The Pot Thief Who Studied Georgia O’Keeffe by J. Michael OrenduffThe Pot Thief Who Studied Georgia O'Keeffe by J. Michael Orenduff
Series: The Pot Thief Mysteries #7
Published by Open Road Media on February 9, 2016
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 270
Format: eARC
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A dealer in traditional Native American pottery, Hubie Schuze scours New Mexico in search of ancient treasures. The Bureau of Land Management calls him a criminal, but Hubie knows that the real injustice would be to leave the legacies of prehistoric craftspeople buried in the dirt.

In all his travels across the state, there is one place that Hubie hasn’t been able to access: Trinity Site at the White Sands Missile Range, where the first atomic bomb was detonated. Deep within the range are ruins once occupied by the Tompiro Indians, whose distinctive pottery is incredibly rare and valuable. When an old associate claims to have a buyer interested in spending big money on a Tompiro pot, Hubie resolves to finally find a way into the heavily guarded military installation.

But Hubie has more on his mind than just outwitting the army’s most sophisticated security measures. He’s in love with a beautiful woman who has a few secrets of her own—and his best friend, Susannah, may have just unearthed a lost Georgia O’Keeffe painting. It’s a lot for a mild-mannered pot thief to handle, and when his associate is murdered and Tompiro pots start replicating like Russian nesting dolls, Hubie suddenly realizes he’s caught up in the most complex and dangerous mystery he’s ever faced.

I’m sad. Why did no one tell me about this series before? The Pot Thief Who Studied Georgia O’Keeffe is smart, laugh out loud funny, and a good mystery. It throws in bits of history, literary references, and culture, and word play. It’s just fun.

Hubie is a criminal. He digs up pots illegally and sells them, but he justifies it well. He says, and I think believes, that the women who made the pots would rather have them in a household that cherishes them than a museum where they are rarely visited, or, even worse, left in the ground unappreciated. He’s also a talented potter in his own right, making reproductions.

The dead man is one of Hubie’s associates, the one who had a buyer for the Tompiro pot. Hubie doesn’t seem to broken up over the death, but I’m kind of assuming he was a character we would have met in a previous book or two. We’ve got his widow, a couple of potential buyers, and other various characters. I like the people in town, from Hubie’s best friend, Susannah, to the semi-crooked cop and the other store owners. I’d like to sit down and have margaritas with them. Hubie’s girlfriend, Sharice, is just an amazing woman and is a fabulous cook. Their relationship brings up a few topics that are dealt but not preached about like trust, interracial relationships, and cancer recovery. The romance doesn’t take over or take away from the rest of the story though, it’s just a good addition. It’s a cozy mystery, but one where I think the characters matter more than the actual mystery plot.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the mystery itself. It’s well-plotted with plenty of clues, some of which are easy to misread. There’s bad guys and good guys who aren’t against bending the rules a bit. We’ve got real pots and a fake pot that move around. We’ve got missing money and broken down cars. I guess there’s a lot going on, but I never felt like it was too much. The story flows well, everything fits together, and the solution makes sense.

I would definitely recommend this one to mystery lovers. Even though it’s the 7th in the series, I felt like it stood on its own. On the other hand, now I want to go back and read more of them.

About J. Michael Orenduff

J. Michael Orenduff grew up in a house so close to the Rio Grande that he could Frisbee a tortilla into Mexico from his backyard. While studying for an MA at the University of New Mexico, he worked during the summer as a volunteer teacher at one of the nearby pueblos. After receiving a PhD from Tulane University, he became a professor.

Orenduff took early retirement from higher education to write his award-winning Pot Thief murder mysteries, which combine archaeology and philosophy with humor and mystery.

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