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by Scott Graham
Torrey House, June 2015
245 pages
ISBN: 193722645X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This is not the first time I've picked up a second-in-a-series with trepidation. When the first is as good as CANYON SACRIFICE was, there's always a worry that the second will disappoint. Fortunately, MOUNTAIN RAMPAGE is as good as the first. The prologue sets up one of the story lines, and the initial scenes that have archaeologist Chuck Bender rushing to the hospital with his very sick new daughter sets the stage for his own personal growth. Once the main plot takes off, with Chuck leading a group of archaeology students in the excavation of an old mine in Rocky Mountain National Park, the reader is hard-pressed to put the book down.

Graham knows how to build suspense, and throughout the book there are many scenes during which my house could have been burning down and I wouldn't have noticed. As in his previous book, this amateur archaeologist writes best when he is writing about the physical trials associated with climbing in remote locations and the history behind his plots. In MOUNTAIN RAMPAGE, this history has to do with gold mining, so the reader learns a lot about how a mine like the one the students are excavating came to be and what could be inside. Again, greed plays a significant role in the plot.

The archaeology students are housed close-by to support workers for the Park, and there is much mingling between the two groups. When one of the workers is killed, and Chuck's new brother-in-law is a "person of interest," Chuck's desire to protect his new family causes him to make some poor choices. As the character begins to develop in the series, Chuck's fallibility helps give him dimension; at the same time, it can cause a certain amount of dissonance in the reader. One wonders whether any rational man would make these same mistakes. Nonetheless, it's hard not to root for Chuck as he struggles to keep one step ahead of the police to nab the killer while protecting his brother-in-law.

One of the joys of this National Park Mystery series is the beauty with which Graham writes about the landscape. In this book, Rocky Mountain National Park springs off the page in full color. Having been there and seen the location with my own eyes, I can confirm that Graham captures the majesty of the Park. I can only imagine that a reader who has not personally visited the Park would be anxious to do so after reading about it in MOUNTAIN RAMPAGE. And I'm sure that reader would be careful that his or her car was in good working order before making the trip!

Sharon Mensing is the Head of School of Emerald Mountain School, an independent school in the mountains of Colorado, where she lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, January 2015

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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