Thurlo, Aimee (Aimee Duvall, Aimee Martel)
THURLO, Aimee (Aimee Duvall, Aimee Martel)
PERSONAL: Born in Cuba; married David Thurlo (a writer).
CAREER: Full-time writer of romance and mystery novels.
AWARDS, HONORS: Nominated for Career Achievement Award, Romantic Times Magazine, 1997.
ROMANCE NOVELS; WITH HUSBAND, DAVID THURLO (NOT CREDITED)
Ariel's Desire ("Dell Candlelight Ecstasy" series, #509), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1987.
The Right Combination ("Harlequin Super" series, #312), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1988.
Expiration Date ("Harlequin Intrigue" series, #109), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1989.
Black Mesa ("Harlequin Intrigue" series, #131), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1990.
Suitable for Framing ("Harlequin Intrigue" series, #141), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1990.
Strangers Who Linger ("Harlequin Intrigue" series, #162), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1991.
Night Wind ("Harlequin Intrigue" series, #175), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1991.
Breach of Faith ("Harlequin Intrigue" series, #200), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1992.
Shadow of the Wolf ("Harlequin Intrigue" series, #217), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1993.
Spirit Warrior ("Harlequin Intrigue" series, #246), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1993.
Timewalker ("Harlequin Intrigue" series, #275), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1994.
Bearing Gifts ("Harlequin Intrigue" series, #304), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1994.
Fatal Charm ("Harlequin Intrigue" series, #337), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1995.
Cisco's Woman (Harlequin Intrigue—"Renegade Lawman" series), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1996.
Black Raven's Pride ("Harlequin Intrigue" series), Harlequin (New York, NY), 2000.
ROMANCE NOVELS; "FOUR WINDS" TRILOGY; WITH DAVID THURLO (NOT CREDITED)
Her Destiny, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1997.
Her Hope, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1997.
Her Shadow, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1997.
ROMANCE NOVELS; UNDER PSEUDONYM AIMEE MARTEL; WITH DAVID THURLO (NOT CREDITED)
Secrets Not Shared ("Leisure" series), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1981.
The Fires Within ("Silhouette Desire" series, #136), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1984.
Hero at Large ("Silhouette Desire" series, #249), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1984.
Redhawk's Heart ("Harlequin Intrigue" series), Harlequin, 1999;
Redhawk's Return ("Harlequin Intrigue" series), Harlequin, 1999.
ROMANCE NOVELS; UNDER PSEUDONYM AIMEE DUVALL; WITH DAVID THURLO (NOT CREDITED)
Too Near the Sun ("Second Chance at Love" series, #56), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1982.
Halfway There ("Second Chance at Love" series, #67), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1982.
Lover in Blue ("Second Chance at Love" series, #84), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1982.
The Loving Touch ("Second Chance at Love" series, #159), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1983.
After the Rain ("Second Chance at Love" series, #179), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1984.
One More Tomorrow ("Second Chance at Love" series, #211), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1984.
Brief Encounters ("Second Chance at Love" series, #252), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1985.
Spring Madness ("Second Chance at Love" series, #299), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1985.
Kid at Heart ("Second Chance at Love" series, #348), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1986.
Made for Each Other ("Second Chance at Love" series, #392), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1987.
To Tame a Heart ("Pageant Romance" series), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1988.
Wings of Angels ("Pageant Romance" series), Harlequin (New York, NY), 1989.
"ELLA CLAH" MYSTERY SERIES; WITH DAVID THURLO
Blackening Song, Forge (New York, NY), 1995.
Death Walker, Forge (New York, NY), 1996.
Bad Medicine, Forge (New York, NY), 1997.
Enemy Way, Forge (New York, NY), 1998.
Shooting Chant, Forge (New York, NY), 2000.
Red Mesa, Forge (New York, NY), 2001.
Changing Woman, Forge (New York, NY), 2002.
(With David Thurlo) Second Shadow (mystery), Forge (New York, NY), 1993.
Contributor to periodicals, including National Enquirer, Grit, and Popular Mechanics.
SIDELIGHTS: Aimee Thurlo and her husband, David, have worked as a writing team for decades, although he has often been an uncredited partner in their collaborations. The couple began their writing endeavors with articles for periodicals such as Grit, Popular Mechanics, and the National Enquirer, but soon branched out into fiction. They produced numerous romances before creating their detective heroine Ella Clah, a member of the Navajo Tribal Police. With this mystery series, the Thurlos found a widespread readership.
Born in Cuba, Thurlo has lived in New Mexico for most of her life. Her husband was raised in Shiprock, New Mexico, on the Navajo Indian Reservation, which he left after seventeen years to complete his education at the University of New Mexico. The couple spent years honing their talents, writing romance and romantic intrigue novels under Thurlo's name and the pseudonyms Aimee Martel and Aimee Duvall. Their work from this period includes such books as Strangers Who Linger, Expiration Date, and To Tame a Heart.
