Friday, August 7, 2015

How Haunted Bridges and Spooky Legends Became Inspiration for our Mystery Novel Crying Woman Bridge

          The idea for our latest Jeff McQuede mystery, Crying Woman Bridge,  started with a legend, specifically, the legend of La Llorona.  We had first heard about this prominent tale while visiting the Southwest.  The Hispanic stories have several variations, but they all deal with a woman who has sacrificed a child or children by drowning.  She commits this terrible act for the sake of her lover and ends up crazed with regret.  In many retellings of the story, the weeping woman, La Llorona, can be heard along the river’s edge crying Ay mis hijos!  which translates to, Oh, my children!   

          During our research we found that La Llorona wasn’t the only mother weeping for lost children.  Throughout the United States many tales exist about bridges haunted either by weeping women or crying babies.  Another story closer to home also caught our interest, that of Theorosa’s Bridge near Valley Center, Kansas, and Wichita.  Several versions of the Theorosa legend are well-known.  In the oldest version, a baby named Theorosa is stolen by a band of Native Americans, and the mother’s spirit still haunts the creek in search of her lost child.  In a more modern version, Theorosa has an illegitimate child which because of guilt she throws from the bridge.  Later she kills herself by jumping into the river.  In yet another, Theorosa was a witch who was hanged, and her baby drowned in the creek.  “If you say Theorosa, Theorosa, I have your baby,” she will appear and attack you.

                    Our latest High Country Mystery!

          Our story takes place in Wyoming and is a fictional tale with elements of these timeless legends that exist in so many forms.  Sheriff Jeff McQuede and his friend, Professor Dawson, are returning from a lecture Dawson has just given about local haunted places.  He has spoken about one that concerns a local bridge they must pass by, called Crying Woman Bridge, or, by some of the locals, Mirabella’s Bridge.  In this story a young pioneer woman named Mirabella got jilted by her lover and threw her baby over the bridge.  At night it is rumored that you can still hear her cries; if you say her name three times, she will appear and bad things will happen.  McQuede and Dawson are startled to find a modern-day woman standing on the bridge crying for her baby.  Has she thrown the infant into the river in a fit of madness as did the pioneer woman?  McQuede is even more stunned when Rae Harris claims that her baby was stolen--by a woman called Mirabella. 
McQuede discovers the truth through a strange and twisted turn of events which leads to Rae, the woman on the bridge…and a dark secret. 

Further reading: 

Legends of America  Click this link to read one of the more popular versions of the La LLorona Legend. 

Wikipedia: Theorosa's Bridge  Click this link to read variations of the Theorosa Bridge legends. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

An Icy Death: The fifth and latest book in the Jeff McQuede High Country Mystery Series

It’s cold in Wyoming!  Cold enough to freeze to death.  This fact makes An Icy Death the only book we have ever written inspired by the weather.

Jamierodriguez37 Morguefile

In Wyoming the wise never leave home without a thermos of hot coffee, extra food, and blankets.  In winter it’s not uncommon for the temperature to dip to minus seventeen, often with a wind chill factor of thirty below zero.  Because many places still exist where cell phones cease to work and help is almost impossible to summon, blizzards and sudden whiteouts are extremely hazardous. 

An Icy Death opens with Sheriff Jeff McQuede discovering a stalled car on an isolated road far up in the mountains, one that has been closed.  Within the car he finds the frozen body of a middle-aged woman, Margaret Burnell.  The medication, her taped ankle, and footprints in the snow leading away from the car tell the rest of the story--about how she must have died of hypothermia while her husband went for help.  It sounds like a sad but simple story of man vs nature.

Until McQuede discovers that there are enough drugs in her system to cause an overdose, and her death may not have been an accident, after all, only staged to look that way.  It’s McQuede’s job to find out what really happened that snowy night so far from town.  He discovers that Margaret has traveled to Durmont to demand an audit from her business partner concerning the Trivino’s Sporting Goods chain.  In addition she plans to meet with her runaway daughter that she hasn’t seen in years.  Many people come into focus as possible murderers, not least among them her husband, Arthur, who would reap great financial profit from his wife’s death.

Either a relentless killer tracked and sabotaged the Burnells in the heart of a blizzard, or, more likely, Arthur simply abandoned his wife for his share of her vast inheritance.  In any event, Margaret Burnell had been set up to die an icy death.

An Icy Death is available in both Kindle and Paperback.

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Who is Jeff McQuede?

Jeff McQuede, a modern-day sheriff, is a product of the Old West.  He was named for his relative, frontier Sheriff Jeff McQuede, and embodies the qualities that had made him famous.  He often follows the old westerner’s advice: when you think your right, it’s time to step back and take another look.  He also sometimes relies on his lucky paperweight filled with shifting sand to help him concentrate and find the right path. We’ve placed McQuede in the fictional town of Durmont, in a rugged mountain area

Other Major and Reoccurring Characters

The woman McQuede loves, Loris Conner, is curator of the museum in the nearby town of Black Mountain Pass.  Loris isn’t as sold as McQuede on the rough and isolated high country, and intent on her own career, she is thinking about taking the job Arden Reed offers her in Washington  D, C. 

The major characters in the series include McQuede’s very strong and opinionated Aunt Mattie Murdock,  the local villains, Frank Larsh, better known as Ruger, and his pal, Sammy Ratone, Marty Stein, who owns the Shady Lane Motel, Nate Narcu, a Shoshone who runs Nate’s Trading Post, and Professor Barry Dawson who sometimes helps and sometimes hinders McQuede’s investigations.

And then, of course, there's McQuede's loyal companion, a dog named Psy (short for Psychotic), who he took in after the mutt was abandoned at a crime scene.  

