The Window Trail: A Big Bend Country Mystery

- 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

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

What do cowboy poets and web journalists have in common? An affinity for murder, at least in Brewster County, Texas. Once again, Claire Harp and Clayton Shoot are on the case, with problems of their own to solve too. This tale moves between a spirited gathering of cowboy poets on a college campus and a treacherous trail in Big Bend National Park—with a side trip to a golf resort on the Rio Grande. Favorite characters are back of course, including Gretchyn Whyrl, Alonso Rangel, Lee Perciak, and Beatrice Shoot. The Lost Mine Trail is now available in paperback or ebook.

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The Mule Ears: A Big Bend Country Mystery 4

Two hot-blooded West Texas ranchers—Tilda Quigg and Beatrice Shoot—make a spectacle of themselves at a local bookstore, turning a serious gathering there into a free-for-all. Days later, one of the women is comatose at the foot of a staircase in her mansion, the other hovering over her adversary’s body. An accident, homicide, or something else? The Mule Ears tells the tale and much more, as Hollywood invades Big Bend Country to make a movie about—what else?—murder.

Favorite characters return, including Sheriff Clayton Shoot, his sister Beatrice, Professor Claire Harp, Ella Nixon, and more. But expect movie stars, cowboys, and a few mobsters too in this humorous free-for-all.

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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


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 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


. . . In this latest book in the enjoyable Big Bend Country Mystery series, Rusz again places fresh characters and inventive, parallel plots in the sprawling and diverse Trans-Pecos region of Texas with the deft touch of someone who knows the area well . . .

A thoroughly entertaining tale in an authentic setting that’s as colorful as its characters.—Kirkus Reviews

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You have to be deliberately going to Big Bend to get there. Marathon lies 80 miles to the north, and the lonely road to Alpine winds its way across the foothills of the Great Chihuahuan Desert for more than 120 miles.

The roadway traverses a terrain of volcanic rock, sliced by dry, baked arroyos and faraway canyons.

It is formidable.

It is captivating.

Just as captivating is Lost Mine Trail, a new whodunit from the mind and imagination of JJ Rusz. His writing captures the lonely and defiant spirit of the Big Bend.

The land is a place of mysteries, and the battles Sheriff Clayton Shoot and Professor Clair Harp face while working to solve a series of brutal murders are daunting and sometimes chilling. The crime scene is vast and only a lawman with grit and resolve would dare tackle it.

The characters are well-drawn, the writing is crisp, and the setting is unforgettable. Follow Sheriff Clayton Shoot across the mountains and up the narrow, rocky trail to Lost Mine Peak. It is a trip you will remember for a long time.—Caleb Pirtle III

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Reviews of THE MULE EARS

Throughout, the author once again demonstrates his series’ greatest strength: a deeply informed depiction of the sprawling Texas setting, from town and ranch life to rugged, two-rut roads and “gorges and canyons, plains and moonscapes, mountains pressing upon mountains, like they were sliding out of sight.”

An engaging mystery in a vivid setting with offbeat characters and a sense of fun.— Kirkus Reviews

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A light-hearted and vastly entertaining follow-up that fans of the series are sure to enjoy.

The Mule Ears is the fourth book in the Big Bend Country Mysteries, author J.J. Rusz’s excellent Far West Texas-set series. It is a light-hearted (especially considering the opening) and vastly entertaining follow-up that fans of the series will surely enjoy. The plot, which begins on a serious note, is full of didn’t-see-that-coming twists that will make readers’ heads spin. Each one alters the nature of the story and sends it off in a new and exciting direction. With multiple points of view, readers gain insight into the inner workings of several recurring characters and new ones that promise (or threaten) to, perhaps, stick around awhile. —from Lone Star Literary Life

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