Some people are dog people, some are cat people. I like both, depending on the individual, but if anything I am really a wild animal person. One of the benefits of my New Mexico home office is that I can look out the window at the wild world wandering by – lizards, quail and many other birds, a fox family that lives in the neighborhood, occasionally even a coyote.
A couple of years ago, I met a local falconer. I tagged along on hunts, as he released a falcon after homing pigeons on a cold winter morning or let a hawk chase rabbits on a spring afternoon. (For those of you who are squeamish, the birds of prey don’t succeed as often as you might expect, but they get exercise.) I visited the falconer’s home to see newly hatched hawks and falcons. I even wrote an article about him and his birds for a local publication.
Raising falcons is an intense, time-consuming, and expensive hobby, so I don’t plan to get into falconry myself. But as an author, I could do the next best thing – I could write about it.
In What We Found, set in a small town in central New Mexico, a young woman stumbles on a dead body in the woods. Audra gets drawn into the investigation, but more than one person isn’t happy about her bringing a murder to light. Fortunately, she has some allies, including her brainy 12-year-old brother and self-appointed sidekick, Ricky; a sophisticated Navajo coworker, Nascha; and her goofy but loyal boss, Eslinda. And because this is suspense with a dose of romance, she has a love interest – Kyle, a mysterious young man who happens to be the brother of the murder victim.
Kyle is recovering from physical and psychological wounds he received during military service. He finds some peace helping his grandmother, Nancy, work with the falcons and hawks she keeps. Audra goes with him one morning when he's taking his falcon to hunt. This scene is closely based on one of my experiences with the falconer.
We strode across the desert, angling to pass by bushy patches where rabbits might be hiding. The hawk flew ahead again, soaring about twenty feet above the ground before landing on a small tree. She waited until we passed by, then made another hop, farther that time. Kyle raised his left arm to shoulder height. The hawk flew back and landed. Watching her come in sent a strange breathless thrill through my chest. I’d seen owls and eagles fairly close in the zoo, but there they were sitting quietly on perches. This was a glimpse of something wild and beautiful.
After fifteen minutes my feet were hurting even though I was sure Kyle was going slower than usual for him. I tried to hide my limp and wondered how long this usually took.
A jackrabbit bolted out of a bush twenty paces ahead. The hawk took off after it.
Seconds later, she swooped down behind some bushes several hundred feet away. She rose up, made a small loop, and dropped down again. Something shrieked.
Kyle was already running toward the action. I hurried after, though the distance between us quickly stretched. By the time I got there, he had the hawk on his arm again. She had a feather sticking out awkwardly from her wing. I didn’t see the rabbit and wondered if Kyle had hidden it to make it easier on me.
“She got beat up,” Kyle said. “That rabbit had some moves.”
“It got away?”
He nodded and plucked a small tuft of gray fur from the bush. “She made contact. But this time, it looks like the rabbit won.” He opened his fingers and the small tuft of fur drifted away on the breeze.
I was smiling. “The rabbit won!”
“It happens sometimes. Fortunately for our girl, she won’t starve.” He looked into her black eyes. “It’s frozen quail for you tonight, my dear.”
The falcons are realistically portrayed in What We Found, so they don’t help solve the crime or anything like that. But the falconry aspect helped me develop thematic elements of the story, added some unusual action, and provided readers with insight into an usual pastime. One reader wrote, “The falconry aspect was almost as intriguing as the unveiling of the murderer!”
A romantic mystery: When Audra finds a murdered woman, she’ll have to stand up for herself to help the victim. It’s a risk, as is trusting the mysterious man who works with deadly birds of prey. But with danger all around, some risks are worth taking.
“Another action-packed suspense novel by Kris Bock, perhaps her best to-date. The author weaves an intriguing tale with appealing characters. Watching Audra, the main character, evolve into an emotionally-mature and independent young woman is gratifying.” Reader Ellen Rippel
Read an excerpt on my website
Sample or buy What We Found on Amazon