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Anthropologist Sophia Shepard is researching the impact of tourism on cultural sites in a remote national monument on the Utah-Arizona border when she crosses paths with two small-time criminals. The Ashdown brothers were hired to steal maps from a "collector" of Native American artifacts, but their ineptitude has alerted the local sheriff to their presence. Their employer Anthropologist Sophia Shepard is researching the impact of tourism on cultural sites in a remote national monument on the Utah-Arizona border when she crosses paths with two small-time criminals. The Ashdown brothers were hired to steal maps from a "collector" of Native American artifacts, but their ineptitude has alerted the local sheriff to their presence. Their employer, a former lobbyist seeking lucrative monument land that may soon be open to energy exploration, sends a fixer to clean up their mess. Suddenly, Sophia must put her theories to the test in the real world, and the stakes are higher than she could have ever imagined. What begins as a madcap caper across the RV-strewn vacation lands of southern Utah becomes a meditation on mythology, authenticity, the ethics of preservation, and one nagging question: Who owns the past?


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Anthropologist Sophia Shepard is researching the impact of tourism on cultural sites in a remote national monument on the Utah-Arizona border when she crosses paths with two small-time criminals. The Ashdown brothers were hired to steal maps from a "collector" of Native American artifacts, but their ineptitude has alerted the local sheriff to their presence. Their employer Anthropologist Sophia Shepard is researching the impact of tourism on cultural sites in a remote national monument on the Utah-Arizona border when she crosses paths with two small-time criminals. The Ashdown brothers were hired to steal maps from a "collector" of Native American artifacts, but their ineptitude has alerted the local sheriff to their presence. Their employer, a former lobbyist seeking lucrative monument land that may soon be open to energy exploration, sends a fixer to clean up their mess. Suddenly, Sophia must put her theories to the test in the real world, and the stakes are higher than she could have ever imagined. What begins as a madcap caper across the RV-strewn vacation lands of southern Utah becomes a meditation on mythology, authenticity, the ethics of preservation, and one nagging question: Who owns the past?

