Published in Aspen Daily News Online

by Carole O’Brien, Time Out Book Critic

Friday, July 25, 2014

Sam Dawson has discovered a mystery and he is not going to stop until he solves it – no matter how dangerous his search becomes. Dawnson isn’t a likely detective. Divorced, he lives in a log house in the woods west of Golden, Colo., and travels in a motor home with his bloodhound, Elle. In a former life he had been the governor’s press secretary. Now, he is a photographer working on his fourth book. His third book was photographs of Colorado cemeteries and had been a bestseller. Inspired by that success he decided to revisit the subject. Remembering his mother’s stories of growing up in small-town Iowa, he decides to make what he thinks of as a pilgrimage to photograph Iowa cemeteries.

In the cemetery in his mother’s hometown of Oxford, Dawson stumbles upon a secret that has been carefully guarded for decades involving mass murder, hidden graves and a frightening conspiracy. He finds a marker inscribed with the mysterious epitaph “Wellborn are My Children” on the grave of a man named Eugene Eris. What is remarkable is that Dawson saw a marker with the same name and epitaph on a grave in the small town of Cambridge, Colo., when he was researching his last book. Even more remarkable, the strange old caretakers of the two cemeteries could be identical twins. And, shockingly, in that same cemetery he stumbles across a marker bearing a picture that looks eerily like his sister, who had been kidnapped and murdered 25 years earlier.

Using his contacts in Colorado government, Dawson begins digging for information to explain what he has seen. He learns that Eris was a doctor, revered by the people of Cambridge, and who was active in the Eugenics movement in the early 1900s. This movement believed it was possible, and desirable, to genetically “improve” humanity by eliminating what they viewed as “inferior” traits. In the course of his research Sam meets several intriguing people: Blair Tennyson, a beautiful professor of genetics at the University of Colorado; Annie George, a waitress/microbiologist in Iowa (also beautiful, of course) and 90-something-year-old Sarah Wiley in New Castle, Colo. Dawson’s investigation takes him on a winding path through state agencies, boards, offices and committees and draws a lot of unwanted and dangerous attention. As he gets closer to finding answers, he begins to realize it isn’t safe to trust anyone.

This is a fast-moving, intelligent thriller with multiple layers of intrigue and surprise. Horn’s writing draws from, among other outstanding achievements, his experience as Colorado’s Commissioner of Agriculture and as president of the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association. Horn is currently professor emeritus in the Department of Animal Science at the University of Wyoming. This is the first book in his Sam Dawson mystery series, and we can happily report that a second installment is in the works.

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