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The Window Trail: A Big Bend Country Mystery (2018)

- Texas Authors Inc. Best Mystery/Thriller 2019 -

What could go wrong on a spring break trek down the storied Window Trail at Big Bend National Park in Texas? For Assistant Professor Claire Harp, a terrifying incident at the canyon drop-off at the end of the hike merely hints of troubles to come. Drawn into a murder investigation that rocks the small town of Alpine, Claire finds herself involved with both a famous writer and an appealing young captain from a sheriff's office baffled by a homicide that points in too many directions. What she discovers on her own is a crime of a whole different sort. Full of sly humor, local color, and characters fresh off the range, The Window Trail will keep you guessing and guessing again.

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The South Rim Trail: A Big Bend Country Mystery 2 (Available now!)

When her kid brother Alex heads to West Texas with an older woman, Professor Claire Harp doesn’t know what to think. A TV idol with a budding movie career, Alex looks forward to a romantic time at Big Bend National Park. But then his ambitious girlfriend disappears overnight on its most celebrated trail. Days later, a prominent artist is found murdered in the park and valuable paintings from her private collection are missing too. Once again, Claire finds herself pulled into both investigations. But neither she nor Sheriff Clayton Shoot can foresee the twists and turns this story will take—right up to its final page. As fresh as the first book in the series and just as high-spirited, The South Rim Trail draws you even deeper into Big Bend Country.

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The Lost Mine Trail: A Big Bend Country Mystery 3 (Fall 2020)

What do cowboy poets and web journalists have in common? An affinity for murder, at least in Brewster County, Texas. But Claire and Clayton are on the case, with problems of their own to solve. Look for The Lost Mine Trail in 2020.

Coming fall 2020

Reviews of THE WINDOW TRAIL

Rusz . . . deftly gives his characters substance and weaves humor and poignancy into escalating plot twists and turns. (Even the revelation of the perpetrator’s identity doesn’t quite lead where expected in the aftermath.) And the author, who clearly knows the territory, brings alive the book’s setting, the Trans-Pecos region of Texas, where readers can picture “a silhouette of mountains, purple and black against a sky that would not quite disappear, the horizon a bazaar of volcanic tents and towers” and the “northern fingers of the Chihuahuan desert reaching into Far West Texas.”

An absorbing, well-crafted mystery, alive with colorful, substantive characters in a vivid setting. — Kirkus Reviews

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One strength of his new novel is how well Rusz describes the story’s settings and surrounding territory.

“Many travelers admired this corner of Texas in the abstract,” Rusz writes. “Its layered horizons and luminous sunsets were the stuff of coffee table books....But close up, the counties west of the Pecos and south of Interstate 10 were very much like one’s first swallow of bourbon, sharp and raw....Even the plant life could seem needy and mean.” — Michelle Newby, Lone Star Literary Life

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Once I got four pages into this novel I couldn't put it down. It has a little of everything: murder, a suicide, sex, academic backstabbing—set against the unforgiving beauty of the Big Bend country of West Texas. Rusz keeps you guessing on every page. —Robert D. King

Every plot twist was exciting, so I kept wanting to read more & faster. But then it's also very beautifully written, which made me want to slow down and savor the words. —Vanessa Laird

The Window Trail is about so much more than the murder itself—there are echoes here of what a real community is, how people are intertwined in unique ways, and how chance events can make a life. —Scott Blackwood, author of See How Small

Tony Hillerman is about to be replaced as my go to comfort author!—Frank Cargo

Reviews of THE SOUTH RIM TRAIL

Rusz has scored again! The Window Trail, now this. Two home runs in a row. He gets the Big Bend ethos—for good, for evil—down pat, the people, the lingo, the sense of hidden terror that those West Texas mountains and creosote-plant plains can barely conceal. This is a sophisticated murder mystery with complex characters, unexpected twists and turns, and enough unanswered questions at the end to leave fans waiting for for the third Big Bend Mystery.—Robert D. King

[T]he novel is an appealingly nimble, character-driven tale, deepened by the author’s informed, eloquent recreation of the series’ far–West Texas setting . . . A well-paced mystery with an authentic setting and numerous engaging characters. — Kirkus Reviews