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Man Corn Murders [Hardcover]

Lou Allin

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 273 pages
  • Publisher: Five Star (May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594147507
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594147500
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 2.3 x 21.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,274,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Mystery and So Much More Aug. 25 2009
By J. M. Orenduff - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I spent my youth exploring the Southwest and most of my adulthood finding excuses to return. Each visit lightens my steps and clears my vision. Lou Allin's Man Corn Murders is better than going home because it comes complete with a guided tour. The geology, flora, weather, history, and culture of the four corners area come alive on her pages. But this is not a Frommer's; it's a murder mystery, and a crackling good one. Allin's carefully researched details of the Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument area are woven in to the plot so that story and travelogue mingle seamlessly.

Man Corn Murders, one of those rare mysteries that transcend its genre, is four stories of passage layered between two covers. On the surface is the vacation of small town Ohio reporter Terry Hart and her Aunt Judith to the four corners area. Under the surface is the evolution of their relationship from parent/child (Judith raised Terry after her parents died in an accident) to friends with a peek into a future where the feisty Judith will eventually come to depend on the fuddy Terry. The challenges Terry confronts in Utah give her the mettle she has lacked. These two characters are so well drawn that you find yourself wondering what happened in the next stage of their lives, as if they were real people.

The second story on the surface is the murder of a young college student on a dig in the area and the suspicion that residents of a retirement ranch are being killed for their Social Security. Floating below that mystery is the murky history of interactions between the Indians and the whites, highlighted by the question of cannibalism among the Fremont in the 1400's. The student's mummified body and confusions between ancient and recent graves become an allegory for six hundred years of history.

All of Allin's characters are vivid, and the complex ties between them keep you guessing until the end, not only about whodunit, but about who it was done to. Romance and suspense also spice this hearty stew of a story. Lou Allin is a well-known and accomplished writer who has written some great books set in Canada. But I marveled that someone who has spent her life in Canada and the American Midwest can capture the Southwest so perfectly. The obvious explanation is that she is a gifted writer. Read this book.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Man Corn Murders Aug. 8 2009
By Gloria Feit - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The opening pages of this novel thrust this reader squarely into the 112 degree heat of Utah's desert. Terry Hart, a suburban journalist in her early thirties, had traveled to the town of Escalante from Ohio with her 58-6ear-old Aunt Judith, a retired schoolteacher who had raised Terry after her parents died in a car crash when she was 11 years old. They have come in their RV both to explore an historic Mormon road as well as to look up Judith's old friend, Deborah, who had been living in a retirement ranch called Sunset Years. Instead they find some mystery as to Deborah's present whereabouts, as well as the disappearance some six weeks earlier of a much younger woman, a teenager, one of a group of anthropological students from the University of Michigan, who had gone missing.

They only have a few weeks before going back to their "boring, uncomplicated life" and want to make the most of their vacation, saying "nothing ever happens in Ohio." Just another example of 'be careful what you wish for." Their 'holiday' couldn't be further from boring and uncomplicated. There's male interest for both women, each attractive as can be but with a hint of suspicion attached until the mysteries are solved. The action is unhurried, but the spaces are more than filled up with a wealth of geographic, botanical, anthropological and geological data. The solution when it comes and the suspenseful conclusion are hinted at by the author, but no less satisfying for all that.

The Man Corn of the title has to do with a controversial theory about the Anasazi and Fremont tribes who had lived in the area and the possibility of their having resorted to cannibalism for survival centuries ago.

An entertaining summer read.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mystery and History Sept. 12 2009
By Martha A. Cheves - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
'Now she was too weak to leave the bunk, her tongue swollen and her lips cracking against every shallow breath, and she prayed for blessed release back into a warm, wet womb, her own barren into eternity. The tears had surrendered days ago, re summon them though she would to bathe sore eyes. She blinked a final time as cotton closed her ears and the pain fled, leaving her fresh and strong, moving her young muscles with the spirit of a freed colt.'

