Yellowstone Standoff,” set in Yellowstone National Park, has a hair-raising premise involving rogue wolves, grizzlies, and a murdered researcher. As always, Graham delivers breathtaking descriptions of the wild and puts the reader in the middle of the terrifying action. An exciting page-turner, and the Bender family is smack dab in the middle of it all.
Book #4, “Yosemite Fall,” brings Janelle and the older daughter more to the forefront of the multi-layered storylines, with a rock-climbing competition, a deadly reunion, and a contract to solve a 150-year-old mystery as the backdrop. Janelle and Chuck are the suspects in a present-day murder, and once again, the national park is a character in the book.
“Arches Enemy,” the fifth entry in the National Park Mystery Series, is set in Utah, not too far from Graham’s home in southwest Colorado. What seems like a straight forward accidental death turns into something much more. An astounding archeological find that disrupts the known timeline of interaction between several Native American tribes, is threatened by a fracking operation, and the locals are being manipulated by an unlikely source.
The core characters have developed naturally with each book as Chuck and his immediate family respond to the unfolding narratives and explore their evolving relationships. The mother subplot in “Arches Enemy” feels like Chuck is trying to herd cats – words have no influence and she is going to do what she wants to anyway. Her effect on the plot will curl your hair and remind you how nice your own mother is.
In “Mesa Verde Victim,” Bender tracks down a murderer in an area of the park with burial sites and artifacts abandoned long before by ancient Pueblo peoples. The stakes are high and the landscape descriptions marvelous.
“Canyonlands Carnage” opens with thrilling white-water rafting and introduces the reader and nature enthusiasts to the spectacular world of one of the nation’s best loved parks. Mystery, murder, and mayhem mix with history to provide another great read.
Book #8 in the series, “Saguaro Sanction,” thrusts the murder of a cousin squarely into the lives of the Bender family. Graham explores the southern Arizona National Park and its archeological mysteries while addressing the cultural impact of the U.S.-Mexico border hostility.
Graham’s books are especially topical given our real-world loss of national park acreage to (IMO) misguided earlier administration policy, which chipped away at the protected lands, potentially losing ancient sites, all for the search for oil and other energy sources.
The official launch date for “Saguaro Sanction” is March 7th. Look for it. 🙂
Please visit www.scottfranklingraham.com for more information about Graham and his work.