Overview: Canyon Sacrifice is a mystery thriller novel written by Scott Graham. It was first published in 2013 and is the first book in the series. The story is set in the rugged landscapes of the American Southwest, primarily taking place in the iconic Grand Canyon National Park.
The protagonist is archaeologist Chuck Bender, who is drawn into a perilous adventure after he discovers a note left by his friend and fellow archaeologist, Graham Hancock, who has gone missing. As Chuck delves deeper into the mystery, he unravels a dangerous secret hidden within the canyons, leading to a thrilling and suspenseful plot.
The novel incorporates elements of archaeology, Native American history, and the unique challenges faced by those who explore and protect the national parks.
From The Book Cover: “When his new stepdaughter is kidnapped during a visit to the Grand Canyon, archaeologist Chuck Bender faces up to his secret past and his unfamiliar family-man role as he confronts every parent’s worst nightmare—that of a missing child. In Tony Hillerman fashion, Canyon Sacrifice is a gripping page-turner that brings the rugged western landscape the mysterious past of the ancient Anasazi Indians, and the modern Southwest’s ongoing cultural fissures vividly to life. Canyon Sacrifice is the first in the Nation Park Mystery Series.”
My Review: Canyon Sacrifice by Scott Graham is an easy read with mounting tension and a reasonably well-developed plot. The vivid descriptions of the Grand Canyon National Park evoked memories of my own visit to that awesome place.
The plot follows a familiar theme of an unjustly suspected protagonist on the run to prove their innocence. I appreciated Graham’s use of red herrings, false leads, and action scenes to build suspense. Unfortunately, those positives were often overshadowed by flaws in character development, dialogue, and distractions that failed to move the plot forward.
Too often, the flow of the story was interrupted by the protagonists’ tendency to deliver lengthy archaeological lectures or to conduct extended internal dialogue about family relationships. In particular, the dynamics between Chuck and his wife were problematic, with secrets and a lack of trust creating a sense of disconnect between the two which did nothing to make me particularly like either of them.
Gaps in the storyline kept me guessing and intrigued and sometimes confused. The final chapter falls into cliché territory when the villain provides the information needed to fill in the gaps in the storyline. In my opinion, the ending deserved more attention.
Despite those issues, however, the insights shared by the author are frequently interesting and his knowledge of the subject matter and setting added depth to the narrative, especially as concerns the setting. Overall, Canyon Sacrifice is a good read, particularly for those with an interest in national parks. It may not appeal to all mystery fiction readers, but the premise and setting provide an intriguing perspective for those more interested in national parks or stories set in captivating landscapes than with die-hard mystery fans. Tony Hillerman, however, it is not.