The best way to become introduced to this series is through the anthology, A Deal on a  Handshake.  These seven short stories present the characters in action and McQuede’s manner of solving the crimes that occur in Coal County.  

The Books in the Series  

In our five book series, the history and legends of the High Country meet the universal problems of greed, obsessive love, and vengeance.

We spend much time wandering through the mountains, checking out libraries, and talking to the local people.  The first book in the series, which introduces the major characters, was inspired by a photo we found in a museum—beneath one face were the words never graduated.

On one of our trips through Shirley Basin, we became fascinated by the true story of a crew of workmen who found a small mummy in a cave.  We began a careful research of the story and the mystery behind it.  (see the 2/28/2015 post Whispers of the Stones: Book Two in the High Country Mystery Series and the Mysterious Pedro Mummy.)

Book III: Stealer of Horses

This novel grew from word of mouth.  A local told us about a woman who had gone to a small bank to deposit a large sum of money—and both she and the money vanishes.

Judge Phil Grayson is found dead in his study surrounded by his life-time collection of the Old West artifacts.  A hood taken from the collection was shoved over his face.  Was this a simple robbery or a crime of vengeance?

Book V:  An Icy Death

Blizzards abound in the High Country and danger is always present when they occur.  This novel begins with such a storm where a body is found frozen to death in a wrecked car.

We are now working on a sixth novel, one that centers around another intriguing legend.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Whispers of the Stones: Book Two in the High Country Mystery Series and the Mysterious Pedro Mummy 

      When I was living in Laramie, Wyoming, I came across tales of the Pedro Mummy.  According to old newspaper accounts, a tiny mummy was discovered in the 1930s by miners near Shirley Basin.  The mummified remains of a little man only 14 inches tall was found still sitting cross-legged on a stone ledge in a cave. 

There’s no question that the Pedro Mummy actually existed.  It became an object of curiosity and scientific speculation until its disappearance in the 1950s.  It was not a fake.


U (Life time: 1936) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

     The curious little mummy, which was soon nicknamed “Pedro” because he was found in the Pedro Mountains, changed hands several times and was sold and resold.  For a time, it was displayed in a drugstore, then a used car lot, then a cigar shop in Casper.  In the care of Ivan Goodman in the 1950s, the mummy was examined and X-rayed.  It was found the mummy had a definite human rib-cage.

     At the time of the Pedro Mummy’s discovery, it was thought to be the remains of a tiny, ancient little man in his late sixties.  Many people believed that the discovery of the tiny mummy might be proof that the “Little People” of Native American legends actually existed.  The “Little People” are part of the legends and folklore of the Shoshoni, Arapahoe. and many other tribes.  In some tales the tiny men, who remain hidden in caverns and deep in the mountains, are good-natured tricksters, in others they are more mean-spirited and may shoot arrows at their larger counterparts.  In many tales the “Little People” serve as spiritual guides or helpers to lost travelers.

     In the 1980s the original X-rays were carefully studied and scientists indicated that the tiny remains were more likely to be those of a malformed infant who had been left in the cave to die instead of a full-grown man.  The infant might have suffered from anencephaly, which would account for the misshapen head.  But it didn’t explain fully developed rib-cage or reports that the mummy had teeth.  Since the mummy can no longer be found to examine, no one really knows who he was or how he got there.

     The last owner of the mummy was New Yorker Leonard Wadler.  After that, the mummy disappeared from history.  Many articles have appeared about the Pedro Mummy, including stories in the Casper Star Tribune.  Since its disappearance, scientists and collectors have had interest in finding the missing mummy, even offering rewards, so it can be examined.

     All of this caught my interest and after talking it over with my co-author and sister, Loretta, she became interested in the story as well.  We decided to write a mystery starting with the premise: what if some antique dealer actually had the mummy?  What would happen if such an artifact resurfaced?

Loretta with Shirley Basin signs

Loretta and Vickie in Mountains

     In our third Jeff McQuede novel, Whispers of the Stones, Sheriff McQuede investigates such an event.  The details concerning the mummy in this story are as true as we could make them from varying research sources.  The rest, of course, is fiction.

To read more about The Pedro Mummy:

As you read accounts of the Pedro Mummy, you will find many discrepancies, because even in newspapers and journals there are many different accounts of what happened.  When writing our story, we used those dates and sources from what seemed the most reliable references.  Here are some places on the Internet to read more about the Pedro Mummy and the “Little People”.

The Pedro Mummy:

The Little  People:

Whispers of the Stones: A Jeff Mcquede Mystery by Loretta Jackson and Vickie Britton

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sneak Preview of Cover of An Icy Death

We're delighted to announce our fifth and latest book in the Jeff McQuede Mystery Series, An Icy Death, will be published soon in print and as an ebook. 

In the heart of a raging blizzard Sheriff Jeff McQuede discovers a woman frozen to death in her car. At first he believes her death to be an unfortunate accident--until he finds clues that point to cold-blooded murder.  Margaret’s husband, Arthur, left her in the stalled vehicle to brave the storm and manages to reach Joe Trevino’s isolated ranch.  The case becomes more complicated because of the recent warehouse robberies at Trevino’s store.  McQueede finds that Trevino is Margaret Burnell’s business partner, and that she has traveled from their Casper store to conduct a company audit.  In addition, Margaret has planned to meet with her only child, a run-away daughter she hasn’t seen in years. Trevino, the missing daughter, and Arthur Burnell would all profit financially from Margaret’s demise.  Has a relentless killer tracked and sabotaged the Burnells, or did Arthur simply abandon his wife for his share of the money, leaving her to die an icy death?