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Graham back with new National Park Mystery

Local author Scott Graham has written his eighth National Park Mysteries with the new release of “Saguaro Sanction.”

The adventure begins in late October in Saguaro National Park in Arizona near the the U.S./Mexico border. It is also next to the Tohono O’odham reservation, which is a massive 2.8 million acres and the second largest reservation after the Navajo/Diné reservation.

In this story, Chuck Bender is an independent archaeologist working out of Durango for the last 25 years. He works on contract and is currently helping research Hohokam petroglyphs in Saguaro. He is working with a varied team to discover if maybe these special petroglyphs aren’t just carved pictures but actually part of a complete language, similar to Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Six years ago, Chuck married Janelle Ortega and became a stepfather to Carmelita,16, and Rosie, 14. Janelle is a paramedic, and they have gathered in Saguaro during the stepdaughters’ winter break. Readers of Graham’s series will be pleased to learn of the family’s growing dynamic. Carmelita is not only athletic as a runner and rock climber, but is excelling as a budding academic. Rosie is involved in dance and improv and is fascinated by Chuck’s occupation.

If you go

WHAT: Author event and book-signing: Scott Graham, “Saguaro Sanction.”

WHEN: 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

WHERE: Maria's Bookshop, 960 Main Ave.

MORE INFORMATION: Visit https://bit.ly/3Zftxbq.

There is another hidden motivation for this trek down near the border, one that puts a focus on the complexities of immigration and the plight of people from south of the U.S. seeking asylum. Young, minor-aged cousins of Janelle are attempting to find safety with their extended family in America using a well-traveled route through the park. Things go tragically wrong when one of the boys is found dead near one of the water stations created by a humanitarian group. Another boy is severely injured and lying nearby. Janelle’s other cousin is missing. This causes the family to start a frantic but secret search for the missing boy.

As the search continues, Chuck and Carmelita cover one direction while Janelle and Rosie go another. Janelle and Rosie run across a clueless woman who is out of her element in the sun without water. Chartreuse, a rich Californian, is attending The Tucson Institute for Advanced Consciousness. She is looking for healing and understanding in her life. To Janelle, she seems a little woo woo. As they leave the remote area to take Chartreuse to her car, they discover an intriguing variety of petroglyphs. All of a sudden as the three are driving away, they run across a black SUV with two men who start shooting at them. Luckily, they escape without any injuries.

Thus begins a threatening change of pace in the action. It is clear that forces are at work against not only the migrants, but the lost culture of the Hohokam, who are the ancestors of the Tohono O’odham people. Someone is trying pervert part of their rituals and punish innocents. Chuck and his family must try to survive and find their missing cousin before he suffers the same fate as his twin. It’s a race against time and unknown assailants.

One of the big treats in “Saguaro Sanction” is Graham’s portrayal of this national park. His prose vividly brings all the readers’ senses into play, especially the sense of smell. Another appeal is his description of the history of the Hohokam and what they brought to this area of the Southwest.

Graham delightfully shares the evolving family dynamics of adapting to teens and their growth as individuals. This is something that many parents can understand. He also touches on the many different perceptions the immigration issue causes these days and how much things have changed from the more relaxed past when families lived on both sides of the border and could easily travel back and forth.

Leslie Doran is a retired teacher and freelance writer.