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Mars Hill Murder by Mary Tolan is an Indie Reads pick #mystery #indiereads #wrpbks #giveaway

Title: Mars Hill Murder

Author: Mary Tolan

Genre: Mystery

Book Blurb:

Reporter Miles Harper is on probation at the northern Arizona daily newspaper where he works. His boss wants him out, but gives him one more chance to redeem himself. Maddy Sullivan is new to town, on the run from a violent husband. She and Miles meet at a coffee shop, and forge a hesitant friendship. Police Detective Luis Ortega, Miles's former college roommate, just wants to solve crimes. And someone is supplying those crimes by murdering low-level Flagstaff workers. Will these three figure out who the killer is before more people die? Will Miles help solve the mystery, write about it, and save his career? And will Maddy stay safe from the horrid man she once loved?


Rafat Shukla’s head bobbed to Drake’s “Take Care,” on his iPod, white wires spilling from his ears as he vacuumed a room at the Mountain Motel.

There was something about rap, and especially Drake. A Canadian-born rapper, his lyrics always got to Rafat. They weren’t as dark as some other rappers, and they were smart. Plus, he sang and rapped all at once, which was different, too.

Rafat was a rapper, and one day he hoped to make it big. His mother despised it because she said rap and hip-hop were too violent and dark. But he would write songs she’d be proud of.

His mother was a distant cousin of Karan and Urvi Vohra. Rafat had grown up in Los Angeles but moved to Arizona with his mom to get away from the gang influences, first in Phoenix, and now in Flagstaff. He’d never told his mother, but he was relieved to get out of the cities, where he knew he would have had to join a gang to survive. There were some wannabe gangs in Flagstaff, sure, but nobody had leaned on him yet, thank the gods. He was done with all that. He’d never killed anybody, but he had snitched on a couple of people for one of the neighborhood gangs, and then ignored what might have happened to those guys. This place was boring, sure, but he could actually breathe here. He also discovered that writing songs was a lot easier when you weren’t afraid all the time.

The only thing that bothered him in this new place was that he was expected to be best friends with his cousin, Tanak. The kid was a head case. Sometimes friendly, sometimes acting like he didn’t even know Rafat. Then, the other night, he saw Tanak in the motel parking lot talking to some guys who looked like no good. His eyes were flat-out scary. Ice on ice. Rafat wanted to warn the kid to stay away from thugs. He just didn’t know how to convey the message in a way Tanak would appreciate—or listen. He’d always heard from his mom that Tanak and his sister Amita were the goodie-goodie types, but now he wasn’t so sure. Didn’t seem like that, these past few weeks when it came to his boy cousin. That one night, from the cleaning closet just above the parking lot where he’d gone to retrieve a mop and bucket, he’d overheard Tanak talking to the man. Tanak had called the guy Frank-man. What kind of name was that? Should he say something to his mother or his aunt and uncle? He decided he’d wait. It really wasn’t his business.

The Mountain Motel was one of about a dozen Flagstaff motels owned by east Indians—as opposed to American Indians who, from where Rafat sat, didn’t own squat. He didn’t mind cleaning to help out his mother in covering their rent, even if it was way reduced by Karan.

He paused in his cleaning, stepped outside, and pulled out his golden fountain pen, a birthday present from his mother. That was the advantage to night cleaning. He could always stop to capture a couple of lines. He couldn’t be certain, but it felt like his songs were getting stronger.

Night sky, tight sky

everything all right sky,

soon no moon,

babe, let’s croon.

Maybe spoon? Both old-fashioned words—which his mom would appreciate, haha.

He was about to start another verse, but before he could write “Light sky,” he saw a flash of something in his peripheral vision, something shining in the dusty moonlight.

“No!” he thought, turning to face the assailant, Rafat’s pen extended like a weapon.

The knife cut into him before he could lunge. It struck again and again. The young man was dead before he hit the ground, notebook clenched in his hand. His cherished fountain pen rolled quietly away from his body, as steps retreated.

Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):

What makes your featured book a must-read?

Quirky, complex characters, Southwest setting of Flagstaff, Arizona, gripping mystery and a look at journalism, racism, and domestic violence.

Giveaway –

Enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card:

Open Internationally.

Runs December 5 – December 14, 2023. Winner will be drawn on December 15, 2023.

Author Biography:

Longtime reporter Mary Tolan worked as a community journalist for more than three decades, mostly in Arizona and New Mexico. She also reported on survivors of gun violence, traveling across the country to interview people devastated by their heartbreak and losses. She taught journalism at Northern Arizona University for twenty years. After retiring from teaching in 2021, she returned to her unfinished mystery novel, Mars Hill Murder, based in Flagstaff.

Tolan grew up in Wisconsin, and has lived in the Southwest for more than forty years. Her long-running monthly column The Long & Winding Road can be found in The Arizona Daily Sun. When she’s not writing, spending time with friends, or running/swimming/yoga-ing, she and her dog Maxx can be found out in the woods or traveling in their van.

Tolan’s sons live in California, her stepdaughter in Oregon, and her dog by her side—wondering when the heck she will stop typing and go for a walk.

Social Media Links:

FB: marytolan.mysterygal

IG @marytolan928


Dec 09, 2023

Lots Of fave indie authors and books!


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Dec 05, 2023

Thank you, Mary, for sharing your book in our Indie Reads Bookish Event!

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