In the early 1990s the Thurlos took a new direction with their writing. They decided to pool their resources and use their knowledge of genre fiction and Navajo traditions to produce unique mysteries set on the Shiprock Reservation. The Thurlos' first Shiprock novel, Second Shadow, combines mystery and romantic elements. Irene Pobikan, a Tewa Indian and an architect, receives her first commission—to renovate the Mendoza hacienda—because of her extensive experience with adobe buildings from the Pueblo. The Mendozas have a history of mistreating the people of her tribe, and tight deadlines force both architect and construction crew to live on the isolated Mendoza property. No sooner does she begin construction, however, than a series of mysterious accidents occurs. When Irene discovers a twenty-year-old corpse on the site and becomes aware of a hostile prowler, she turns to her Tewa beliefs and calls on her guardian spirit, the mountain lion, for protection and help. In the meantime, she finds herself falling for Raul Mendoza despite the fact that his alcoholic brother, Gene, is determined to sabotage her hard work. Also present in the novel is Raul's beautiful but mildly retarded sister, Elena, who has an important secret she cannot share. Although a Publishers Weekly reviewer found the novel's "cliffhanger" chapter endings too formulaic, Library Journal reviewer Marion F. Gallivan praised the plotting, noting that the suspense "builds effectively to the finale."
Inspired by mystery novelist Tony Hillerman's enthusiasm and buoyed by the initial success of Second Shadow, the Thurlos then developed a mystery series set in the Southwest that features Ella Clah, a Navajo FBI agent who combines modern investigative techniques with traditional Native American beliefs to solve mysteries. In the first novel of the series, Blackening Song, Ella is called from Los Angeles to return to the Shiprock Reservation, which she had left at age eighteen. Her father, a Christian minister, has been found murdered and mutilated in a way that suggests a ritual killing. Ella's brother Clifford, a hataali, or traditional medicine man, has fled and is now a prime suspect. Before the murder, Clifford, a traditionalist, had argued vehemently with his father over the construction of a Christian church on the reservation. With the FBI investigation being conducted by an Anglo who has a troubled history with the Navajo community, Ella finds that she must act as liaison between the bureau, the tribe, and the tribal police.
Teaming up with Wilson Joe, a college professor who is Clifford's closest friend and staunchest defender, Ella finds her brother, who tells her that their father was murdered by Navajo witches called "skinwalkers," members of a religious cult that practices black magic. Rumors about the skinwalkers abound on the reservation, and when ghostly coyotes are spotted before three men are found murdered in a manner similar to that of Ella's father, Ella is forced to reconsider the traditional beliefs she abandoned years ago. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented, "Contrasting the high-tech and hyperrational methods of the FBI with the ritual world of the Navajo . . . , the Thurlos ratchet up a lot of suspense. Throw away logic and enjoy." A Library Journal critic observed that "the action moves swiftly in this well-written mystery."
In Death Walker, the second in the Ella Clah series, Ella joins the Navajo tribal police force as a special investigator. The case she faces threatens the cultural traditions of the Navajo people, who revere their elders as "living treasures," those who embody the tribe's heritage and collective wisdom. After tribal historian Kee Dodge is clubbed to death and apparently symbolic religious artifacts are left near his body, one elder after another is similarly slain, and Ella must face the likely possibility that the malignant skinwalkers are preying upon the tribe again. While dealing with a minimal staff, threats directed at her family, and the skewed mind of the psychopathic killer, Ella draws both on her FBI experience and her intuition to solve the crimes. She is aided by her young cousin, Justine Goodluck, who joins the investigation as Ella's assistant. A reviewer for the Armchair Detective praised the "grittily convincing atmosphere and landscapes" and noted that the female characters in Death Walker are "particularly well drawn." A School Library Journal reviewer also praised the Thurlos' use of landscape and description and approved of the way "characters develop into unique individuals with talents, strengths, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies." This reviewer called Death Walker "a fast-paced, intriguing novel."
Bad Medicine, the third novel in the Ella Clah series, begins with two seemingly unrelated homicides. On her way to investigate the fatal clubbing of Navajo-rights activist Stanley Bitah, Ella attends to a report of a drunk-driver fatality. The problem is that Angelina Yellowhair was not drunk at all; she had been fatally poisoned even before her car crashed, and Ella finds herself pulled in many directions as she struggles to focus on both murders. Suspects in Bitah's murder include fellow coal miners who may resent his ties to the Navajo Justice Church, as well as the members of the Brotherhood, a white supremacist group, and the Fierce Ones, composed of residents of the Navajo reservation. However, the suspects must go temporarily uninvestigated because State Senator James Yellowhair, the father of Angelina, is pressuring Ella and tribal medical examiner Carolyn Roanhorse to overlook forensic evidence of drugs in Angelina's body and halt their investigation.