30 review for Picnic in the Ruins

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rana

    Two major flaws. The writing felt oddly both flat and trying too hard. Like, it was maybe supposed to be funny but I just kept thinking the jokes were just bad writing. At one point, there's a reference to Oreo's as a "sugary snack" and the reason for the explanation was that maybe the character didn't know what Oreo's were. This was either a try at sarcasm and witty repartee or um, the stupidest writing ever? It was just very inelegant. Who the fuck explains Oreo's as a "sugary snack" and not a Two major flaws. The writing felt oddly both flat and trying too hard. Like, it was maybe supposed to be funny but I just kept thinking the jokes were just bad writing. At one point, there's a reference to Oreo's as a "sugary snack" and the reason for the explanation was that maybe the character didn't know what Oreo's were. This was either a try at sarcasm and witty repartee or um, the stupidest writing ever? It was just very inelegant. Who the fuck explains Oreo's as a "sugary snack" and not a fucking cookie? And the other major flaw was one that went beyond the writing into kinda squicky offensive behavior. So, this is about artifacts and history and returning and who owns them and who digs them up and a few characters are American Indian. And the main characters even starts a presentation with a tribal lands acknowledgement at one point. But nowhere in this book and certainly nowhere in the author's end section did I get any hint that he bothered to consult any American Indian during writing or editing. It just feels VERY WEIRD that an author would use a tribal lands acknowledgement as character building but not say anything about his own personal consultations while writing. Slightly leading into that flaw was the ticking of the box of different groups that said UTAH: park rangers, American Indian, Mormon/LDS polygamy, far-right gun-happy conservative. All of them showed up with very little having to do with anything or building either plot or motivations. Just filler. So, overall, no.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    What I did like about this book was its setting. But it's the second thriller I've read lately that uses dispute over antiquities, their provenance and eventual fate. Who owns the past. There are quite a lot of characters, but with one exception, none are particularly memorable. What I did like about this book was its setting. But it's the second thriller I've read lately that uses dispute over antiquities, their provenance and eventual fate. Who owns the past. There are quite a lot of characters, but with one exception, none are particularly memorable.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This adrenaline filled, crime ridden, often humourous romp through the wild lands of Utah and Arizona was like an action movie in print form. There were shootings, car chases, kidnapping, double-crosses, and of course murder, but somehow it was also really fun! There is an almost slapstick level of comedy provided by the Ashdown Brothers and their idiotic, yet witty banter that made me chuckle more than once. There are a lot of characters who at first seem to have little to do with each other bu This adrenaline filled, crime ridden, often humourous romp through the wild lands of Utah and Arizona was like an action movie in print form. There were shootings, car chases, kidnapping, double-crosses, and of course murder, but somehow it was also really fun! There is an almost slapstick level of comedy provided by the Ashdown Brothers and their idiotic, yet witty banter that made me chuckle more than once. There are a lot of characters who at first seem to have little to do with each other but as time goes on connections are made until finally it escalates into absolute mayhem and I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that not everyone survives. I was particularly concerned about sweet cinnamon roll and inadvertent cultural appropriator Reinhardt and I won’t give any hints about his fate or that of any other character, except the dog; the dog survives. I can say that the perilous final chase through the desert was an absolute nail-biter and I was sure everyone was going to die. There was serious tension until the glorious and satisfying end. While this is a crime novel full of excitement and humour it also sneaks in serious messages about everything from archaeological ethics to government corruption to the treatment of Native Americans. As an archaeologist I died a little inside reading some of these scenes. Working in the Middle East I am very aware of looting and artifacts on the black market so I’m not at all shocked by that aspect but some of the actions of even the “good guys” caused me to physically cringe. I’m pretty sure my soul shriveled and hoped for death during the scene involving a backhoe. There are a lot of thoughtful relevant issues brought up dealing with the ownership of artifacts and archaeological sites and the ethics removing pieces to museums or even to private collections. The balance between preserving artifacts and preventing their possible destruction while maintaining their meaning is a tricky one and I certainly don’t have it figured out and neither do these characters. I completely enjoyed this rowdy crime caper and its strange, wonderful, and often awful characters. While the archaeologist in me couldn’t stop figuratively covering my eyes in horror it didn’t prevent me from losing myself to the hot, dusty landscape and the madcap tale. There are characters to love and many to hate and I had no problem getting invested in and swept away by the story. Thank you Counterpoint Press for providing an Electronic Advance Reader Copy via NetGalley for review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    PICNIC IN THE RUINS by Todd Robert Petersen is a riveting adventure novel! It’s set on the Utah-Arizona border and has several characters with interconnected storylines. I really enjoyed the cinematic quality of the writing and the classic mystery plot points. I found myself really absorbed into this story and read this book quickly in just two days. I’m so curious to read Petersen’s other book It Needs to Look Like We Tried now! . Thank you to Counterpoint Press for this review copy!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Randal White

    Simply put, I did not enjoy this book. Set in the Southwest United States, it's a story about ancient Indian ruins, their preservation, and their looting. I feel the author lost his way. Too many characters, none of whom I liked. The story itself couldn't figure out where it wanted to go. It felt jumbled together, and not really going anywhere. It just left me feeling unsettled and unsatisfied. Cannot recommend this one. Simply put, I did not enjoy this book. Set in the Southwest United States, it's a story about ancient Indian ruins, their preservation, and their looting. I feel the author lost his way. Too many characters, none of whom I liked. The story itself couldn't figure out where it wanted to go. It felt jumbled together, and not really going anywhere. It just left me feeling unsettled and unsatisfied. Cannot recommend this one.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Mensing

