The Spirit and the Skull
"Hayes takes a break from his Mad Dog and Englishmem series to bring readers a unique twist on the historical mystery: a Paleolithic detective story. Dealing with themes of primitive religion, social relationships, and even womenís rights, this fascinating tale, which adroitly straddles both mystery and fantasy genres, will attract readers from both camps."
-- Barbara Bibel, Booklist, Starred Review
For them, among the first undocumented immigrants to enter the Americas, murder isn't merely tragic, it's forbidden. Murder poisons the entire tribe and puts it at odds with nature, the Spirits, and the mighty Earth Mother. A murderer must be removed in order to set the world back in balance.
Raven is the aging Spirit Man to a band where a member has been garroted. Worse, witchcraft is involved -- another appalling violation of The People's beliefs. A woman claiming to be The Earth Mother, and accepted by the tribe, declares only Raven can solve the crimes and restore The People to harmony. But Raven isn't a Spirit Man by vocation. He's an agnostic -- his band needed someone for the job and he needed to secure his place with them. He begins having dreams of a strange man holding his, Raven's, skull in his hands.
How will a man who doubts the authenticity of this Goddess satisfy her demands? What if she and the dreams of some future are both real and solving the crimes must lead to Raven's death? An impossible situation becomes more terrible as Raven realizes he's falling in love with a young woman of his band whom he suspects is the guilty party.
That's the premise of The Spirit and the Skull, Mike's compelling new book, which is already garnering buzz around the mystery community. "A tour de force," says J. Carson Black, New York Times bestselling author of The Survivors Club. "I was completely drawn in. When I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it... Original, thought-provoking, and riveting... much more than a whodunnit... I loved it!"
Meanwhile, Anne Hillerman, author of Mystery Writers of America 2014 Spur Award for Best First Mystery, Spider Woman's Daughter, has proclaimed it "a home run with an interesting cast of would-be villains and a setting that tweaks the imagination. Prehistory was never more interesting, or sexier!"
Publishers Weekly says "this thought-provoking standalone (is) impressive in evoking an alien world when humans lived in tune with their surroundings."
Kirkus says, "Hayes . . . draws on his expertise in archaeology and anthropology" and his "portrait of tribal life and the lyrical descriptions of an untouched land are worth the read."
Or, as Barbara Peters, Poisoned Pen's Editor-in-Chief, simply put it, "We've decided such an unorthodox book... is one to publish.
She may be on to something there. After all, how often do you read a mystery that brings murder to the Americas... in 13000 BC?
And be sure to read what Mike himself had to say about his "odd little book."
Another fine site developed and maintained by The Thrilling Detective Web Guy
Entire site copyright 2004-16, J.M. Hayes.
J.M. Hayes welcomes your comments and suggestions.
Please feel free to e-mail him.
Header photo courtesy of Dr. Harold N. Ottaway.