Mining Sacred Ground, by David E. Knop

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MWSA Review

Peter Romero--a Marine veteran, former military policeman, and disgraced tribal policeman for the Cochiti pueblo--is an unlikely and reluctant hero in this murder mystery set in the world of the Arizona desert. When Romero's cousin is murdered, no one seems interested in pursuing justice except Romero and an odd old Apache, Tag Taza. Bad things keep coming from all sides: meth-dealing biker gangs, assaults, arrests by the local police, a sniper, pot thieves, and a disgruntled wife. At one point, Taza says "I look for trouble and there you are."

Like in Tony Hillerman's novels set on the Navaho reservation, the reader is immersed in the way of life and belief systems of the pueblos and the Apache. Soon Romero's present day becomes populated by sightings of Coyote, the trickster, as well as visions of his dead cousin and other ghosts. Rather than leading our protagonist safely through trouble, these send him into more danger and disconnect him further from anything normal until the reader wonders if modern day troubles can be confronted and defeated using spirits of the past or will the mortal clay of Peter Romero be destroyed.

David E. Knop has written a fast-paced, gritty novel of a spirit warrior's journey to find a killer so his cousin's ghost can finally rest on sacred ground.

Reviewed by: Marcia J Sargent (February 9, 2012)

Author's Synopsis

Ancestral spirits demand that Marine veteran Peter Romero protect the secrecy of a sacred burial ground, and the world becomes a stranger place than he’d ever understood. He is pitted against a psychotic anthropology professor in a life-and-death struggle through the hills, arroyos, and caves of central Arizona, and into another world. 

When Romero’s cousin is murdered, the former military policeman is astonished that the local sheriff shows no enthusiasm for solving the crime. He is forced to recognize that, after a military career, greater danger lies ahead in his civilian life.

Romero takes up arms to mete out his own justice, but he must decide if he belongs to the world he sees, or to a spirit world in which he discovers the strength of his ancestors. He makes their power a part of his being. As a spirit warrior, Romero battles self-doubt, his wife’s threats of divorce, and local law enforcement who plan his murder. He confronts an armed gang bent on revenge, skirts federal agents intent on stopping him, and evades the deadly fire of a deranged sniper. 

Aided by a wise tribal elder, Romero uncovers a tangle of clues that link his cousin’s death to trafficking in ancient treasures and a deadly conspiracy that centers him in their crosshairs. Romero combines his combat experience and the fighting skills of his ancestors to dispatch his enemies and protect an ancient secret.