Skeleton Picnic

Skeleton Picnic

Skeleton Picnic
Skeleton Picnic is the second J.D. Books novel

Third generation Kanab residents Rolly and Abigail Rogers come from a long line of dedicated pot hunters who scour the desert southwest in search of valuable antiquities. When the Utah couple fails to return from a weekend skeleton picnic, (pot hunting trip)along the desolate Arizona Strip, local Sheriff Charley Sutter turns to BLM Law Enforcement Ranger J.D. Books for help.

When Books searches the missing couple’s home for clues about their disappearance, he discovers the house has been burglarized and a valuable collection of ancient Anasazi and Fremont Indian antiquities stolen. Soon a search and rescue operation finds the Rogers’ truck and trailer at an abandoned campsite near an ancient Anasazi ruin that has been recently excavated. Footprints and other evidence lead Books to conclude that the couple may have been overpowered by a small group of unknown assailants.

Sheriff Sutter assigns an attractive young deputy, Beth Tanner, to investigate the burglary of the Rogers’ home under the watchful eye of Books. Together they track some of the stolen property to a pawn shop in St. George, and ultimately to a young Navajo man with a criminal record. Keeping this man alive long enough to make him talk, however, proves difficult.

Books and Tanner soon learn of a shadowy group of armed Indian police who patrol vast swaths of tribal and federal lands in search of anyone desecrating ancient Native American burial sites. They also discover several recent unsolved cases in the Four Corners region where individuals disappeared into the desert wilderness under suspicious circumstances, never to be heard from again. Could the disappearance of the Rogers, and others, be the responsibility of this group?

As Books and Tanner close in on those responsible, Books’ own survival skills will be tested when he is unwittingly drawn into a remote part of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. There he is forced into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse, where the hunter becomes the hunted, and only one person gets to go home alive.



Publisher’s Weekly

People’s distrust of the federal government figures prominently in Norman’s atmospheric second mystery featuring Bureau of Land Management Ranger, J.D. Books of Kanab, Utah (after 2010’s On Deadly Ground. When Roland and Abby Rogers disappear while on a trip seeking ancient artifacts, and their home is burglarized, Books and a host of other law enforcement officers get on the case…

Details about pot hunting, such as that it’s both illegal and yet a generally accepted practice in many communities, lend interest. As Books and his well-depicted colleagues get closer to the truth, the danger increases while the chances of finding the Rogers alive decrease. Readers will hope Books and company will return real soon.

San Francisco Book Review

[Skeleton Picnic] is a classy police procedural with odd outbreaks of sundry violence and gunfire as our hero slowly uncovers evidence… It’s written in a simple and direct form, cutting quickly to the chase and never letting up in the pace until we arrive breathless at the end.

Reviewing the Evidence

[Skeleton Picnic is a mystery that] has much to offer: a stunning setting for its plot, believable characters with well written dialogue, enough action to sustain the mystery, and an ethical dilemma around which to base the storyline. Whether a reader is interested in the Southwest in particular or is just generally looking for a good story, Skeleton Picnic is sure to satisfy.


As in author Michael Norman’s last three books, this second of his J.D. Books mysteries, Skeleton Picnic, brings excitement and suspense into play… The cast of characters Norman has collected are as good and as bad as a good read would want them to be…Don’t miss this one. It’s a goodie, an old-time Western with up-to-date equipment.

The Durango Herald

Books is a strong and dedicated hero with just enough flaws to be interesting. The action is set in a striking landscape that is rugged, harsh and beautiful, and part of the remote Wild West. Skeleton Picnic is a story that twists and turns and pulls readers into the unique subculture of “diggers…” It’s a fine addition to Norman’s debut J.D. Books mystery, and fans will welcome this new adventure.

Deseret News

Filled with intrigue, adventure, family struggles and even some romance, Skeleton Picnic takes the reader into the world of illegal pot hunting and law enforcement efforts to derail the practice. With a wide range of criminal justice experience, Norman paints an interesting and entertaining picture of both sides of the law in this profitable but dangerous business.


Simply put, Skeleton Picnic is a fun summer read. It was suspenseful without being overly stress-filled and it coaxed me along from one page to the next. The characters are memorable, well-developed, and easy to root for…. Skeleton Picnic is a great pick for those who enjoy suspense novels, Native American fiction, and mysteries. Author Norman writes with a style that flows along, easily bringing his reader along for a fascinating ride. My favorite summer read yet!

Tulsa Book Review

A classy police procedural… well worth picking up if you like looking over the hero’s shoulder as he navigates through the investigation and tries to prove his theories correct.

Mysterious Reviews

Skeleton Picnic is one of those subtle mysteries that slowly but surely draws the reader in, one that proceeds along at a measured pace, the plot moving towards an inevitable confrontation that will likely prove deadly for someone. It’s a good way to introduce and maintain suspense in a crime novel, one that works exceptionally well here. Books is not investigating alone; his newest and only female deputy is Beth Tanner, an engaging character all on her own. The combination of a strongly developed storyline and the magnificent backdrop of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument make for a very compelling read.