The abandoned hotel on Blood Mountain stood vacant for twelve years in the Arizona desert, shrouded in mystery and rumors, until LA playboy Buddy McCain inherits the property and decides to reopen the inn. He convinces his contractor pal, JT Carpenter, to move in and help him remodel the once-fine hotel, but then, trouble starts.
When JT’s wife Heather and her dysfunctional sister, Rachel Ryan, join them in their project, the group is systematically terrorized by someone who desperately wants them out…and leaves a dead woman in the parking lot, just to make sure they get the message.
While Buddy and JT struggle to reopen the hotel, Rachel defies the orders of the local deputy sheriff and investigates the strange happenings on her own, but Blood Mountain holds tight to its secrets.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: I thoroughly enjoyed Blood Mountain by Joanne Taylor Moore. I love old abandoned buildings that are brought back to life, so this book was just my cup of tea. The story centers on Rachel Ryan, whose sister Heather and brother-in-law JT Carpenter team up with a longtime friend Buddy McCain to restore the old hotel he inherited on Blood Mountain in the deserts of Arizona. When Rachel loses her temper, and consequently her job, she has no recourse but to join the motley crew in the desert to help with the hotel.
Rachel figures that she will be bored stiff from day one, but little does she know the desert is teaming with excitement: hunky men, dangerous criminals—are they one and the same?—secret caves, drug runners, and murder. The plot had so many twists and turns I couldn’t put the down until I finished it.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Blood Mountain by Joanne Taylor Moore was extremely well done for a first time author. This lady has real talent. The plot was extremely complex, with so many bad guys that I couldn’t be sure who the real villain was right up until the end.
The characters were delightful and totally believable. Rachel came across very well as a smart, spunky, independent lady, who was too much of a curious busybody for her own good. Despite strict instructions from two determined law-enforcement officers to leave well-enough alone and let them handle it, Rachel sticks her nose in where it doesn’t belong and nearly gets her head taken off. And while I was screaming at her not to do the dumb thing I just knew she is going to do anyway, I was right there with her, rooting for her as she did it. As Taylor said, the book is a page-turner, but I will also add that it’s a keeper.
The crimson sky reflected on the water, turning it red, like the color of blood, as Eduardo Ruiz cautiously stepped toward the canal blockage. A stench hit his nostrils and he jerked his head back. He spotted a shotgun lying on the ditch bank; he stopped to stare at it. It was Juan Rodriguez’s old Remington. Suddenly, the hair on the back of his neck stood up. He took another step and froze, a scream stuck in his throat. Jammed up against the gate was the twisted body of a man. Floating next to it was a head, bobbing in the current like a giant apple. It was the body and severed head of Juan Rodriguez, the night irrigator.
Twilight came; heat lightening danced in the darkening sky. Juan’s thick, calloused hands raised the gate of the number three ditch. He watched the canal water flow in and move along silently, seeking the portholes that led to the field of new hay.
Juan had worked this job so many nights that he could tell by the feel of air that the temperature still hovered at a hundred degrees, but the trickle of breeze was enough to dry the sweat on his face when he stood up to survey the farm in front of him. In the glimmer of twilight, only a fraction of the forty-nine-hundred acre spread lay within his line of sight.
Most men shied away from the job of night irrigator. It was a lonely, boring job, lifting gates and watching water flow. Juan loved it. Aside from the occasional snake he’d find residing in a ditch, he loved the hush and stillness of the night, the solitude and peace that came from working by himself.
Juan was a writer. While he drove the canal banks, thoughts struck him like the sharp little rocks that hit the undercarriage of his truck. He filled notebooks with his stories, with his hidden life, written under moonlight, sharing them only with the woman he loved and her young son. The boy would run to him, begging for a tale of dragons or adventurers, and he’d catch a glimpse of the boy’s mother and her approving smile.