    This Western thriller takes place in an unnamed national monument near Bryce Canyon. I'm pretty sure it is meant to be the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that the characters are involved in a scheme associated with the federal government's plans to reduce the size of the monument, something that has actually happened to Grand Staircase Escalante during the last administration. The monument contains many Indian ruins, both charted a This Western thriller takes place in an unnamed national monument near Bryce Canyon. I'm pretty sure it is meant to be the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that the characters are involved in a scheme associated with the federal government's plans to reduce the size of the monument, something that has actually happened to Grand Staircase Escalante during the last administration. The monument contains many Indian ruins, both charted and uncharted, and this book concerns the attempt by some to plunder those ruins and the opposing attempt by others to protect them. The characters are just what you might expect from a book set in the vastness of the Western landscape, including an archeologist, a park ranger, and a tourist on the preservationist side and backwoods brothers, an evil capitalist, and a hired assassin on the opposing side. In addition, the reader meets a small-town lawman, an off-the-grid eccentric, a polygamist family living alongside an isolated antigovernment group, and many others. The book has a very eclectic and fascinating cast. Throughout, the reader is asked to join in a struggle to understand the nuances of ownership of ancient ruins and artifacts. As one can imagine, this is a very complex topic which Petersen asks the reader to contemplate but for which he doesn't provide a definitive answer. Copies of copies and provenance play a role, but mainly to stimulate reflection. The fast-paced suspense is well resolved, if somewhat quickly, at the end of the book. I found a connection revealed at the very end to be a bit hokey, but otherwise found the ending satisfying. The writing about the desert landscape of the monument is beautiful and as enticing as it is frightening. I loved reading about this part of the world, an area that is familiar to me. Being transported by Petersen to the monument is as close as some will come to visiting it, and I imagine the heroes of this book, and Petersen himself, will be quite happy with that.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    A mystery set near Bryce Canyon - a man spent his life collecting Native American artifacts then decides to return them to the places he found them. Several plots all converge in the end; an energy company trying to buy the land, a park ranger helping the old man return his artifacts, a young doctoral student trying to decide if tourism helps or hurts the land, and a German man on a quest to discover the Western myth of Native American life. All the characters are interesting and some were very A mystery set near Bryce Canyon - a man spent his life collecting Native American artifacts then decides to return them to the places he found them. Several plots all converge in the end; an energy company trying to buy the land, a park ranger helping the old man return his artifacts, a young doctoral student trying to decide if tourism helps or hurts the land, and a German man on a quest to discover the Western myth of Native American life. All the characters are interesting and some were very funny. What is fake or real?

  8. 5 out of 5

    Stella

    There’s a ‘scene’ in “Picnic in the Ruins” where Sophia Shepard is giving a presentation to a herd of tourists. While she talks about museums and who owns the items inside of the museums, one of the audience members mentions that instead of going to a museum, these tours are bringing people to the original locations - almost more of an ‘on-site’ museum. Something about this stuck out to me. When we (as people) go to museums, we are just looking at stuff from other places. Why don’t we go to thos There’s a ‘scene’ in “Picnic in the Ruins” where Sophia Shepard is giving a presentation to a herd of tourists. While she talks about museums and who owns the items inside of the museums, one of the audience members mentions that instead of going to a museum, these tours are bringing people to the original locations - almost more of an ‘on-site’ museum. Something about this stuck out to me. When we (as people) go to museums, we are just looking at stuff from other places. Why don’t we go to those places instead? Why are there collectors of artifacts? Who owns these artifacts? What is the value of these items and these places? Maybe that’s going too deep. Let’s set the stage. Sophia Shepard is a Ph.D student who has been relegated to remote Utah. She studies in the impact of tourism on Native American sites. The Ashdown brothers are two ne’er do wells who botched a simple robbery and now are on the run from their fixer…who is a ex-magician. There’s a (handsome) Department of the Interior agent and a dermatologist from Germany who join Sophia on her studies and journey to various sites. There’s also a small town sheriff, a widow and a hi-tech cyber punk turned hermit. It’s like….It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World took place in the Utah desert and instead of ‘loot’, its artifacts and historical sites. This book is almost an onion - on the surface, a mystery, but peel back the layers for the comedy, then the core. The core plot of this book is the idea of ownership and artifacts. The question of who owns land and how has colonialism and westward expansion changed the landscape. Of what happens to those people and artifacts. I’m a massive fan of Todd Robert Peterson and his books and I have been for a long time. He was, in fact, the first comp. professor I had in college and his lessons on writing stick with me to this day. His books and writing in general always leave me with a lingering feeling - one that makes me want to write more, to research more, to question more. This book is no different. Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read this in advance of the January 5, 2021 release date. Thank you x1 million to Todd for continuing to inspire me, 20+ years later.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Brian Passey

