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Midnight at the Camposanto [Paperback]

Mari Privette Ulmer
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 3 2001 Taos Festival Mysteries
The first novel in a series planned to follow the sacred and secular calendar through its annual cycle opens on Good Friday as The Brotherhood of Our Lord Jesus, the centuries-old lay society known as the penitentes, march singing their ancient, primitive hymns towards their vigil at the morada, the prayer hall in Talpa. One hermano, one brother, has been singled out to die, the assassin striking him down in the graveyard, the camposanto, and tumbling him into the darkened room to lie all night with his unsuspecting comrades. The next morning, one is charged with the act.
This outrage arouses the widowed Christina Garcia y Grant, an attorney who gave up her practice in favor of innkeeping and writing, to defend the accused. Her team is composed of her mentor, La Dona Abogado--Miss Doris Jordan--a sturdy senior advocate, Ignacio Baca, an opera-and-sweet-loving public defender, and Mac McCloud, a doctor vacationing at Christy's La Casa Vieja B&B. This motley crew suspects that Hermandad Pat Salazaar has been set up. Sorting through Satanism, witchcraft, and modern day science, their widening investigation covers Taos, Los Alamos, and Santa Fe....
Seldom has so lyrical a voice described the beauties of Northern New Mexico and the very special culture of its Hispanic and Anglo people. The author writes with humor and compassion, peopling her story with memorable minor characters and recounting local legends with zest. Spring and Easter bloom under her assured hand, leaving readers impatiently anticipating the next festival.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Ulmer draws on the rich Hispanic culture of northern New Mexico for her first novel, launching a series that will follow the church calendar through its yearly cycle. What the book lacks in mysticism and epic plot, it makes up for with a natural prose style and vivid descriptions of the striking desert landscape. A widow and, like Ulmer, an ex-lawyer, Christina "Christy" Garcia y Grant owns La Casa Vieja Bed and Breakfast in Taos, N.Mex., a sleepy town whose biggest excitement is the Holy Week leading up to Easter. The Brotherhood of Our Lord Jesus is the focal point of this annual ceremony, with the penitentes (members of the brotherhood) performing a chanting pilgrimage toward the morada (prayer hall). When brother Eusebio Salazaar is found stabbed to death on Good Friday, suspicion falls on his cousin Patricio. Drawn to the case, Christy assembles a team of diverse characters to find the truth: Mac McCloud, a vacationing doctor who seems more interested in courting Christy than in helping the accused; Ignacio "Iggy" Baca, the pudgy, opera-loving public defender; and aging yet stalwart "la Do?a" Doris Jordan, a senior advocate. As the four identify numerous shady suspects, from modern-day witches to top-secret Los Alamos nuclear research facility employees, it becomes clear that Eusebio's death was more than a random act of violence. Ulmer offers a notable literary mystery that will intrigue and amuse in equal measure.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Ulmer's protagonist embodies the clash between old ways and new, between Hispanic and Anglo. Attorney Christy Garcia y Grant (widow of an Anglo) runs a bed and breakfast in her inherited Taos hacienda so she can write. The sudden murder of a revered penitente on Good Friday, however, goads her into action. Intent on following the religious traditions of her family and deploring the attempts of some to make the murder appear cult- or drug-related, Christy instead uncovers connections to nearby hush-hush Los Alamos activities. Heavy on atmosphere, local beliefs, and familial connections but weak on forward movement, this first novel is recommended for larger collections.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars A horridly disappointing book! Nov. 4 2003
By A Customer
What a disappointment this book is! What an annoying waste of money! I can only conclude that friends of the author have rallied to plug in the praise found in most other reviews on this site.
I love New Mexico; love Taos. I own a home there. (have elderly relatives there.) I could appreciate lyrical descriptions of the setting in the event of weak characters and a story-line that bores tediously without being interesting. Mari Ulmer does not even give those! Ulmer's efforts at garnering review raves about her descriptive skills FAR out weigh those skills. She strings together a few mundane observations, using an array of trite phrases and wants the reader to believe that's the way it is? --- disappointing!