When Juan stood, he noticed a flicker of light out of the corner of his eye. It was a greenish dot on the east side of Montana de la Sangre, or Blood Mountain as the gringos called it. He jerked his head to stare at it.
Standing near the center of a long range of tall peaks, Blood Mountain rose higher and bolder than the rest, and it proved true to its name. Before twilight faded, the massive, rock-strewn mountain turned the color of blood.
Most illegals wouldn’t have given the greenish light another thought, but Juan was not like most. His curiosity was strong enough to ensure that he always carried binoculars in his truck, and his common sense required he also carry his 12-gauge Remington buried under a blanket behind the seat, just in case his curiosity lead him into a situation where he needed it.
He adjusted the binoculars in time to watch the second green light appear. The two green orbs floated in the darkness not far from the old Indian burial ground. Like everyone else who worked for Venkman Farms, he had heard the old ghost tales and was discouraged from checking out the area. It was private property, anyway, most of it locked up behind a chain-link fence, belonging to the owner of an old, abandoned hotel. Yet Juan often wondered why lights would appear in a place that had been unoccupied for so many years.
He went back to his truck, dug around under the seat, and retrieved one of his cheap spiral notebooks. In the dim light of the cab, he flipped ahead to an empty page and noted the date and time. Turning to the front, he realized he first had seen the green lights two years ago. He gazed up inquisitively at the mountain.
Juan went back to his work and finished up quickly, Montana de la Sangre now faded to a dim outline pasted on a darkened sky. He checked his watch and calculated he had two hours to kill. He figured he’d have plenty of time to drive up the mountain, find the source of the lights, and get back to open gate number four before the water filled the field. He was dead wrong.
Franz Venkman raced the Dodge Ram over the dusty roads, crushing the chunks of clay that spilled out from the old canals. He cried out when he reached the damage, slid to a stop, and felt a knife-like pain cut through his gut.
Irrigation water had broken through an earthen dike surrounding acres of month-old romaine and quietly flowed into an adjacent field to the south, turning it into a calm, shallow lake. He stared at the disaster. Pale green seedlings floated aimlessly on the surface of the lake like tired swimmers, their roots no longer connected to the fertile soil. Forty acres of new lettuce was totally destroyed.
Franz stepped on the gas and raced again toward where Eduardo waited, all the while filling the cab with his swearing and cursing.
Otto, huddled in the passenger seat as far away as possible from his father’s spewing anger, stared straight ahead, and said nothing.
The Dodge slammed to a stop next to the new Ford. The father and son jumped down onto the canal road where Eduardo Ruiz stood waiting.
“What the hell happened?” Franz screamed at the foreman. “I got forty acres of ruined lettuce out there. Do you have any idea how many thousands of dollars that means? Do you?” he demanded.
“Dad,” Otto Venkman said, nudging his father on the shoulder. “Over there.” He cocked his head toward the canal.
Franz turned his head toward the water. He noticed the body, muttered a curse, and let out a deep breath. “Who was he?” His eyes turned to steel and his lips pulled into a thin, tight line.
“Juan Rodriguez, a night irrigator,” Ruiz answered softly.
The sun ascended over Blood Mountain, bathing everything in a golden light. The men stood silently for a few moments as moist heat rolled stealthily towards the cooler soil of the irrigated fields. They turned at the sound of an approaching truck.
“You called the sheriff?” Otto asked, recognizing the vehicle.
“Si, señor, right after I call you.”
“For a suicide?” Otto turned to his father. “Do we need to get the law involved with this? That Tucker will be all over the place.”
“Too late to worry about that,” Franz answered with a dour look.
“But you know he killed himself,” Otto said, his voice a notch higher. He turned to Ruiz. “He was depressed. Don’t you remember, Eduardo? He’d been acting strange lately.” He stared at the foreman with the same cold blue eyes his father had. “Eduardo?”
The foreman, his face brown and wrinkled from years at his job, understood. He dropped his eyes and nodded. “Sí, señor,” he finally said.