Book 1 in the Commander Cortez mystery series

When American anthropologist Anna Merino arrives in the sleepy village of Cuamantla in rural Tlaxcala Mexico to conduct her dissertation research, she becomes embroiled in a homicide and the theft of the village's most prized possession, the Real Cedula, a document from King Philip II of Spain, dating back to 1551. The prospect of chronicling her first fiesta fills Anna with anticipation until the murder of school director Pedro García upstages the Cinco de Mayo celebration. Pedro's scurrilous behavior may not have warranted the severity of its consequences, but few people in the village seemed troubled by his demise after he scandalized the village over his affair with nineteen-year-old Olivia Sanchez. Thus begins the adventure that changes Anna's life, starting with the decision by village officials to quietly ignore the murder and send Pedro's body back to his home village in the mountains of Vera Cruz .

Further complicating matters, the Cuamantla Municipal President discovers the theft of the community's prized possession, the Cedula Real, a 1551 oil-on-canvas royal decree from the King of Spain, a document the President kept locked in his office.  Afraid village officials will accuse him of theft, he asks Anna to contact her thesis advisor (a former resident of Tlaxcala now living and teaching in the States) to intercede with the villagers on his behalf. At some point, Anna realizes she can't save others when her own life is in danger for having inadvertently filmed the murderer during the Fiesta celebration. And then there's the issue of her attraction to at least one of the handsome and charismatic men intent on capturing her affection, including Commander Jose Cortez, Head of the Tlaxcala State Police.


The first of its kind
This is the first book of Harol Marshall's that I read, and it was fabulous. I was in graduate school pursuing my PhD and learning about qualitative research when I picked up this mystery, and was struck by the rich, thick descriptions in the book ... I easily pictured the Mexican town and school where the murder took place, and felt the main character's frustration with the local police, and the 'other worldliness' of a murder in another country, one without our American CSI perceptions of rapid-fire evidence processing and prosecution. Marshall is a gifted author and her characters are relatable and compelling.

~ "The Reading Teacher"


Great read. Interesting characters, surprise ending! I enjoyed the book. The storyline was not overly complicated and the details regarding the setting were great.

~ Reader D. D.