When last I spoke with Father John O'Malley, he was on his way to Rome for a sabbatical. And Vicky Holden was caught up in her own affairs. (No pun intended.) That was in the 13th Wind River mystery novel, The Girl With Braided Hair.
Suddenly I was free to turn my attention to other characters who had walked into my mind and refused to walk out. Who were these people, pestering me as I drove around town, waking me up in the middle of the night? An attractive and troubled young woman who, for sometime, refused to tell me her name. Then one day she introduced herself: Catherine McLeod, investigative reporter for a Denver newspaper. The handsome, confidant man at her side was ---well, I was surprised to learn that he was a Denver police detective by the name of Nick Bustamante. Now why, I asked myself, would Catherine need a police detective in her life?
It was then that Catherine told me someone was trying to kill her. She had stumbled onto a story that someone was intent upon keeping hidden, and she was on the run for her life, a professional assassin not far behind.
The rest of the novel fell into place. It would be about the actual proposal in 2004 to build an Arapaho and Cheyenne mega casino, resort hotel and cultural center on the plains near DIA. The tribes had filed a claim to 27 million acres of eastern Colorado, about one-third of the state, as reparations for the atrocities of the 1800s, including the Sand Creek Massacre. In exchange for 500 acres for the casino, the tribes would give up their claims.
All perfectly legitimate under the Indian Gaming Law and a common way for tribes across the country to acquire casino lands. But in the novel, Catherine begins to unravel the dark story behind the story that leads into the shadowy recesses of Denver's past. Along the way, I realized, she must also confront the dark side of her own past.
I liked the calm steadiness of Nick Bustamante, but Catherine, I discovered, is a strong and sometimes foolhardy woman determined to strike out on her own and uncover for herself the truth that will save her own life.
Blood Memory is a love letter to the city where I was born and grew up. I loved going along with Catherine to the Denver Public Library, the Art Museum and Capitol, the historic buildings and modern skyscrapers. We rode the 16th Street shuttle and went to Confluence Park and the old neighborhoods. All of it as familiar to me as the shape of my own hands. I could have led Catherine through Denver blindfolded.