A New Mexico Mystery Review: The Painter

While this is a novel about crime at one level, a nerve-stretching, page-turning suspense story, it’s also the story of a man’s soul, his deepest loves, his darkest corners, his inner light, his passions, and his art. Heller gets inside the process of Jim Stegner’s whole being. When you read this book, you, feel as if you are Jim. You wade into his favorite fishing streams with him, experience his blinding rages with him, fall into the flow of creative inspiration with him, and feel every twist and turn in the road with him, as he navigates his grief over his teenaged daughter’s death, his fame, and his conflict with a dangerous man whose family doesn’t forgive or forget. Ever.

Jim is no saint, but he stands up for the weak, and he does it with fists. When he sees a man beating a horse, Jim fights with him in front of witnesses, breaks the man’s nose and liberates the horse. And so begins Jim’s trip to hell. There are stops in brief but intense heavens of love, painting and fishing, but this time Jim’s inner demons have pulled in some real ones, and they won’t leave him alone.

The landscape of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado is so alive as seen through this painter and fisherman’s eyes that it’s virtually a character in the book. The people in Jim’s life—his model Sofia, his friends, his oft-remembered late daughter, the police who question him—are vivid and multi-dimensional, and even the passing minor characters are so finely portrayed they seem to have lives beyond the story. The scenes revolving around art in Santa Fe are drawn from life: the wealthy collectors, the galleries, and the lionizing of the famous man. As scandal and suspicion grow around Jim, so does the value of his art. The confluence of the public pressure for pictures and interviews with the inner pressure from his emotions and the sense of being hunted like prey come together in an explosive and unexpected conclusion.

For an interview with the author about this book, go to


and click on the video for The Painter. The story behind the book is as fascinating as the book itself.

About the artist who inspired the author to create Jim Stegner:



Breaking the Genre Barrier

I’ve claimed genres because Amazon and Goodreads and other web sites require it, but I am a genre-blender. I once described my genre as “platypus.” The platypus looks like a mammal, a bird, and a reptile, blended into one animal. I write with elements of general fiction, mystery, romance, suspense and paranormal, but I don’t fit in any genre. I use the “paranormal” category, so readers who are interested in a mystical element to their mysteries can find me. I use the mystery category because my protagonist, a psychic, looks into the whereabouts of a missing people or animals, or why strange spiritual phenomena have occurred, or what secrets people are hiding. The mystery in my books is not always related to crime or death, though sometimes it is.  So far, none of the books are about murder. I simply wasn’t drawn to writing about murder.

Many years ago I read a mystery in which the central puzzle to be solved related to an art heist. It was non-violent. I loved it, and never forgot the concept of the murder-less mystery, even though I have long since forgotten the author and the title. Another murder-less example is the Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency series. Precious Ramotswe is a private detective investigating such things as workplace thefts, infidelities, missing heirs, etc. There are plenty of mysteries in real life that do not involve killing someone. People are very strange, and often dishonest. I knew a man who kept it secret from his “wife” that they were not legally married, so he could honestly tell his mistress that he wasn’t married, since she would have broken off with him if he was. (I will not tell you how he did it. I may yet use it in a book.)

When it comes to paranormal fiction, I don’t care for anything with vampires or werewolves or other such creatures. I like books where the mystical kind of mysterious steps into the ordinary. Linda Hogan’s Power and Mean Spirit are two of the best books I’ve ever read. She crosses the bridge into the spiritual realm through ordinary reality in a way that makes the extraordinary somehow more believable. Her books are general fiction, or literary fiction, although they have a strong supernatural element. I don’t claim to write like Hogan, but this is the kind of “paranormal” that appeals to me as reader. I’ve had a number of psychic experiences, and have researched various elements of the mystical experience, and alternative healing, and found that this is an area full of mystery in its other sense—the inexplicable.

My characters, not the genre, seem to be the element that draws readers in. I may have to make that my brand.

                             READ OUTSIDE THE BOX WITH AMBER FOXX

The Mae Martin Psychic Mysteries

Paranormal fiction for people who don’t like paranormal fiction.

And for those who do.

No murder, just mystery.

Love is a mystery. Every person is a mystery.

Somewhere in every life there is a secret.