This is no ordinary book club! When the group chooses a book, they are whisked away from reality to find themselves totally immersed in the story. The characters, the setting, and the murder all come to life. In order to exit the book, they’ll need to solve the mystery and reach The End.
This time, the club chooses a mystery that takes place in a quaint western town – in the old Wild West. That sounds like great fun, until they arrive in the dusty old town in the Arizona desert, among cowboys and saloons. They discover that the outhouse isn’t the worse thing about this trip.
The good news is that Paige, Glo, Zell, Frank, and the other members of the club discover plenty of surprises here, and they have a great time visiting a piece of history. They’ll get to live through many exciting moments as they unravel this cozy mystery story.
“Hey,” said Forrest. “Who’s that guy in the backyard?”
Everyone shuffled over to the window. A man was roaming around the property with what appeared to be a metal detector in his hands.
He removed his brown fedora, and his wild brown hair joined his golden scarf to blow wildly in the wind. He methodically ran the device back and forth over the lawn. Every few minutes he would stop and kneel on the grass, leaving wet spots on the knees of his khaki cargo pants. He’d put his ear to the ground, then pop up with a gleeful look on his face and continue scanning the lawn. He reached into one of the pockets of his brown safari jacket and pulled out a pair of binoculars. He aimed them around the yard and then up into the sky.
I opened the back door and stepped outside.
“Hello? Excuse me?” I called. “Can I help you?”
The man walked briskly over to us. He thrust out his hand toward me. “Dr. Atticus Papadopoulos. A pleasure.”
“Paige Erickson. Nice to meet you.” Even in shock, my manners prevailed.
The group had followed me outside and were standing in a circle gawking at him. The man put down his device and efficiently went from person to person. He reached out and shook each person’s hand. He looked each one in the eye and listened intently to their name as if he were memorizing it. He even reached down and shook Frank’s paw.
Frank looked him up and down and examined his archaeological professor-like outfit. “Hello Dr. Jones. Welcome to the Snapdragon Inn.”
“Ah! Wonderful, wonderful. The cat speaks! Marvelous!” He clapped his hands. “Actually, it’s Dr. Papadopoulos, but you can call me Atticus,” he said, totally missing Frank’s reference to Dr. Indiana Jones from Raiders of the Lost Ark. “Your ability to communicate is one more sign that the crossover exists at this point! Brilliant, absolutely brilliant!”
When he completed the circle, he verified my suspicion that he’d been memorizing our names by pointing at each person in turn. “Paige. Glo. Zell, Sebastian, Vee, Moonbeam, Forrest. And of course, the fascinating, remarkable Frank.”
The cat stood taller, and I could just about see his head growing in size. Exactly what we needed, a person to boost Frank’s already bursting ego.
“Sooo, Atticus. What are you doing here?” Glo asked as she came to stand beside me, hands on her hips, looking the stranger in the eye.
“Yeah,” said Zell, charging to the front of the group and standing nearly toe to toe with him. She looked up into his face, her eyes narrowed in suspicion. With her diminutive size and cotton ball-like hair she looked anything but intimidating. “And what’s with the metal detector? Looking for buried treasure?”
“Ah, good question, Zell. This is not a meager metal detector. It alerts me to points of extraterrestrial energy.”
“Are you a kook, then?”
Atticus threw back his head and laughed, his wild hair flopping back and forth with the movement. “No, madam, not a kook. I am a doctor of astrobiology; my major area of interest is extraterrestrial technology and travel.”
“What the heck is astrobiology?” Zell squinted her eyes at him.
“A woman with a curious mind. I like it.” He nodded in approval.
I glanced at Glo and rolled my eyes. Great. Now another ego being stroked. Zell and Frank were already impossible to live with, this would boost their annoy-ability level.
“Astrobiology is the academic field that studies the origins of life on our Earth and the existence of life elsewhere in our universe. The study of extraterrestrial visits is my main area of interest. Your inn happens to be at a key crossover point for a confluence of energy.” He put his hands in his pockets and leaned back on his heels looking pleased with his discovery.
Zell had an abnormally studious look on her face. “What do you mean by a confluence of energy, Doctor?”
Glo and I chuckled, since Zell’s normal response to him would have been, “Huh? Whatcha talking about?”
“Excellent question, again.” He pointed at Zell with a snappy movement. “Energy encircles our planet both horizontally and vertically.” His arms flailed about as he demonstrated the circles, then he crossed his arms, one atop the other. “At certain points the lines join and there is a high level of intra-space energy. These locations are an ideal landing spot for extraterrestrials, or for the creation of a time/space portal. This inn sits directly atop a high energy confluence crossover point.”
“Well, that’s not a surprise,” said Zell. “We do have an enchanted library with magical books that take us inside them for adventures.”
“Zell!” We all yelled as one.
“Yes! I knew it!” Atticus pumped his arm. “I want in. Can you take me on one of your adventures?”
Excerpt from Cowboys and Chaos by Elizabeth Pantley. Copyright 2022 by Elizabeth Pantley. Reproduced with permission from Elizabeth Pantley. All rights reserved.
Elizabeth Pantley says that writing her Mystery and Magic book series is the most fun she’s ever had at work. Fans of the series say her joy is evident through the engaging stories she tells. Elizabeth is also the international bestselling author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution and twelve other books for parents. Her books have been published in over twenty languages. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, a beautiful inspiration for her enchanted worlds.