To celebrate the release of “Bridge to Xanadu” in paperback, I’m offering a glimpse into the third Texas Miz Mike Christian mystery-romance-suspense. The backdrop is imaginary Three Prongs, Texas, not unlike the real Bandera, Texas, “Cowboy Capital of the World.”
Mystery writer Michal Allison Rice follows a porcupine in an attempt to get a picture for the local newspaper. The porcupine climbs into a dumpster. When Miz Mike peeks inside to get a shot of the critter—being Miz Mike—she finds a murder victim. She is convinced that the man she saw in a local restaurant with a child is both killer and kidnapper. But since no one believes her wild accusation—she must prove it herself.
“Bridge to Xanadu” is dedicated to Native Americans. Chief Alan Bitterroot is an unforgettable hero:
The chief himself came to meet me. He was impressive; tall, and bare-chested, with beaded necklaces around his neck and fringed beige pants traveling down the length of his long, straight legs. His skin glowed a healthy brown, and even though tufts of grey infringed on the long, wavy mass of reddish-brown hair, his face looked eternally young. I looked into the verdure depths of his eyes and fell in love—with the eyes—not with the man I had only just met. Now was an unfortunate time to remember that I had not engineered an excuse for my intrusion. His hand clamped around mine and I couldn’t have spoken anyway.
As always, Miz Mike’s talent for minding her own business throws her into the path of danger:
Later, I remembered the sudden increased tempo of footsteps and the rush of movement behind me. But then, standing at the edge of the world alone, I received scant warning before a rodeo bull-like kick to my back sent me sailing momentarily against blue sky and clouds. Then the sky fell out from under me and I tumbled over rocks and through prickly pear cactus in an endless terror-filled plunge down the mountain.
No challenge is greater than Miz Mike’s determination to meet and defeat it:
It was pure insanity. I dropped Matilda’s leash, hoping that the borrowed dog would follow me. Like a football player going in for the tackle, I tore across the uneven ground, grabbed the child, flung her over my shoulder, and ran.
Cowboy hero Marty (who would be any woman’s hero) can’t believe he has lost Mike’s love:
“I don’t know, Marty. It was a magical, amazing world. I had never walked there before. I got lost. Now I can’t find my way back. It’s like there was this bridge there…Bridge to Xanadu, in my mind. The bridge washed out. It left me stranded.”
The killer-kidnapper catches up with Miz Mike:
Something with all the solidity of a metal stick thumped my ribs from the back and a voice that instantly turned my insides to ice growled, “Don’t turn around writer-lady. Just back up and get into my car, just like you planned on taking a little trip with a good friend. Cause we’re gonna be really good friends…until I get tired of you.” He laughed uproariously, but no joy bounded up and down the notes of his laughter. Instead, the smell of death spilled out of his mouth. He planned to kill me and I had stupidly walked into his trap.