Book Review by Robert Walch, Salinas Californian

"Secure the Ranch" (Outskirts Press. $18.95) by Joyce Oroz.
ª Local connection: An Aromas resident, Joyce Oroz is a freelance journalist, muralist and author. This is the first in a projected series of mysteries set on the Central Coast.
ª Content: A 50-year-old widow, Josephine Stuart, is the owner of the Wildbrush Mural Co. With business slow, she agrees to tackle a project for Theda Munger, who owns a 9,000-square-foot mansion in the Santa Cruz Mountains
The job entails murals in three rooms. Besides a Tuscan pastoral scene in the dining room and converting the ceiling in the den to a blue sky with "puffy clouds and maybe a couple of cherubs in the renaissance style," Mrs. Munger wants a wall in her music room transformed into a meadow with flowers and redwoods.
Referring to the assignment as a "cupcake," Josephine muses, "What could possibly go wrong in Boulder Creek?"
As you'll discover, a whole lot will go wrong on this isolated, wooded mountain top. Odd accidents, fires and the death of a local resident suggest things are not as they should be in the idyllic community and someone wants the Mungers to leave.
A woman with a lot of curiosity and a strong sense of right and wrong, Josephine is undaunted by the problems and danger she encounters. Unfortunately, this gets her into a lot of trouble and places her life in jeopardy as she disrupts the lives and illegal activities of some rather nasty characters.
ª Quote: "In no way was I prepared for what had happened to the mansion overnight. I parked my truck and watched two workmen roll white paint over large black letters spray-painted on the southern wall outside the music room. The first coat of paint didn't cover the 'LEAVE OR DIE' graffiti very well."
ª Audience: If you enjoy suspense stories with a local flavor and an engaging central character, you'll like this novel. The story unfolds in Santa Cruz County and the primary setting is in the Santa Cruz Mountains outside of Boulder Creek.
ª Robert Walch of Monterey writes about Central Coast Authors for the Arts & Books page Saturday in The Salinas Californian. Contact him in care of Central Coast Authors, The Salinas Californian, 123 W. Alisal St., Salinas 93901; fax to 754-4293; or email to by Robert Walch


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