“Murder in the Walls” is the first book in the “Johnny Ortiz Mysteries” set in a small New Mexico town called - ‘Santo Cristo.’ It is part of a series of 6 novels that were written by Richard Martin Stern (1915-2001). This series follows a homicide cop named Johnny Ortiz who is a half-breed Apache Indian. He is also of Anglo & Spanish descent. He was raised on the Indian Reservation where his ‘tracking’ ability had earned him a reputation as an exceptional game hunter & investigator. Johnny was educated at the local state university & according to him he speaks fluent - New World Spanish. In this first novel - his department co-worker is fascinated by Johnny’s so-called Indian spiritual ‘visions.’ He apparently can see things a normal person cannot. Johnny shrugs it off as only simple intuition.
According to ‘Pocket Books’ publishing the synopsis of “Murder in the Walls” is right here - “Flora Hobbs owned one of New Mexico’s oldest Spanish style homes and shared it with a bevy of attractive working girls when one of them turn up dead - in a locked room - Detective Johnny Ortiz followed a scent that went straight beneath Santo Cristo’s respectable façade into a world of hustlers, profiteers - and at least one killer. --- With Cassie Enright, a beautiful black anthropologist, the part Apache, part Spanish American homicide cop is on a tangled trail of forged art, double dealing, and a three hundred year old treasure hidden in the walls of Flora Hobb’s house. Blood money is as old as the town itself. So is greed. When the killer goes after Cassie and Ortiz himself - it can only end in death.”
The New Mexico landscape is prominent in this first novel. Why? Because there is a sniper who likes to sit on hill-tops above & shoot at people he feels is getting too close to his crimes. Another man dealing in fake art who crosses the border into Mexico is gunned down on a secluded Mesa. A stripper turned local prostitute is found murdered in a popular bordello. She was acquainted with that art dealer. Johnny is falling love with the local anthropologist named Cassie Enright. They decide to ‘skinny dip’ near this Mesa & the sniper takes a shot at both of them. He misses - but later in great detail the sniper succeeds at shooting Johnny in Cassie’s home drive-way from a long distance. Johnny does get closer to the killer even though he has been shot. He knows the foot prints the killer has made in the dirt, on the desert Mesa & upon the hill-tops. This is a thrilling mystery!