    Armed with a strong sense of place and an array of lovably zany characters, this is the type of mystery that’s perfect for the Edward Abbey desert rat set. Combining elements of Carl Hiaasen’s character building and Nevada Barr’s knack for turning the landscape itself into a character, Petersen adds his own literary flourishes, strong storytelling skills, and a bunch of satisfying pop culture references to build a hero quest mystery that also manages to speak up for the environment and tackle pr Armed with a strong sense of place and an array of lovably zany characters, this is the type of mystery that’s perfect for the Edward Abbey desert rat set. Combining elements of Carl Hiaasen’s character building and Nevada Barr’s knack for turning the landscape itself into a character, Petersen adds his own literary flourishes, strong storytelling skills, and a bunch of satisfying pop culture references to build a hero quest mystery that also manages to speak up for the environment and tackle problematic subjects like cultural appropriation. Plus, it’s just a whole lot of fun to read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mike Cooke

    I pre ordered this book and received it yesterday, Jan. 5. Just finished it today, Jan. 6. Unfortunately this book is full of cliches, trite dialog, characters which feel like composites of corny made for TV movies, and a plot built to artificially include references to current politics, social justice issues, gender issues, and historical injustices to Native Americans. All of this would be fine I suppose if the story was coherent and with purpose, but that is not the case. I will say the cover I pre ordered this book and received it yesterday, Jan. 5. Just finished it today, Jan. 6. Unfortunately this book is full of cliches, trite dialog, characters which feel like composites of corny made for TV movies, and a plot built to artificially include references to current politics, social justice issues, gender issues, and historical injustices to Native Americans. All of this would be fine I suppose if the story was coherent and with purpose, but that is not the case. I will say the cover art is wonderful. Unfortunately what comes after the cover leaves a lot to be desired.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    This is one of those rare novels that would be better as a movie. Sophia, a Phd student in archeology, finds herself in the middle of a somewhat muddled mess of people in a remote area of the southwest. She's studying the impact of tourism on Native American sites even as she gives tours and lectures. She crosses paths with the loathsome Ashdown brothers who were involved in a robbery of artifacts. Then there's a cast of others who felt in some ways like caricatures. I wanted to like this, I rea This is one of those rare novels that would be better as a movie. Sophia, a Phd student in archeology, finds herself in the middle of a somewhat muddled mess of people in a remote area of the southwest. She's studying the impact of tourism on Native American sites even as she gives tours and lectures. She crosses paths with the loathsome Ashdown brothers who were involved in a robbery of artifacts. Then there's a cast of others who felt in some ways like caricatures. I wanted to like this, I really did, but the message about owning history got lost in my impatience with the people. That said, I'd love to see what the Coen brothers would do with it. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Stewart

