Ask a Bookseller: A mystery without the procedure in 'Picnic in the Ruins'

Book cover of 'Picnic in the Ruins'
"Picnic in the Ruins" by Todd Robert Petersen
Courtesy of the publisher

Dana Welshans of Snowbound Books in Marquette, Mich., found herself surprised and delighted by the thriller “Picnic in the Ruins” by Todd Robert Petersen.

She called the novel a "mystery for readers looking for something outside your usual police detective procedural," set in the otherworldly geography of the Monument lands of the Utah-Arizona border.

At first, the book appears to be a small-town mystery. A famous collector of Native American artifacts is killed. A local sheriff sets out to investigate. But then, Welshans says, the story evolves into something that is part mystery, part thriller and part rumination of history and heritage — and what that means for the future of our public lands.

Welshans calls the book a natural fit for fans of Craig Johnson, Paul Doiron or C.J. Box, adding that, in her opinion, the colorful cast of characters and exciting chase scenes would make for an excellent Coen brothers film.

The Michigan bookstore has a Minnesota connection: They fulfill the Girls Empowerment Collections for St. Paul–based charity Books For Africa.

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