Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cart of Death by Mari Ulmer

book cover

Cart of Death
by Mari Ulmer

ISBN-13: 0-373-26577-0
Mass Market Paperback: 250 pages
Publisher: Worldwide Library
Released: Sept. 2006

Source: Bought at library book sale.

Book Description from Back Cover:
The sacred and the secular merge in Taos during Las Fiestas, and the charming bed-and-breakfast run by Christina Garcia y Grant is filled with celebration. While the festival's grim visage of La Dona Sebastiana--death--can be sobering to the uninitiated, true revelers understand that life is only worth living when death is watching.

Then a young gallery assistant goes missing, while the body of an associate is found murdered among some rare artifacts. The curator, a newcomer who specializes in recovering local religious art, enlists Christina's help--but his motives become suspicious when she makes a connection to a string of antiquity thefts from museums along the Santa Fe Trail. Another body surfaces on the banks of the Rio Grande, proving once more that a land steeped in mystery and tradition can be quite deadly as well.

Cart of Death is a culture-filled mystery novel. The main characters were smart, engaging, and fairly complex (though they didn't grow as people throughout the book). The low level of suspense throughout the story was created by the worry that the missing woman might end up dead if they didn't find her soon and from Christina being somewhat attracted to the new guy in town whom Mac (who's jealous) thinks may be a criminal. While I thought of the murderer as a suspect, I'd say this novel keeps you guessing about "who-done-it" until the end.

The characters were mostly Hispanic, so some Spanish was used. The meaning of the Spanish words were usually obvious from the context, but there was also a glossary in the back. The Hispanic culture & Catholic faith and the upcoming festival provided a rich cultural backdrop to the story. While there were a few references to "he prayed" or "they attended mass," there was no obvious Christian message.

There was no sex. There was a minor amount of cussing and swearing (and that was mainly from one character). Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable mystery.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
The call came just as Christy reworked a sentence in her novel. With a sigh, she set it aside and pulled out the will she had prepared. The Barelas had wanted to wait. Now they needed her.

Christina Garcia y Grant drove away from the high adobe walls of what had been her grandmother's hacienda, presently her own Casa Vieja, a busy bed and breakfast. Those walls provided a refuge from the world, and from the practice of law she had mostly left, while giving her a living so that she could write. But now she had a duty to the dying.

The car wrapped her in heat collected from the sun beating down on this breathless summer day. Dark with rain, thunder heads built higher and higher, towering in the west, threatening a monsoon downpour. The waiting stillness felt oppressive, heavy.

A cloud of dust hung in the air behind Christy's car on the narrow dirt road. Here in Talpa, just south of Taos, New Mexico, hidden little by-ways led to houses and mobile homes outsiders never saw. Many of the older people spoke no English and dated their forebears back to the Spanish colonists who followed the conquistadors. Christy wondered how her green eyes came from that gene pool. Maybe a blond northern Spaniard?

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