    I don't read a lot of mysteries or crime thrillers but I do enjoy them occasionally especially when they have a gritty, modern road trip noir vibe to them. I'm also a huge fan of the Southwest and Utah in particular so I jumped at the chance to read this one. PIcnic In the Ruins is set in and around Kanab, Utah a town in South Central Utah just North of the Arizona border. I won't get into too much details about the plot partly not to spoil it but also because frankly it's convoluted and kind of I don't read a lot of mysteries or crime thrillers but I do enjoy them occasionally especially when they have a gritty, modern road trip noir vibe to them. I'm also a huge fan of the Southwest and Utah in particular so I jumped at the chance to read this one. PIcnic In the Ruins is set in and around Kanab, Utah a town in South Central Utah just North of the Arizona border. I won't get into too much details about the plot partly not to spoil it but also because frankly it's convoluted and kind of pointless. This is definitely an ensemble novel with a lot of different and interesting characters who's paths cross, kind of like a Robert Altman movie. At it's core is a young archeologist studying Aboriginal sites on an Government Grant, there's also a couple of bumbling criminal brothers trying to make ends meet by working for an evil hit-man/fixer who's also a former magician who in turn works for a shady women who's interested in Archeological artifacts and will do whatever it takes to find them. There's also a small town sheriff and a German doctor on vacation who gets caught up in all of it. Todd Robert Petersen evokes the beauty of Southern Utah very well but ultimately this feels like a big jumble of vignettes that don't add up to a cohesive novel. There's way too many characters, most of them are quite interesting but then get abandoned just as we're getting to know them. The book was described as sort of a Tarantino romp set in the Southwest but the novel is more concerned about the ethics/philosophy of National Parks and cultural artifacts then of weaving a page turner. It felt preachy in a weird way. I could go on and on but ultimately I found it to be a real disappointment though the writing was interesting enough that I'd give the author another try.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    We may be living in a time when race relations in the United States have reached their absolute nadir. Disputes between people have disintegrated into violence and bloodshed, and destruction of property public and private. Anyone reading this review this far would assume that I refer to relations between black/brown people and white people, and they'd be right. But very few of us, including me, ever make room in our thoughts for a different group that has undergone comparable levels of discrimin We may be living in a time when race relations in the United States have reached their absolute nadir. Disputes between people have disintegrated into violence and bloodshed, and destruction of property public and private. Anyone reading this review this far would assume that I refer to relations between black/brown people and white people, and they'd be right. But very few of us, including me, ever make room in our thoughts for a different group that has undergone comparable levels of discrimination and persecution: Native Americans. You know, those people who were here before white Europeans "discovered" America. The aptly titled Picnic in the Ruins pays tribute to the ghosts of long vanished indigenous souls. The book borrows from various genres to tell a story that makes a lot of people squirm. Among the cast of characters: A youngish PhD student who wants to study ancient American ruins for the purpose of writing her dissertation; a suspended park ranger, who invites the aspiring PhD student on a hike deep into barren territory, ostensibly for recreation; a dermatologist from Germany, who has been spellbound by stories of American Indians for his whole life, but quickly becomes disenchanted with the arranged tour through Indian villages that he has joined; two brothers, neither of whom would ever be admitted to Harvard, who have taken on a job assigned them by an unknown benefactor with the promise of rich rewards; an innocuous looking "fixer," who has been sent in by the benefactor first to arrange a heist and then to clean up the resulting mess; and a sheriff, his deputy and his dispatcher, dedicated but overworked and understaffed. Notice what's missing: there are almost no Native American characters at all. Thus, once again, we hear Native American stories told through white voices. The story begins in the study of an eccentric but well known collector of Indian artifacts. The two brothers raid his study, not expecting that he will be at home. But he is, and one of the brothers bashes in his head with a geode to subdue him. But they weren't supposed to commit murder; their mission was to steal the man's maps, but not to make it look like the maps were the only thing stolen. The other brother--the "brains" of the operation--resets the scene to make it look like a suicide, but everyone is suspicious of that conclusion. Meanwhile, on the hike, the ranger is true to his word in that the territory to which he leads the student in indeed remote and not terribly well explored, but his ulterior motive is quickly unfurled: He is on a mission to restore artifacts liberated from private collections to their original locations. The student figures it out, and whatever other ulterior motivations he might have had get suspended indefinitely. The student is speeding away from the scene in a huff, when she comes across a turquoise pickup truck hitched up to a trailer, accompanied by the distant growl of a backhoe opeerated by the brothers. The student stops to snoop, finds one of the maps, steals it, and flees. The trouble is, the whole thing was witnessed by the fixer, who "fixes" the brothers and takes off in well armed pursuit of the student. The student is blessed with uncommon speed, and outdistances her pursuer for a while, but she knows she is in a desert, and she cannot run indefinitely. She encounters a disabled car, within which lies the German dermatologist, whose car has broken down and compelled him to proceed on foot. He is dehydrated and delirious, but there is strength in numbers, so the two team up in an effort to outwit the fixer. There are elements of comedy here: one wonders how the two brothers can get dressed in the morning, so inept at everything do they seem. The student and the ranger think that the doctor is delirious from thirst, but once he is refreshed, he still indulges in ridiculous chants and dances because that's what he thinks Native Americans are like. There are close calls, near fatal falls, mixed messages, and people of ambiguous morals. But one thing Todd Robert Peterson is particularly good at is setting the entire sequence of events against the backdrop of long abandoned Native American villages, often chock-filled with artifacts and human remains. Because everyone is so busy talking, no one speaks up for the departed residents of these places. Their graves and their sacred grounds are constantly violated, pillaged and exploited by people whose only interest is their own gain. While the one brother uses the backhoe to dig into the earth at a long deserted settlement, the other brother discovers human remains in the discarded dirt. His conscience begins to trouble him; he does not believe that either he or his brother would stand for their mother's grave being uprooted in such a manner. He is not as articulate as the ranger or the collector, but he begins to understand instinctively that instead of rounding up artifacts and putting them behind glass in a museum, it may be better to just leave these things where they are, out of respect for the memory of the unknown people interred there. Most of the time, stories about racial minorities are presented through white eyes, and told through white voices. When we hear Native American stories told by the Native Americans themselves, we squirm with discomfort and with collective guilt. This story skillfully uses white voices to make a point about Native American history that deserves to be heard.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chessa

