Thurlo, Aimée (Aimée Duvall, a Joint Pseudonym, Aimée Martel, a Joint Pseudonym)
(Aimée Duvall, a Joint Pseudonym, Aimée Martel, a Joint Pseudonym)
Born in Cuba; married David Thurlo (a writer), July 31, 1970.
Full-time writer of romance and mystery novels.
(With husband, David Thurlo) WILLA Award, 2003, for contemporary fiction; RITA Career Achievement Award, 2003.
ROMANCE NOVELS; WITH HUSBAND, DAVID THURLO (NOT CREDITED)
Ariel's Desire, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1987.
The Right Combination, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1988.
Expiration Date, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1989.
Black Mesa, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1990.
Suitable for Framing, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1990.
Strangers Who Linger, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1991.
Night Wind, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1991.
Breach of Faith, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1992.
Shadow of the Wolf, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1993.
Spirit Warrior, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1993.
Timewalker, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1994.
Bearing Gifts, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1994.
Fatal Charm, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1995.
Cisco's Woman, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1996.
Black Raven's Pride, Harlequin (New York, NY), 2000.
"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.
WITH DAVID THURLO UNDER JOINT PSEUDONYM AIMÉE MARTEL
Secrets Not Shared, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1981.
The Fires Within, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1984.
Hero at Large, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1984.
Redhawk's Heart, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1999.
Redhawk's Return, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1999.
WITH DAVID THURLO UNDER JOINT PSEUDONYM AIMÉE DUVALL
Too Near the Sun, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1982.
Halfway There, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1982.
Lover in Blue, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1982.
The Loving Touch, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1983.
After the Rain, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1984.
One More Tomorrow, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1984.
Brief Encounters, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1985.
Spring Madness, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1985.
Kid at Heart, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1986.
Made for Each Other, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1987.
To Tame a Heart, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1988.
Wings of Angels, 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.
Tracking Bear, Forge (New York, NY), 2003.
Plant Them Deep, Forge (New York, NY), 2003.
Wind Spirit, Forge (New York, NY), 2004.
White Thunder, Forge (New York, NY), 2005.
"SISTER AGATHA" MYSTERY SERIES; WITH DAVID THURLO
Bad Faith (mystery), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2002.
Thief in Retreat, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2004.
"LEE NEZ" SERIES; WITH DAVID THURLO
Second Sunrise, Forge (New York, NY), 2002.
Blood Retribution, Forge (New York, NY), 2004.
(With David Thurlo) Second Shadow (mystery), Forge (New York, NY), 1993.
(With David Thurlo) The Spirit Line (young-adult fiction), Viking (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to periodicals, including National Enquirer, Grit, and Popular Mechanics.
Aimée Thurlo and her husband, David Thurlo, have worked as a writing team for decades, although David has often been an uncredited partner in their collaborations. The couple began their authorial career penning 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 have gained 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 joint pseudonyms Aimée Martel and Aimée 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 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 in Second Shadow, noting that the book's 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 just 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 that by "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 "Ella Clah" novel, 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.
The "Ella Clah" series continues with Enemy Way, as 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 medical-supplies 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 in appraising Shooting Chant. Booklist reviewer Connie Fletcher also enjoyed "the richly complex Ella and her fight to bring integrity to her work and personal life," while Pam Johnson, writing in School Library Journal, called the novel "an enticing mystery built on a frighteningly realistic scenario."
Tensions between modernist and traditionalist members of the tribe are always a feature in the "Ella 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."
A puzzling mystery forms the basis of Tracking Bear. An abandoned gas station is broken into by a burglar, who then kills a police officer called to the scene. Ella is left to ask, Why break into an empty building? And why commit murder to cover it up? Her investigation soon uncovers odd facts, such as that the building had been used to secretly store something, and that the officer killed is the son of a leading physicist. Meanwhile, the Navajo Nation is in the middle of a controversy concerning a proposed nuclear power plant on a reservation. The modernists favor the idea as a money-maker, while conservatives see a danger to traditional ways of life. According to a critic for Publishers Weekly, "the suspense never lets up." Connie Fletcher in Booklist concluded that this series entry "again offers a spirited blend of Navajo culture and police procedure." Writing in the School Library Journal, Pam Johnson called Tracking Bear a "skillfully mixed and expertly designed story."
