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Thursday, August 21, 2014


Santa Fe, NM
Susan C. Shea writes the Dani O’Rourke mystery series. Today she stops by to tell us about Santa Fe, the setting for Murder in the Abstract. Learn more about Susan and her books at her website and blog

I’m going to start by sounding like a caffeined-up tourist guide, but I promise I’ll get to murder mysteries soon.

Santa Fe is a special place, equally delightful in every season, rich with multicultural art, food, music, and history. While it does a magnificent job catering to tourists, it’s also a real working area, which adds a welcome level of liveliness to the town…and a handful of local Mexican-Southwest restaurants on the main drag outside of the old town serving some of the tastiest food around. And art? Well, there’s no way you can see a quarter of what’s there in one visit, which is one reason, if you love art, that you’re drawn back time and again.

I had been to Santa Fe four or five times before I decided to set part of my debut mystery, Murder in the Abstract, there. What brought my significant other and me there in the first place were the galleries that carried his Calderesque mobile sculptures over the years. When one folded – and they do come and go in this highly competitive gallery town - another would pick him up, and every year or so, he needed to visit, shake hands, and generally be present. I would tag along, scout out good restaurants and hikes, and try not to spend too much money on Southwestern arts and crafts.
Tim Rose's Mobiles at Shidoni Gallery
When I began my series, I decided it would be fun to have my San Francisco-based amateur sleuth visit one other American location as part of each story. It took me about 20 seconds to pick Santa Fe as the first. It was a good fit because my series is set in the art world, with a cast of museum staffers, collectors, artists, and socialites – and Santa Fe has all of that. The story begins in San Francisco when a brilliant young artist plunges from a window in the art museum where Dani works – her office window. She’s convinced that his rising prominence as a painter had something to do with his death, but the police suspect her. She flees to Santa Fe to chase down a collector she thinks will profit from the artist’s death, but the plot – of course –thickens before she figures out who did the deed.

Interestingly, the nice reviews the book got frequently mentioned the evocative, visceral sense of place as one of the novel’s strengths. I wrote about Santa Fe in the winter, with snow and cold wind, and crackling fires, and the warmth of terrific Mexican food as prepared by Santa Fe cooks. I love the place, and critics could tell.

I’ve been back since, the latest time being for a fabulous Left Coast Crime event a few years ago. And I will go again. I miss my S.O.’s presence; he passed away before Murder in the Abstract came out. But I can always drop by Shidoni, the last gallery to carry his work, eat at our favorite cafe, Pasqual’s, and go to the Folk Museum, the O’Keeffe Museum, SITE Santa Fe, or any of about a dozen excellent museums.

Murder in the Abstract
Danielle O'Rourke's gala evening at the Devor Museum ends in catastrophe when the body of a young artist plummets from her office window. The police label it murder and suspect Dani, the Museum's chief fund raiser. Self-preservation and an insider's understanding of how money moves the art world drive her to investigate who might have a motive for murder. Dani's playboy ex-husband and a green-eyed cop complicate matters as her search moves through the fashionable worlds of San Francisco and Santa Fe.

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E. Ayers said...

This sounds like a fun read and those little galleries are always a great place to visit. You never know if you're looking at the next Andy Warhole or not. Wishing you much luck with your book!

Dana Fredsti said...

I remember the setting of Murder in the Abstract very well, and I loved the fact you set it there in winter instead of the heat of summer! Made me want to go!

Bobbi A. Chukran, Author said...

Santa Fe is my absolutely favorite city. We spent our honeymoon there and plan on going back for a late fall vacation this year. I'll have to find your book and read it since one of the reasons I love SF so much is the art. :-)

Susan C Shea said...

Thanks, E. Ayers, and I know what you mean about the thrill of discovering the next Big Thing in art.

Susan C Shea said...

Dana, Santa Fe in winter, especially but not exclusively around Christmas, is wonderful. There's skiing on the mountain, and crackling fires, and the spicy food is perfect for the weather. Definitely go - a delayed honeymoon? ;-)

Susan C Shea said...

Bobbi, Thanks for stopping by. Glad to hear from another lover of Santa Fe. I hope you can find ABSTRACT either at the library or at Amazon in print or ebook, because it really has a lot of the town in the story.

Angela Adams said...

Susan, your book sounds like a great read. Wishing you much success.

Susan C Shea said...

Thanks, Angela!

Sheila Boneham said...

Wonderful post! Santa Fe, like much of New Mexico, really does seem enchanted (as the license plates say!). I've just ordered Murder in the Abstract - as a painter as well as writer, and a Santa Fe lover, I look forward to reading!

Cindy Sample said...

I love Santa Fe and since it snowed the day I arrived at Left Coast Crime, that was winter enough for me! I've also attended their summer opera festival which is to die for. As are your books. Murder in the Abstract is one of my favorite mysteries, the perfect combination of setting and plot.

Anonymous said...

I need to visit and to take your book with me. BTW, I love your S.O.'s Calderesque mobiles.

Vinnie Hansen said...

I left that last comment, Susan. I'm not sure what I did to make myself "anonymous." Will try again.

M.P. Cooley said...

I have needed a mini-break, and was researching flights to Santa Fe. This piece put it over the top!