Mari Ulmer's protagonist is a one-dimensional, vapid creature lacking in deep thought, logic, or the demeanor of a lawyer. ("retired" is no excuse for foolish.) MOF-- all characterizations are so lacking that it appears Ulmer has never studied one page of character development. The protagonist, Christy Garcia y Grant wanders thorugh her days noting incidentals about her own home and her life as if facing a virtual reality "Oh! This Is My Life?" camera while she sadly notes how the calloused Anglos kept her from learning Spanish as a child. --Hmmm. My 4-year-old granddaughter speaks three languages fluently! Yet, this character is --oddly-- able to recall small details from childhood about her grandmother, her family history, and peculiar religious customs.

The plot waddles through various levels of religious mysticism while brushing government secrets, Los Alamos, AIDS, and illogical violence. It lacks cohesive order or satisfying reconciliation. How misleading most of the reviews are! To compare Mari Ulmer to Tony Hillerman is a travesty! All I can surmise is that the author has friends in the right places to even get published. (I'd like a refund.)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unique Voice Nov. 25 2001
Those mystery readers searching for the truly fresh directions our genre will be taking in the future need to search out material being published by the numerous small presses scattered across America today. Mari Ulmer's MIDNIGHT AT THE CAMPOSANTO is a perfect example of the unique voices now appearing in the mystery field. Ms. Ulmer has written a terrific book. It spins a tale as good as any being published by the big houses today, yet it also features elements that would never appear in the books of America's major publishing houses. Her protagonist, Christina Garcia y Grant is an admirable creation, as are Christy's supporting characters. Ms. Ulmer's story reveals a deep and thorough understanding of the mixture of cultures that has occurred in northern New Mexico. Her plot moves swiftly, twisting and turning as her story progresses. Her dialog snaps to life from the printed page. Her characters are fully realized, yet it is her setting and that setting's cultural depth that made MIDNIGHT AT THE CAMPOSANTO such a fulfilling read for me. Ms. Ulmer knows what she is writing about, and she writes as well as anyone working today.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Hodge Podge or Collage? Nov. 6 2001
Since I was ready for a trip back to Taos, I really wanted to like this book. The reviews all look optimistic. Could I have possibly have read a different book? Sorry, but this reviewer is going to break the string. I was hopeful to find some marriage of the richness and charm of Willa Cather's Death Comes to the Archbishop and Song of the Lark; Mabel Luhan Dodge's Edge of Taos Desert: Escape to Reality; the mysticism and local lore of Tony Hillerman's wonderful mysteries; and/or the southwest of Louis L'Amour. [All of which I'd easily recommend if you want more of the locale.] Instead of a lovely visit to the high desert country, we have an irritating protagonist, a hodge podge of ideas that probably could have been used to write an entire series of books and a book that seems like it will never end.
Here is a partial list of irritations (with apologies for the length of this review, my usual style is "short and sweet").
While the story bypasses the fascinating Taos pueblo, it focuses on ancient religion morphing into something (possibly sanctioned by the church?), witchcraft, devilry, government secrets, AIDS, the genome project, as well as the lab at Los Alamos. That none of this comes together neatly is no surprise. The buckets of blood seemed to come out of nowhere, and certainly didn't seem to be either interesting or worthy of mention as a "floor finish".
The unlawyerly demeanor of protagonist Christy Garcia y Grant, La Dona and Iggy. The lawyers I've worked with (for entirely too long) would NEVER behave in such an unprofessional and quite frankly silly manner, chasing about with a lack of thought, a lack of logic, lack of regard for their personal safety as well as others, and a total disregard for ethics.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mari comments on Midnight at the Camposanto April 15 2000
Midnight at the Camposanto is first in a series that feature a Taos the tourist never sees and that revolves around the church and secular year. The exciting mystery features Christina Garcia y Grant, who, like the author is a burned out attorney, running a B&B to support her writing. She and a tough elderly mentor, a young attorney and a retired doctor try to free a Hermano charged with a murder that may have been committed by Satanists or Los Alamos scientists. Great reviews in Publisher's Weekly, Harriet Klausner, Today's Librarian, The Snooper, About.com < mysterybooks.about.com > Boston Globe and every other reviewer who's read it. About.com said that "The rest of this tale unfolds not only in the beautifully depicted local of Taos, but during the rich celebrations of ancient Spanish culture...." Klausner ended with, "...if the subsequent tales are half as colorful, mystical and alive as this debut is, fans will have a treat for years to come."
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