Thursday, December 19, 2013

Collaborative Novel, Rubicon Ranch: Riley's Story Presents Complex, Creative Mystery...

Rubicon Ranch:
Riley's Story

A Collaborative Novel

Lazarus Barnhill, Nichole R. Bennett, Eric Beetner, J. B. Kohl, Pat Bertram, J. J. Dare, Christine Husom, Deborah J. Ledford, Nancy A. Niles

I must have been one of the few individuals whose time did not permit watching and/or participating online as this book was written. Nevertheless, I was still surprised that it had not been reviewed! Wow, you need to check it out now while it's only 99 cents for Kindle! Actually, the group is now writing their third novel, so I probably won't ever catch up with this prolific group...

First of all, a collaborative novel meant one thing to me--continuity. Would the story read as if it were written by only one author. Yes! In fact, I was amazed how well it did, so I'm guessing maybe one author acted as editor as well...but that really doesn't matter for readers!

Interestingly, the group decided to write as the characters in the story, so that it is only when that character is involved, do you have the chapter announcement indicate whose POV this chapter will relate to. It seemed unusual, but didn't disrupt the story in any way. Think Columbo and consider that each of the characters are being interviewed and, of course, suspected...LOL

For murder...

And, believe me, it would take a Columbo-type investigator to follow and figure out this case. One thing for sure, when you have a collaborative novel, you will never want for the number of suspects needed to keep the story weaving and bobbing right in front of your head, and readers thinking, stop, I need to think through this! Actually, it is really quite fun! Ok, I have to say fun because I didn't have a clue--that must be what happens when you've got a whole group working to ensure the mystery will not easily be solved!

Or Maybe we need Miss Marple for this mystery since we have someone who can play the part right at the Ranch!

Melanie stopped by an overturned sofa, pointed the camera, and clicked the shutter. How could she ever fool the publisher? He’d know immediately that these photos came from someone without artistic vision. A horn beeping in the distance caught her attention. A white SUV slowly traveled along a narrow road, following two massive dogs. Whenever the dogs strayed too far afield, the horn sounded, and the creatures loped back to the vehicle. She snapped a photo of the scene, then headed for the rocky trail that would take her to the other side of the knolls. 
A man and woman jogged by in tandem, he running heel to toe, she running toe to heel. Melanie photographed their footprints so she wouldn’t have to look at the couple. Is this the way the rest of her life would be? Alone, trying to avoid the pain of seeing people in pairs? Keeping her gaze on the trail, she climbed the knoll. When she reached the top, a faint breeze stirred her clothes, and she could feel the coolness of her drying sweat. She lifted her head and jutted out her chin. I can do this. She’d never understood the lure of photography, but now, snapping image after image of the desert and the distant hills, she could appreciate how much simpler and cleaner the world appeared when seen on the screen of a camera. 
Some of the photos actually seemed passable. She really could do this. She turned around to get shots of the trail she’d just climbed and saw a glint of metal reflecting the sun. She squinted. What was that? A television? She found herself smiling—her first smile since Alexander died. She scrambled back down the trail. 
The television console had been dumped a long time ago judging by the creosote bushes that had grown up around it, but footprints leading to the box suggested it had been visited recently. She took several shots from the trail, about fifteen yards from the television, then moved closer. The television had no screen, and she could see that something had been stuffed inside. A doll? 
She crept closer. Ten feet away, she stopped to take another photo, and the truth washed over her. Not a doll. Crammed inside the cabinet was a child, a girl, her eyes half-eaten by some desert predator. A scream of rage gathered in her chest, but the only sound she made was a whimper. No! Not more death! Feeling tears gathering behind her eyes, she sucked in air and blew it out. It would be hard enough dealing with the cops without blubbering like a fool. When she got control of herself, she called 911, told the dispatcher where she was, who she was, and why she was calling. After stowing the cell phone in her pocket, she took another photo of the dead girl, then stepped back to get a wider view of the scene.

Melanie Gray acts as the investigator--just because she's nosy? I don't know, but there always seems to be at least one individual living somewhere who, when a murder occurs, turns out to be inquisitive enough to ask the questions. She's there on site, knows many but not all the residents, and doesn't mind putting herself out there, even when, yes it could be dangerous. Ahhh, otherwise, there'd be no cozies for we fans!

Besides, she found the body of the little girl and would not soon forget it, especially since she had also recently lost the love of her life and was still trying to adjust to a life without him. And so, a sheriff has to come into the picture, right? Actually, there were three cops in the area who made up an interesting group that I think you will enjoy.

Rubicon Ranch was somewhat enclosed but fairly far from any town. Most of the occupants were artists and some not too friendly. Individuals moved in and out through a central management arrangement... So it was natural to assume that whoever did this was an occupant of the of the neighbors! Unfortunately, it could even be another child...

 A day did not go by that Dylan McKenzie did not think about the lyrics to Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.” His mother had given him nightmares telling him stories about how the large companies were poisoning the environment. “Someday even the rain will be made up of poisonous, toxic chemicals,” she’d told him. “And it will fall on everyone and cause horrible diseases and painful deaths.” She spoke of the future violence to come when children carried weapons and fought in the streets. He’d once read the lyrics, but it had been like a Rubik’s cube to his young brain and he’d latched onto his mother’s wisdom and had turned Bob Dylan into his own personal idol and prophet. 
As he grew older he began to wonder why nobody stopped the chemical companies, why the people of his mother’s generation were so intent on peaceful solutions, when obviously they didn’t work, and why did they spend so much time smoking pot and wiling away the days when so much work needed to be done? Flower Power. What a cop out that turned out to be. Fear and intimidation were the only ways to get people to do what you wanted. 
He had learned that much from his dad, who’d once been a flower child himself, but had since learned the real ways of the world. He’d seen his dad push people around and noticed how they backed off and let him get his way. Dylan knew the shame of letting his dad intimidate him. But he’d always just been a kid. The day would come when the old man wouldn’t be pushing on him anymore. I’ll show you, Dad, like I showed that silly kid, Riley.

Funny, when you think of places located far away, you'd never think of Facebook in connection with it, yet there was a connection that had been found and noted...a family had created a page for their daughter who had been taken... and then they had received a response... Were the parents of the dead child guilty?

Obviously that was a lead, but as questions start, there seemed to be many people in this community who had secrets--secrets they didn't want to share! So, of course, Melanie Gray had to figure out how to gather their information much more courteously... LOL

Seriously, I believe this mystery is well worth your time. I had read a number of the authors so I knew the writing would be great! The individual life stories of the "suspects" were especially interesting as we learn about them... I'm just happy I thought to get a copy even though it took me so long to read it! Highly recommended!


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