In Plant Them Deep, Ella's mother, Rose, is appointed Plant Watcher, which requires that she know where all the tribe's special plants are located. These herbs, cultivated secretly by the medicine men, are essential not only to the tribe's health but to its ceremonies as well. When someone begins stealing the precious plants, Rose's knowledge puts her in danger. Connie Fletcher, writing in Booklist, called Rose "a fascinating character," while a critic for Kirkus Reviews admitted that in Plant Them Deep "the tribal lore is, as usual, genuinely interesting."
In Wind Spirit, Ella is called upon when the invalid wife of a tribal councilman is burned to death in a suspicious house fire that may have been arson. A radio talk show host seems to be a prime suspect, but he is also the target of deadly threats. When Ella falls down an old mine shaft and manages to survive, the tribe's elders suspect that evil spirits helped her. She must locate an elderly medicine man and undergo a cleansing ritual to please them. "The Thurlos hit all the right notes," wrote Connie Fletcher in a Booklist review of Wind Spirit, while a critic for Publishers Weekly concluded that "there are no slow spots in the action."
White Thunder finds Ella trying to located an FBI agent who has gone missing on the reservation. Agent An-drew Thomas may have been tracking a scheme to steal social security checks by not reporting the deaths of elderly recipients. Along the way, he interrupted a sacred ceremony and upset tribal elders. Ella must now determine who had the most reason to make Thomas disappear. She must also determine who it is that wants to stop her investigation. Wes Lukowsky, writing in Booklist, called White Thunder "an excellent entry in an underappreciated series," while Harriet Klausner, in a review for MBR Bookwatch, concluded that "An Ella Clah mystery is always a special treat."
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; October 15, 2002, Connie Fletcher, review of Bad Faith, p. 392; February 15, 2003, Connie Fletcher, review of Tracking Bear, p. 1054; October 15, 2003, Connie Fletcher, review of Plant Them Deep, p. 395; March 15, 2004, Connie Fletcher, review of Wind Spirit, p. 1273; May 1, 2004, Gillian Engberg, review of The Spirit Line, p. 1497; September 1, 2004, Kristine Huntley, review of Blood Retribution, p. 70; March 15, 2005, Wes Lukowsky, review of White Thunder, p. 1271.
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; February 1, 2003, review of Tracking Bear, p. 193; September 15, 2003, review of Plant Them Deep, p. 1158; March 15, 2004, review of The Spirit Line, p. 278; March 1, 2005, review of White Thunder, p. 264.
Kliatt, March, 2004, Michele Winship, review of The Spirit Line, p. 16.
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; March 1, 2003, Rex Klett, review of Tracking Bear, p. 122; November 1, 2003, Rex E. Klett, review of Plant Them Deep, p. 128.
MBR Bookwatch, January, 2005, Harriet Klausner, review of Thief in Retreat ; March, 2005, Harriet Klausner, review of White Thunder.
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; February 17, 2002, review of Tracking Bear, p. 60; October 28, 2002, review of Bad Faith, p. 54; October 6, 2003, review of Plant Them Deep, p. 65; February 9, 2004, review of Wind Spirit, p. 60; November 22, 2004, review of Thief in Retreat, p. 41.
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; August, 2003, Pam Johnson, review of Tracking Bear, p. 188; June, 2004, Cris Riedel, review of The Spirit Line, p. 150;
Aimée and David Thurlo's Web page, http://www.Aiméeanddavidthurlo.com (May 29, 2005).
BookBrowser, http://bookbrowser.com/ (June 5, 2003), Harriet Klausner, reviews of Shooting Chant and Changing Woman.