When Christine Bennett is invited on a sightseeing trip to Arizona, she jumps at the chance for a little adventure. But the excursion reminds her of a former high school classmate, Heinz Gruner, who died twenty years earlier on Cinco de Mayo while hiking Picacho Peak near Tucson. Chris decides to contact Heinz’s mother, who has been wondering all these years how her beloved son, an experienced hiker, plunged to his death. Her one wish is to find out the truth–whether it was an accident, as the police report claimed, or murder.
So Chris begins sleuthing–tracking down anyone and everyone connected to her old classmate. Determined to unravel a mystery, if there is indeed one to unravel, Chris will stop at nothing to uncover the dire secrets that exist about that fateful day in May.
About the Author
Lee Harris’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. She also has a website that she shares with three other mystery authors, and it can be found at www.NMOMysteries.com.
Read an Excerpt
In the years since I was released from my vows at St. Stephen's Convent, I have learned to expect almost anything when the phone rings. I have received the usual good news and bad news that is part of everyone's life, and in addition I have heard extraordinary and frightening messages. Last year someone called to say that a murder would take place, after which I heard a gunshot.
So if I answer the phone reluctantly or with hesitation, it's not hard to understand why. But on a rainy day in April, I was thinking of other things as I walked toward the ring, picked up the phone, and said, “Hello.”
“Chris, it's Joseph. I hope everyone is well.”
Sister Joseph is the General Superior of the convent where I spent fifteen years of my life, many of them as a Franciscan nun. Above and beyond that, she is my closest friend, and hearing her voice always makes me happy.
“Joseph, what a pleasure to hear from you. We're fine, looking forward to some dry weather before we all sink into the mud.”
“We have the same problem here. If you take a step off the walkway, it's at your peril. But I have something warmer and drier to talk about.”
“There's a conference next month in Phoenix, Arizona, that I've been asked to attend. Besides the fact that I've never been out there, the topic of discussion is important to St. Stephen's. We're going to discuss the problem of too few novices and too many aging nuns in American convents.”
“Not a topic I enjoy thinking about.”
“True, but one I'm forced to think about more and more. I'll be flying out to Phoenix the first Saturday of May. The conference will begin on Monday and last until mid-week. Then I'd like to take a day or two to visit Tucson. There's a beautiful old mission there that I've always wanted to visit.”
“It sounds like a wonderful trip, Joseph,” I said, thinking that she deserved it.
“I'm really looking forward to it, especially the Tucson part. I've received permission to rent a car for part of my stay, so getting to Tucson won't be a problem. What I'm calling about is whether you might be interested in accompanying me.”
There was a silence and I realized I was supposed to respond, but I was so startled I didn't know what to say. “Travel with you?” I finally managed to get out.
“I would enjoy having a traveling companion, and there's no one I'd rather share the trip with than you.”
“Joseph… that's a wonderful invitation. I would love to do it. But I can't give you an answer right now. I'm sure you understand.”
“Of course I understand. There's Eddie to think of, and Jack's needs, too. I just wanted to tell you about it and see if you think it might work out. The diocese will pay for the hotel rooms, which should make it more reasonable.
Also the car. I'm so glad you're enthusiastic. Think it over and give me a call when you've discussed it with your family.”
“We'll talk about it tonight. Thank you so much.”
“And I won't drag you to dull meetings. You'll be on your own. I assume that's something that will please you.”
“I look forward to hearing from you, then.”
I hung up and sat down. All I could think was, Wow! Arizona, the Southwest, Phoenix, Tucson, an old mission. What a fantastic piece of luck, and how fortunate I would be to do it with a person who was as anxious as I to see everything, to leave nothing undone. I began to look at my calendar, to try to figure out how I could have Eddie taken care of without impinging on Jack's work schedule. He was now a lieutenant at NYPD and often had to work weekends. That was a lot better than the nights he'd worked when he was first appointed, but it did limit our family time.
I went upstairs to the closet where we kept our collection of maps. In an atlas of the country I found the page for Arizona. Besides Phoenix and Tucson, the Grand Canyon was there, a place that I had often dreamed of visiting, but Joseph's schedule sounded too tight.
After Eddie came home from school, I waited another half hour and called Mel, my neighbor across the street. She has been teaching in what we in Oakwood call the little school—K through four—for a couple of years, and often gets home after the children.
“Chris, hi, how are you? I've been so busy with our class project, I've neglected my friends.”
“I'm fine. We're all fine. Is this a bad time to talk?”