    I really wanted to like this. I had heard it was funny, and in my mind I had kind of expected it to be a Coen brothers dark comedy type of road trip adventure, but that is not what it was. It was...so slow. It just unspools, but in a way you just can’t bring yourself to get that worked up about. I like big sticky philosophical questions, but this. I just don’t know. It wasn’t the book for me. I found myself just very frustrated, very not-laughing, and bored. I didn’t hate it - it’s really well w I really wanted to like this. I had heard it was funny, and in my mind I had kind of expected it to be a Coen brothers dark comedy type of road trip adventure, but that is not what it was. It was...so slow. It just unspools, but in a way you just can’t bring yourself to get that worked up about. I like big sticky philosophical questions, but this. I just don’t know. It wasn’t the book for me. I found myself just very frustrated, very not-laughing, and bored. I didn’t hate it - it’s really well written. But I just didn’t find the experience enjoyable at this particular moment in time. I did love the setting, and having visited the area on a number of occasions helped me really imagine it vividly. The cast of characters is somewhat sprawling. No one is particularly that likable (not a deal-breaker at all but, just a fact). So many details included about some of the characters that I just wonder so much about why they were included. This is not a fair comparison, but this story is kind of like if you took Grisham’s novel The Pelican Brief and then removed ANY SENSE OF URGENCY from the story. Just, kind of convoluted and politically fraught, an assassin chasing people, but like, you don’t care that much. I wish I could be more constructive. *hides face in hands* Sorry, just not my favorite reading experience. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this in exchange for an honest review. Opinions completely my own.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

    It is always interesting to read novels set in locations that you have researched and visited. Petersen's latest novel is set in a national monument on the Utah-Arizona border. Sophia is an anthropologist who is researching the impact of tourism on cultural sites. Bruce is an elderly collector of Native American artifacts. Over the years, Bruce has not only assembled a vast collection, he has also drawn detailed maps of the "hidden" cities within the monument site - rich with artifacts. Someone It is always interesting to read novels set in locations that you have researched and visited. Petersen's latest novel is set in a national monument on the Utah-Arizona border. Sophia is an anthropologist who is researching the impact of tourism on cultural sites. Bruce is an elderly collector of Native American artifacts. Over the years, Bruce has not only assembled a vast collection, he has also drawn detailed maps of the "hidden" cities within the monument site - rich with artifacts. Someone wants those maps - hoping that the land will be open to energy exploration. No artifacts, no government or native protection for the land. This person hires the comedy team of the Ashdown Brothers to steal the maps and clear away the artifacts. The comedic misadventures of the bumbling thieves are not enough to make the book comparable with those of Dorsey or Hiaason- as some reviewers have written. "Picnic" is not a real mystery. No edge of your seat drama. It does, however, have one important thing going for it. It is a book that addresses the ongoing issues of preservation of cultural and historical sites. Should artifacts be removed and displayed in museums? Should they be observed, studied and documented at their site - and left as they were? Who owns the past? For someone interested in an excellent book on this topic, I suggest Craig Child's "Finders, Keepers".