While Ella struggles to balance her cases, Angelina's tissue samples and poisoned organs disappear. Infections soon break out among Dr. Roanhorse's patients, and the medical examiner's credibility, career, and home come under attack. Stories on the reservation suggest that the examiner has been contaminated by the chindi, earthbound spirits of the dead, and that Dr. Roanhorse is spreading this contamination to the people. Ella must prove Dr. Roanhorse's innocence before her friend is murdered. A Kirkus Reviews critic found Bad Medicine "overstuffed" and "too much of a good thing," and added that "trying to sort out the suspects and subplots is like wandering for hours" in a museum "filled with fascinating exhibits."
In Enemy Way, the fourth Ella Clah mystery, the Navajo Police force continues to be strained to the limit. Gang violence, drunk driving, and the murder of an old friend's loved one create headaches for Ella as her investigative skills are needed everywhere at once. When her mother is seriously injured in a car accident, Ella takes on family responsibilities that threaten her career just at a time when her old enemies, the skinwalkers, make their presence known once again. A Publishers Weekly writer said of Enemy Way: "In a world out of balance, Ella strives to find the harmony between work and family, tradition and modernity. She herself remains an intriguing bundle of contrasts."
Shooting Chant finds Ella dealing with increased personal and professional challenges. She is anticipating becoming a single parent, keeping her pregnancy a secret as long as she is able. At the same time, she is working on a case involving LabKote, a medicalsupplies company run by outsiders but located on the reservation. It seems LabKote may have contaminated reservation property with some sort of toxin. Then the company's headquarters are broken into, and records pertaining to pregnant women are stolen. Ella feels even more threatened by this development, and by the escalating violence associated with the Fierce Ones, a vigilante group to which her brother belongs. "The Thurlos mix social commentary with plot-twisting suspense in a well-developed and unsentimental tale," remarked a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. Booklist reviewer Connie Fletcher also enjoyed "the richly complex Ella and her fight to bring integrity to her work and personal life," and Pam Johnson, writing in School Library Journal, called this "an enticing mystery built on a frighteningly realistic scenario."
Clah's child is a toddler in the next series title, Red Mesa. "The moments that single mom Clah steals from her work to spend with her 18-month-old daughter, Dawn, are poignantly rendered," reflected a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Yet Ella has her hands full with another mystery as well. Her cousin and assistant, Justine, has become increasingly wild and unreliable—and then she turns up dead. Ella is targeted as a prime suspect, and she must desperately try to clear her own name as she hunts for the real killer. The result is "an intense, spellbinding family drama," wrote Rex Klett in Library Journal.
Tensions between modernist and traditionalist members of the tribe are always a feature in the Clah series, but especially so in Changing Woman. In this story, life has become especially hard on the reservation, as unemployment climbs and a drought persists. Some tribe members think that building a casino is the answer, but others, including Ella's mother, Rose, find the idea a threat to many of the traditional values of the Navajo. Although she has never been an outspoken person, Rose begins to change under the pressure of this important issue. The Thurlos "present a good look at the complexities of the gaming issue while maintaining the character-driven essence of the series," decided a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Fletcher, in another Booklist review, concluded, "Plenty of action, splendid characterizations, and a deep knowledge of contemporary Navajo life makes this a rewarding read."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Heising, Willetta L., editor, Detecting Women 2, Purple Moon Press (Dearborn, MI), 1996.
Reginald, Robert, Science Fiction & Fantasy Literature, 1975-1991, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.
Armchair Detective, summer, 1996, pp. 361-362.
Booklist, December 15, 2000, Connie Fletcher, review of Red Mesa, p. 792; February 15, 2002, Connie Fletcher, review of Changing Woman, p. 996.
Drood Review of Mystery, January, 2001, reviews of Red Mesa and Shooting Chant, p. 23.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 1995, p. 216; October 1, 1997; February 1, 2002, review of Changing Woman, p. 147.
Library Journal, October 15, 1993, p. 91; July, 1995, p. 124; April 1, 2000, Susan A. Zappia, review of Shooting Chant, p. 135; March 1, 2001, Rex Klett, review of Red Mesa, p. 133.
Publishers Weekly, April 5, 1991, p. 140; October 4, 1993, p. 65; May 1, 1995, p. 46; April 22, 1996, p. 62; August 25, 1997, pp. 48-49; July 27, 1998, p. 57; April 3, 2000, review of Shooting Chant, p. 66; January 29, 2001, review of Red Mesa, p. 68; February 25, 2002, review of Changing Woman, p. 45.
School Library Journal, March, 1997, pp. 216-217; January, 1999, review of Enemy Way, p. 160; July, 2000, Pam Johnson, review of Shooting Chant, p. 128.*
BookBrowser,http://bookbrowser.com/ (June 5, 2003), Harriet Klausner, reviews of Shooting Chant and Changing Woman.*