The National Park Mystery Series, by Scott Graham, features contract archaeologist Chuck Bender, Chuck’s paramedic wife, Janelle Ortega, and Chuck’s new 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” is the fifth entry in the National Park Mystery Series. It’s 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.
Chuck is still learning his role as a step-dad in “Arches Enemy” – what works and what doesn’t. He’s been used to making decisions without regard for the impact on others, sometimes being unnecessarily hot-headed. Janelle reigns in well-meaning Chuck when she can in their personal life and supports his fascinating professional endeavors, as long as the family remains safe.
Graham’s books are especially topical given our real-world loss of national park acreage to recent administration policy, which has been chipping away at the protected lands, potentially losing ancient sites, all for the search for oil and other energy sources.
The official launch date for “Arches Enemy” is June 11th. Look for it. 🙂
Please visit www.scottfranklingraham.com for more information about Graham and his work.