Book one of the Shandra Higheagle Native American Mystery Series
On the eve of the biggest art event at Huckleberry Mountain Resort, potter Shandra Higheagle finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. She’s ruled out as a suspect, but now it’s up to her to prove the friend she witnessed fleeing the scene was just as innocent. With help from her recently deceased Nez Perce grandmother, Shandra becomes more confused than ever but just as determined to discover the truth. While Shandra is hesitant to trust her dreams, Detective Ryan Greer believes in them and believes in her.
Can the pair uncover enough clues for Ryan to make an arrest before one of them becomes the next victim?
Targeted Age Group:: all audiences
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 2 – PG
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
My brother is an artist who makes and patinas bronze statues. He told me about a large statue that came apart and had a spear. He mentioned it would make a great murder weapon. That kept swinging back around in my mind and finally I had to write a book using that as a means of murder.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I have always had a fascination with the Nez Perce Indians. Specifically the Chief Joseph band which wintered and summered in the county where I grew up until they were forced from their land. When I decided to write a mystery I made Shandra Higheagle half Nez Perce and a descendant of the Chief Joseph band, which were exiled first to Oklahoma and then to the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington state. I had met an author who was half Native American and asked her questions about what it was like growing up and then decided my character would be kept from her Nez Perce relatives after her father died. She grew up denying her heritage until one summer when she was mad at her mother and stepfather and spent the summer with her grandmother. This grandmother passes away before book one begins and Shandra is requested to attend the Seven Drum ceremony for her grandmother's passing. After the ceremony and when Shandra is a suspect in a murder, her grandmother comes to her in dreams giving her clues to the real killer. And that is the premise of the Shandra Higheagle Mysteries.
“Stop! Put your hands in the air!” he shouted.
Shandra squeaked and raised her arms.
“Did you call the cops?”
He advanced on her so fast she didn’t know what was happening until he wrenched her arm behind her back.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m detaining you until I can search the premise.” He cuffed her and started to haul her to the door.
“Oh, no, you don’t. I’m not going into a squad car and looking like a criminal when I’m not. I just arrived and found Paula in the office. I was starting to call nine-one-one when I heard the sirens.” Shandra dug in her boot heels. There was no way she’d have the whole town see her sitting in a cop car. She’d done nothing wrong.
“Who’s Paula?” He tugged on her, but she refused to be humiliated for nothing.
“The owner of the gallery. She’s in her chair in the office. Dead.” That stopped the zealous officer.
“We received a phone call of suspicious activity.” He changed course, pushing her ahead of him to the back of the building and the office.
Shandra complied. She’d rather stand by the office door while he did his thing than be seen in a cop car.
At the office, Blane, his name tag said, stood her next to the door. “Don’t move. You’re still a suspect.”
She nodded. She’d stay here all day if she didn’t have to look at Paula again.
He entered the office. “Holy shit.”
Shandra couldn’t have said it better. She heard him moving around before he came back out. He pushed the button on the radio receiver clipped to his shoulder.
“Dispatch, this is Blane. We’ve got a homicide over at Doring Gallery on Huckleberry Street. I have a suspect in custody.”
“Now wait a minute—”
He silenced her with a swipe of his hand through the air.
“Don’t let anyone else enter and don’t leave the premises until a detective gets there.” The excitement in the dispatcher’s voice reminded Shandra this resort town rarely had excitement of this magnitude.
This was big news for Huckleberry. Sad news, but big news. She didn’t like to think someone from their small town could be a murderer. She knew most of the locals.
She’d purchased the old Whitmire ranch thirty miles north of town two years ago. That was a month after she’d graduated from college and received enough of an inheritance from her maternal grandmother to try her hand at pottery. Her search for a place had taken a while. One of the reasons being she needed land with a certain type of clay soil. She found it on the ranch. The clay was her signature in her pottery.
Officer Blane yanked on her arm. “I’m gonna sit you in the extra chair in the office.”
“Oh no, you’re not. You bring that chair out here. I’m not sitting in there and staring at Paula. The one glimpse I had is enough to haunt me.” She glared at the man, thankful he was only a few years past puberty and she stood several inches taller than him, making it easier to intimidate.
He ducked into the room, pulled the extra chair out, and Shandra gladly sat down. For all the bravado she showed the officer, her knees were knocking together. She was his only suspect for the killing. She was innocent. But growing up, she’d witnessed more than one Native American person be railroaded. It was the reason her mother and stepfather forbid her to talk about her father’s family. They felt she would be persecuted. The small ranch community in Montana where they lived was tolerant of very little.
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