Books by Rebecca Rothenberg

THE TUMBLEWEED MURDERS by Rebecca Rothenberg
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

"A beacon for those who have ever loved a married man and wondered if it would turn out right, plus just enough scientific sprinklings to make the reader an instant expert on mycorrhizal fungi."
Lost en route to Erasmo Campos's farm to examine peach rot, plant pathologist Claire Staples (The Shy Tulip Murders, 1996, etc.) stops at Jewell Scoggins's trailer for directions and is fascinated by the woman's past, when she went by the name of Cherokee Rose and fronted for a local country band. A day later, Jewell is dead, and Claire and her co-worker Ramon have turned up another body, now reduced to bones and wire-rimmed glasses, on Campos's property. Could the corpse belong to Elliot Klein, the petroleum engineer who wooed Jewell back in the '50s, then disappeared without a trace? And whatever happened to his inseparable sidekick Clyde? With the help of Ramon's brilliant but paranoid cousin, investigative reporter Yolanda—now living in fear of C.C. Tidwell, the subject of one of her all-too-successful exposés—Claire tracks down a former band member, his jealous wife, and Elliot's younger brother. One more will die and Claire will nearly drown in the Kern River before crimes both old and new are resolved in this complex blend of romance, science, and ingenious clues. Rothenberg, who died before completing the fourth in the series, is well-served by her friend Cannon, who finishes the tale with brio, intelligence, and a respect for the biota of California's unadmirable San Joaquin Valley. Read full book review >
THE SHY TULIP MURDERS by Rebecca Rothenberg
Released: May 14, 1996

Dr. Claire Sharples, a microbiologist working as farm advisor at a research station in the California Sierras (The Dandelion Murders, 1994, etc.), is not a happy camper. Her little cabin is falling apart; her botanist coworker Sam, a divorced father of two, has dropped her for the more motherly Linda; and someone has put nails in the tires and loosened the brakes of her new Toyota. Meanwhile, battles are being fought over tree-cutting areas, with Nelson Pringle, head of the forest service district, rumored to be in the deep pockets of lumber biggie Gene Doughty. A frightened Claire joins Friends of the Redwoods, a group sparked by rich, vivacious, near-promiscuous Marcy Hobbes, whose Jaguar has also been vandalized. It's Claire's misfortune, while searching for a rare tulip in a remote area, to come across an unconscious Marcy, who dies days later in the hospital. Police Chief Tom Martelli treats the death as an accident, and obnoxious Sheriff J.T. Cummings deals perfunctorily with a second death—that of forest- service worker Andy Nilsson. It takes Claire, on her own, to ferret out the unconvincing villain, and to see that justice is done, after a fashion. At times jauntily written but often pretentious, with a heroine not fully centered (in the New Agespeak generously so sprinkled here), much aimless roaming up and down the mountain, and reams of botanical lore. All add little to an unfocused puzzle. Rather dreary stuff, then, except perhaps to environmental enthusiasts. Read full book review >
THE DANDELION MURDERS by Rebecca Rothenberg
Released: Sept. 1, 1994

Still struggling to adapt to the rigors of Parkerville, Calif. (``Gateway to the High Country'')—her switch from academic research to hands-on plant pathology; her oil-and-vinegar romance with U.C. Extension botanist Sam Cooper; all that sunshine, all those Republicans—M.I.T. transplant Claire Sharples is restless even before she stumbles over the body of Jonathan Levine, an L.A. Free Press reporter drowned in an irrigation canal with a strange yellow flower from hours away stuck in his buttonhole. Parkerville police chief Tom Martelli belittles Claire's curiosity at his peril: She digs into the story on pesticide abuse Jonathan had been following, links his demise to the deaths of two Mexican workers also found in watery graves, and leaves Sam in a snit (after returning from a trip to L.A. to find his car parked outside his ``friend'' Linda Nelson's house at dawn) for lodgings in Jonathan's seedy motel room. Before she's through, Claire will have peered so closely at every man in the case—imperious grape grower Bert Yankovich; his kid brother Emil, a stuttering liberal in love with Claire; pertinacious walnut grower Wayne Harris; even Jeff Green, her knockout blind date down in L.A.—that you'll wonder if she can ever think about a man again without a shudder. As in The Bulrush Murders (1991), Rothenberg is knowing and exact about how lovers and other people fight, and her tale is twistier than mile-high blacktop. Read full book review >
THE BULRUSH MURDERS by Rebecca Rothenberg
Released: Dec. 16, 1991

A well-thought-out, nicely written first mystery featuring microbiologist Claire Sharples, a former MIT researcher now trying to acclimate to a southern California agricultural field station, the local peach farmers, and Citrus Grove expert Sam Cooper, a quiet nerd who, somehow, unnerves her. Working together uneasily, Claire and Sam learn that the Rodriguezes' peaches are the only ones beset by brown rot after spraying with Benyl; that their son's motorcycle accident may have been murder; and that the Rodriguez property is smack in the middle of a Venture West development scheme, and someone may have been trying to force them out. Moreover, the older Rodriguez son's death in Vietnam keeps cropping up, and the version of it told by field-station man Jim LaSalle differs from everyone else's. There will be another murder, a fire, a buyout offer, and near-death for Claire before she and Sam restore some semblance of normalcy to Kaweah County. A convincing look at racism in southern California, agricultural hardships, and the difficulty that arises when opposites fall in love. A judicious balance of science and emotion, then, and a better-than-average debut. Read full book review >