Ask a Bookseller: A mystery without the procedure in 'Picnic in the Ruins'

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Dana Welshans of Snowbound Books in Marquette, Mich., found herself surprised and delighted by the thriller “Picnic in the Ruins” by Todd Robert Petersen.

She called the novel a "mystery for readers looking for something outside your usual police detective procedural," set in the otherworldly geography of the Monument lands of the Utah-Arizona border.

At first, the book appears to be a small-town mystery. A famous collector of Native American artifacts is killed. A local sheriff sets out to investigate. But then, Welshans says, the story evolves into something that is part mystery, part thriller and part rumination of history and heritage — and what that means for the future of our public lands.

The Michigan bookstore has a Minnesota connection: They fulfill the Girls Empowerment Collections for St. Paul–based charity Books For Africa.