  16. 4 out of 5

    Fred Rayworth

    Picnic In The Ruins was a fun and decent read about artifacts and a series of murders in southern Utah. It involved a weird cast of characters and had a complicated and convoluted plot. What made this story good was the outstanding writing, with third person limited and past-tense writing. At times it did seem to drag a big with the longer chapters, but at least they were broken up with relatively short scenes. Another odd quirk was that the author titled each scene at the beginning of each chapt Picnic In The Ruins was a fun and decent read about artifacts and a series of murders in southern Utah. It involved a weird cast of characters and had a complicated and convoluted plot. What made this story good was the outstanding writing, with third person limited and past-tense writing. At times it did seem to drag a big with the longer chapters, but at least they were broken up with relatively short scenes. Another odd quirk was that the author titled each scene at the beginning of each chapter in a group of titles. With so many twists and turns, the story was a real handful. There was a quirky sense of humor throughout and while there was a serious subject matter, there was also a weird way it was presented. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Overall, I had a good time, and in the end, the conclusion was mostly satisfying yet at the same time, a bit head-scratching. Still recommended.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Best book I’ve read this year so far! This book fits together like a puzzle. Set in the corner of Utah and Arizona, anthropologist Sophia is doing a research project on the impact of tourism on cultural sites. In a nearby town, a local Native American treasure hunter is found dead, supposedly of suicide. The small time criminals, the Ashdown brothers, having stolen the man’s map of Native American artifact locations and have gone in search of things to sell. And at the heart of the story is shou Best book I’ve read this year so far! This book fits together like a puzzle. Set in the corner of Utah and Arizona, anthropologist Sophia is doing a research project on the impact of tourism on cultural sites. In a nearby town, a local Native American treasure hunter is found dead, supposedly of suicide. The small time criminals, the Ashdown brothers, having stolen the man’s map of Native American artifact locations and have gone in search of things to sell. And at the heart of the story is should we dig up these cultural artifacts and move them from their locations to museums around the world, removing the history of those native people? The story was thought provoking, fast paced action and just gave me so much ethically to think about. The setting was amazing with the desert National parks. It would be a fabulous movie.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Craig Kingsman

    This is a crime novel, not mystery. You know who the killer is and you follow along as the case is solved. There's an interesting cast of characters. This is also a political statement about protecting Native American lands. The biggest flaw are the lists. Lots and lots of lists of things. One of the first things writers are taught is to not have lists of things. The author has many lists. I just glazed over them. You will too. I knocked this down one full star because of this. Other than the li This is a crime novel, not mystery. You know who the killer is and you follow along as the case is solved. There's an interesting cast of characters. This is also a political statement about protecting Native American lands. The biggest flaw are the lists. Lots and lots of lists of things. One of the first things writers are taught is to not have lists of things. The author has many lists. I just glazed over them. You will too. I knocked this down one full star because of this. Other than the lists, well written and engaging.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Carrie

    Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC of this title. I would have given 3.5 stars if possible because the book did grab my attention, and keep it until the end. That said, the plot and characters were muddled, and it got increasingly unrealistic as the story progressed. I appreciate the author's attempt to draw attention to important conversations about who owns the land, and how colonialism has turned history and culture into spectacle, but it definitely could have been addressed more smoothly. If yo Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC of this title. I would have given 3.5 stars if possible because the book did grab my attention, and keep it until the end. That said, the plot and characters were muddled, and it got increasingly unrealistic as the story progressed. I appreciate the author's attempt to draw attention to important conversations about who owns the land, and how colonialism has turned history and culture into spectacle, but it definitely could have been addressed more smoothly. If you like the desert & National Parks of Utah and Arizona, you'll appreciate reading this book for descriptions of place alone. Also good for people who like archaeological thrillers.

  20. 5 out of 5

    David Abrams

    I absolutely loved this Coen Brothers-esque noirish caper romp through the American Southwest. It has plenty of good, serious things to say about antiquities on public lands, but I really enjoyed the cinematic pace of this novel involving sacred sites, bumbling bad guys, and earnest federal employees. Plus, there's a badass hitman named Nick Scissors. I mean, c'mon, what's not to love? I absolutely loved this Coen Brothers-esque noirish caper romp through the American Southwest. It has plenty of good, serious things to say about antiquities on public lands, but I really enjoyed the cinematic pace of this novel involving sacred sites, bumbling bad guys, and earnest federal employees. Plus, there's a badass hitman named Nick Scissors. I mean, c'mon, what's not to love?

  21. 4 out of 5

    George

    Boring I could not get into this book. I had to force myself every time I started to read. Did t find any characters all that engaging. The story never felt it actually lifted off.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nantha Kumar

    The Conspiracy Plot Felt Too Streched even it's Damn Funny To Read. The Conspiracy Plot Felt Too Streched even it's Damn Funny To Read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    John

    This was just ok for me. The plot was fine, but I didn't really like any of the characters. I would have loved to explored the Native American perspective more. This was just ok for me. The plot was fine, but I didn't really like any of the characters. I would have loved to explored the Native American perspective more.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mhd

    BookPage blurb sounds good. Have downloaded kindle sample.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Val Wong

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brooke Howell

  27. 5 out of 5

    P R

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marg Corjay

  29. 5 out of 5

    Miranda

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kate Hopkins

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