“Not at all. Why don't you drag Eddie over? Noah's here, Sari's somewhere else. I'll have to look at my calendar to find out where.”
I laughed. “Sounds like you need a personal secretary.”
“I do. It's just I can't pay anyone. Oh, here it is, Brownies. Someone's taking her home so I'm off the hook. Come over.”
“On my way.”
Mel was the first person I'd met after moving into Aunt Meg's house when I was released from my vows. Something clicked between us and we became friends. At the time she had two young children, while I was still single and feeling my way around a secular world that in some ways I hardly knew. Happily for both of us, when Jack and I married, our husbands took to each other and became friends as well. Mel helped me navigate my way into life in Oakwood, not an easy job for someone who had been cloistered her entire adult life.
Eddie was happy, as always, to visit Mel and any children who might be around. Besides the attraction of friends, he knew there were always delicious cookies in the Gross house; he never had to be asked twice. He ran down the street ahead of me and waited impatiently at the door as I took my time on the walk, admiring the shrubs and spring flowers.
“Come in, come in,” Mel called, seeing Eddie on her doorstep. “Chris, I tried that jasmine rice at Prince's and it's great. Goes with that chicken stir-fry I told you about.”
“I tried the stir-fry. You were right. It was easy and quick and Jack loved it. Maybe I'll give the jasmine rice a try, too.”
“So what's new? Doing any work for Arnold?”
Arnold Gold is my lawyer friend from New York. He farms out word processing jobs to me when I'm available and his staff—which isn't very large—is overworked. “I'm just finishing something, and I have to go over it carefully,” I replied. “There's a lot of language that's more legal than I'm used to, and the sentences don't always make sense to me.” I turned to Eddie. “Eddie, what are you doing?”
“Just looking at the magazine.”
“You can read it if you want,” Mel said. “Noah's upstairs if you'd like to visit with him. He has some new software.”
“I'm pretty sure he has games.” Mel turned to me. “Isn't that what computers are all about? We keep trying to get the kids to learn interesting things and all they want to do is play games.”
“They're learning,” I assured her. “What a world.”
“Eddie, take some cookies upstairs. Here, I'll get you a couple of napkins.”
She received one of Eddie's best smiles for her trouble. As he mounted the stairs, carefully holding cookies and napkins, I heard the teakettle begin to whistle. We would sip tea as we talked.
As we sat a few minutes later, I told Mel about the phone call from Joseph.
“That's wonderful, Chris. You'll just love the Southwest. We did. Hal thought we might consider buying a second home out there someday, if we can ever afford to send these kids to college and still have anything left. Where will you go?”
“I told her what I knew of Joseph's wishes and itinerary. “We won't get to the Grand Canyon but I can visit places around Phoenix while she's in her meetings. Then we'll drive down to Tucson—it doesn't look very far on the map—and see an old mission she's wanted to visit for years.”
“Probably San Xavier. It's quite beautiful. You see it off to the right as you drive south on I-19. It's perfectly white and domed. The sanctuary is beautiful, and there's a museum in the building. You can go to mass there on Sunday morning, too.”
“I don't know if we'll be there that long. Listen to me, I haven't even talked to Jack about it yet.”
“He won't mind,” Mel said as though Jack were her brother. “He's a good sport.”
That was true. “What's the food like?” I asked. I'm not what Jack calls an adventurous eater, although I have improved with age.
“Yummy. There's lots of Mexican. If you like guacamole and refried beans and enchiladas—”
“I don't even know what you're talking about. Well, I hope it works out.”
“Of course it'll work out,” my optimistic friend declared. “I'll talk to Hal tonight and make a list of the places we loved so you'll have an edge when you get there. When did you say you were going?”
“It'll be hot in May, but who cares? Everything's airconditioned and whatever hotel you stay in will have a pool.”
“It sounds wonderful,” I said.
“It is. You'll see.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I never read any of Lee Harris's books before. Until four days ago when I picked up me e-book and was trying to find out what to read and that's when The Cinco De Mayo Murder book 17 in the series Christine Bennett Mystery caught my eye, well I can tell you that this book will keep you going to the end of the book. It takes you to a beautiful mountain trail where a death acured some 20 years ago and how 3 young men covered it up. Its up to Christine Bennett to solve this accidental crime or was it murder. Stop what you are doing and go grab a copy of The Cinco De Mayo Murder by: Lee Harris.
Ienjoyed each and every one of them and i hope lee harris will continue with this series.
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