Novels

The Mountain Mystery Series

The Road the Lavender

3rd PLACE WINNER IN THE MYSTERY/SUSPENSE/THRILLER GENRE, ROCKY MOUNTAIN FICTION WRITERS, 2019 COLORADO GOLD WRITING CONTEST

a mystery novel of 80,000 words by D.P benjamin

PREVIEW OF MANUSCRIPT

My novel places ANNE SCRIPTOR, a dedicated young student of archaeology, at the center of a deadly treasure hunt. Anne’s university professor, DR. ARNOLD CLARK, dispatches her to drive from Arizona to western Colorado with instructions to cache a dozen nondescript toolboxes in remote mountain locations. Without her knowledge, Dr. Clark has hidden a rare artifact in one of the boxes and he’s counting on her to place it in a secret location.

Disillusioned with his fading career and angry that his personal collection of relics has been confiscated by the government, the professor plans to sell the artifact to the highest bidder. His scheme has attracted dangerous criminals and, knowing he’s being watched, he avoids detection by using Anne to smuggle his treasure to Colorado. Once she and the treasure are safely out of Tucson, he plans to secretly follow, retrieve the artifact, and sell it for millions.

Her assignment appears to be a typical exercise in geo-caching—a popular outdoor activity that challenges students to use maps and orienteering skills to locate the hidden objects. Once Anne completes her task, other students will be sent to the field to search for the boxes. But, she never finishes her work because, midway through her assignment she reaches the small town of Lavender where things go awry.

Mysterious strangers follow her until they die in unexplained explosions. Local characters take an unwholesome interest in her and DIAK HODELL, a sinister German, lurks in the shadows watching her every move. Seeking allies, she accepts help from TRINIDAD SANDS, a local man who owns the lavender farm which is the source of the town’s name. The two share a budding romance until she grows to distrust the handsome stranger.

When Anne learns that Dr. Clark has abruptly disappeared, she senses danger. The strong-willed girl slips away from Lavender and, driven by a sense of loyalty to her professor, embarks alone on a harrowing journey to retrieve the cached boxes. Retracing her steps through the Colorado wilderness she is pursued by the relentless German, a murderous Russian mob, and a growing posse of state and federal law officers. Trinidad, who reveals himself as a private detective investigating Dr. Clark, realizes how much he cares for Anne and he rushes to find her. But before he can come to the rescue, she is kidnapped by the German and returned to Lavender.

Held captive in an abandoned house, Anne marvels at the unexpected appearance of her professor. And she is further perplexed when the illusive man reveals that one of her caches contains a priceless prehistoric arrowhead which notorious international criminals have offered millions to possess.

The arrowhead—a tiny Clovis point—has gone missing and both her jaded professor, who has committed archaeological heresy by offering to sell the treasure, and the dangerous German, who seeks to steal it, are determined to possess the missing artifact. As the professor and the German clash in a deadly showdown, it will take all of Anne’s cunning and courage to survive.

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Hypothetical Cover Design
A Lavender Wedding
A mystery novel of 80,000 words by d.p. benjamin
excerpt from manuscript

ANNE SCRIPTOR formed a working partnership with TRINIDAD SANDS by joining his investigative team and six months later the handsome detective proposed marriage and Anne said yes. The working couple was already busy with a perplexing case and the wedding wasn’t going to plan itself. So she had come to Glenwood Springs to audition a wedding band and tie up loose ends on the Koller case. The band had been awful and the loose ends refused to be tethered. After a frustrating day, with little accomplished, she was trying to relax in the warm embrace of the mountain town’s famous hot springs pool.

She closed her eyes and sought to clear her mind.

It was late and she was the sole occupant of the sprawling mountain complex. The main pool, where she had just finished swimming laps, was about half a block long and, although the open water was reputed to be maintained at a constant 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the night air had grown chilly and she halted her circuits at twenty. Now she was sitting in the smaller and much warmer therapy pool, languishing in the heat and steam as water jets caressed her tired shoulders. In fifteen minutes it would be 10 o’clock—closing time and she was certain the staff would be glad to be rid of their final customer.

Anne sighed. She should be making wedding plans. But, instead of compiling a guest list and planning a reception, her thoughts kept returning to the fantastic events of the past twenty-four hours. The case was a troubling one: a dead mother and three daughters missing—how deep did this sordid tale go? She was lost in speculation until a nearby voice jolted her back to the present.

“My daughter needs your help.”

“Pardon,” Anne said as she reached back to turn off the jets.

“She needs your help,” the voice repeated.

Anne pushed away from the pool wall and turned in the shallow water until she could make out the figure of a woman standing on the deck above her. She tried to study the face, but the mist was thick and she couldn’t read the features.

“Mrs. Koller?” Anne ventured the name of the woman she knew to be dead.

“Of course.” The woman’s reply was raspy, perhaps intentionally disguised. It was a deep sound, almost animal in tone.

“And how do you suggest…?”

“Just stop,” the woman interrupted as the night wind shifted and she seemed to disappear in the enveloping steam. “You need to stop.”

Feeling the need for distance, Anne pivoted and swam further from the wall. Then she turned to tread water and stared into the mist for some sign of movement, but the phantom had vanished.

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Hypothetical Cover Design
Lavender rare
A mystery novel of 80,000 words by d.p. benjamin
excerpt from manuscript

The visiting Chinese geologists were masquerading as fossil hunters. Their secret mission to search for rare earth minerals had brought them to the wilds of Colorado and they were convinced they need protection.       

Despite representing a brutal Communist regime and despite their shadowy roles as covert agents with clandestine intentions, the thought of their journey to the decadent West had filled them with dread. Their selective viewing of Hollywood films along with daily news accounts of mass-shootings had convinced them that all Americans were gun-crazy. And, if America was an unruly nation filled with pistol-packing varmints, it seemed logical to the nervous Chinese that they would encounter particular danger in the wilds of Colorado which they believed to be a wholly isolated and completely lawless frontier.

Their secret search for an isolated deposit of rare and valuable minerals meant they would be exploring miles of remote mountain terrain—a journey which their imaginations enlarged into a perilous trek through hostile territory. So they had been momentarily stunned to learn that their journey would not include the services of a well-armed platoon. But their fears were instantly allayed when they met JEREMIAH SPURGE and understood that this huge man was to be their assigned transporter and formidable protector.

So Spurge was on the job and it was just ANNE SCRIPTOR’s luck that she was left alone to neutralize the giant bodyguard. Lying prone fifty yards away, she struggled to get comfortable with the rifle and its awkward sling. Remembering how much she hated guns, she was certain that the recoil would be unpleasant and she imagined the telescopic sight slamming into her eyeball. But TRINIDAD and the others were depending on her. There would only be time for one shot and she had to make it count.

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Lavender farewell
A mystery novel by d.p. benjamin
CONCEPTUAL STAGE ONLY

It may be time for my husband and wife detectives, TRINIDAD and ANNE SANDS, to leave Lavender. I envision the catalyst for their departure to be an unsolved murder perpetrated by a notorious villain who was earlier presumed dead.