Terry Hart, a reporter from Cleveland, Ohio, and her aunt Judith Davis, a retired world history teacher, were out for a summer long trip to explore the historic "Mormon Road" ending up in Utah's Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument. Their trip takes them near Sunset Years Retirement Ranch where Deborah, an old friend of Judith lives. Upon reaching the ranch, Judith learns that Deborah has left the ranch to live in Seattle with a nephew. Puzzled by the move, Judith starts investigating and learns that two other residents have mysteriously left the ranch as well. These sudden moves become a challenge to Judith that must be solved.

As Terry and Judith explore parts of the 1.7 million acre wilderness, they run across a cave with a metal door. Upon entering the cave they discover the body of a young woman. Melanie Briggs was an anthropology student who had been missing for several weeks. Now came another mystery which Terry vowed to solve. How did Melanie become trapped inside the cave?

Through her investigation, Terry learns that Melanie believed that the ancient tribes resorted to cannibalism in their attempt to survive the elements. Her theory brings enemies and threats from some of the locals. But did it upset someone enough that they would actually lock her inside the cave?

When I was a child my Dad moved us to a small town just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. I loved seeing the Great Salt Lake, the Bonneville Salt Flats and even the artisan wells that just "spring" up out of the ground. I've always wanted to go back and see more of this state of many mysteries and after reading Man Corn Murders, that desire has grown even stronger. This book is not just a murder mystery, it's also a mini history book about the Anasazi and Fremont tribes during the 1400s. It has taken me to places and times in history that have sparked my interest to learn more.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Murder in Utah's red-rock desert June 7 2012
By Rosemary McCracken - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Lou Allin has a knack for settings, and she's at the top of her form in The Man Corn Murders. In this whodunit, Utah's red-rock desert is her canvas. But this setting is more than a stunning backdrop of mesas, buttes, pinnacles and canyons. Allin weaves in the human history, ancient and more recent, of this vast, remote land of rock - and the controversial Man Corn theory of cannibalism among the ancient Anasazi and Fremont tribes.
Thirtysomething Tracy Hart and her aunt Judith Davis travel to southeastern Utah on a summer vacation to explore the Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument and to visit Judith's retired colleague. Judith is surprised to find that her friend Deborah has moved from the retirement ranch to live with a nephew in Seattle, and then learns that two other elderly residents suddenly left the ranch as well. That's just one mystery for Tracy and Judith to investigate
Their forays into the desert take them to a cave with a metal door where they find the body of Melanie Briggs, an anthropology student who went missing several weeks before. Haunted by the fate of the young woman, they take it upon themselves to find out how she became trapped in her crypt.
Allin's characters are likeable and complex, and the plot moves along at a smart clip. Deborah's story is resolved first. But Allin kept me guessing about who left Melanie in the cave and why until the book's final action-packed pages.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Man Corn Mysteries June 6 2010
By L. Milligan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The hot, parched desert of Southern Utah comes alive with flora and fauna as author, Lou Allin details the quest of two women travelers from Ohio to find the murderer of a young archeological student whose mummified remains they find in an old mining shed. The student had been attempting to establish the validity of the "man corn" legend that holds cannibalism had been practiced among the ancient Indians in the region. Her theory had not endeared her to the local indigenous population; neither had it won her friends among her fellow archeological students who, as the inquiring women find out, had other reasons not to like her. This is not the only mystery that plagues the otherwise leisurely vacation of the two sleuths. They had come to the Southwest to visit Judith's elderly aunt at a local retirement ranch only to find her missing. Distrusting the explanation for her departure they were given, Judith sets out to find her. Along the way of solving both mysteries, the reader meets a host of engaging characters living in and visiting the area, takes in the region's rugged beauty, and gets to know Judith and her niece Terry well enough that one hopes to accompany them on another vacation, knowing full well that it won't be any more restful than this one.

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