Book: Murder by the Marfa Lights (The Ariadne French Mysteries) by Denise Weeks
|5 stars based on the 3 most helpful Amazon reviews|
Denise Weeksabout this book: Are you interested in fiction with a different perspective on our world and examines fantastical/paranormal experiences in a rational light without ruling out any possibilities? First in the paranormal cozy Ariadne French series, MURDER BY THE MARFA LIGHTS explores the mystique around the Marfa Mystery Lights, which are a major draw in Marfa, Texas. Curiosity seekers as well as local believers come nightly to the viewing area (set up by the state, not by woo-woo enthusiasts--the lights have performed since the early 1800s) to see whether the lights will appear. Ariadne French has come to Marfa because she has inherited from her ex--but his death is suspicious, and she becomes entangled in the web of cryptography software and mystic Cherokee lawyers as she looks into it.
Visiting the Marfa/Alpine area of Texas inspired me to set Ari's adventure here. The town has become an artists' colony and retreat, and its denizens are eccentric and interesting. I found many opportunities to put Our Heroine and her intrepid older sister (who comes to her rescue about halfway into the story) into actual locations, including the hotel where the movie GIANT with James Dean was filmed. Here, the setting and the flavor of Texas is a character in the novel. You can practically feel the sand creeping between your, um, toes and under your contact lenses!
The toughest part of writing the book was staying true to Ari's real nature. Unlike so many Alpha Heroines of today, who seem to have no flaws and never bother to think before they spring into action (even if it's wrong and not thought out), Ari questions herself and her place in the universe. She asks why Aaron would leave everything to her . . . and why his family and new friends seem so unusual. Readers who are used to the slam-bang sort of PI heroine will need to recalibrate, because this one is more thoughtful and introspective. The relationship between these thirtyish sisters is quite unlike the one between the sisters in my other series; these two have a shared difficult family history, and much of their interaction is affectionately confrontational. Some readers may think that the colorful Marfan residents are TOO outlandish, but one of my Amazon reviews done by a native of Marfa says, "I wish she had included more colorful local characters!"
Character and character change is paramount in this one. What is the nature of the Marfa lights and other similar phenomena? Is it "weak" to acknowledge that there are forces and situations that we don't understand and that are beyond our control? After all, science in the 21st century boasts that it Knows Everything, but science is always constantly reversing itself. Oat bran is magic! No, it isn't! Watch out for those fats! I mean carbs! I mean fats! No one can really claim to Know Everything, and those with open minds and a healthy skepticism that isn't closed to new discoveries may find many wonders.
Ari is told that her ex still really loved her. But the evidence says he hasn't been faithful, and he never mentioned to her his project for encryption--the software that may have gotten him killed by one of several factions interested in being the only ones to have the new algorithm. His preacher is her contact in Marfa, and from the moment she arrives there, the man is practically a smarmy remora, controlling her schedule. Why does he feel he already "knows her" and why is he so attentive to her? What is with the mystic lawyer and the chase through the desert? I ask readers to examine everyone's motives in more depth as the story proceeds.
On the cover is a Polaroid I shot of the Marfa lights performing for us one evening. Whether or not you accept the supernatural origins explanations, you must admit that the mystery is intriguing. In writing the book, I learned that the truly educated person does not dismiss out of hand even the most outlandish claims and explanations. In most myths, legends, stories, and lies, there is a kernel of truth. Universal truth? Perhaps. The reader will decide.
I hope readers decide to take the ride with Ari and experience some of the most interesting and colorful settings in Texas as they try to figure out the puzzle!
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