NC Literary Hall of Fame



Molten Mud Murder by Sara E. Johnson

Poisoned Pen Press/Sourcebooks
$15.99, paperback / $7.99, e-book
ISBN: 978-1-464211218
September, 2019
Fiction: Mystery / Crime / Female Sleuths
Available from your local bookstore or

“Move over Kay Scarpetta and Temperance Brennan. There’s a new forensics expert in town, even though ‘town’ is 8,500 miles away. Alexa Glock is a forensic odontologist and qualified crime-scene investigator who debuts in Sara E. Johnson’s engrossing first novel, set in New Zealand. Fleeing a relationship gone bad in North Carolina, and fresh from a visiting professorship in Auckland, Alexa impulsively offers her services to a police department at the tip of North Island where an unidentified body has been pulled from a pool of molten mud. Johnson gives us a compelling picture of modern New Zealand overlaid by Maori culture with its strict taboos and amazing artifacts. Alexa hopes to stay in New Zealand and if this leads to a full series, my fingers are crossed that she gets her wish.”
— Margaret Maron, New York Times bestselling author

Molten Mud Murder is an absolutely delightful murder mystery set in New Zealand, starring Alexa Glock, an expert on the forensics of teeth. And teeth are the only way to identify a hideously burned body found in a boiling ‘mud pot.’ The novel is a page turner par excellence, with vivid characters and a enthralling plot, all wrapped up in a most charming evocation of New Zealand’s landscapes, people, and local politics. I highly recommend this debut novel!”
—Douglas Preston, #1 New York Times bestselling co-author of the Pendergast series

“Johnson provides a fascinating view of New Zealand and insights into the Maori culture…armchair travelers will have fun.”
Publishers Weekly

Is the past better left undisturbed, or unearthed?

When a body is found half-submerged in a molten mud pot in one of Rotorua's famous geothermal wonderlands, forensics expert Alexa Glock spots a way to prolong her stay in New Zealand, which she has been visiting for work. Teeth are her expertise, and the investigation needs her help, as other ways of identifying the body may have... melted away.

Joining Detective Inspector Bruce Horne and his team, Alexa discovers that the murder victim, a city councilman, had trespassed on an island sacred to the Maori. The ancient punishment for such a transgression is disaster, demonic possession, or death... and when she visits the island to investigate, the same outcome is promised for her. Alexa doesn't believe in ancient spirits returning to exact revenge, and when another victim turns up dead she begins to wonder whether the real threat is something—or someone—much closer to home.

Sara E. Johnson is a mystery writer who spent nine months exploring wondrous New Zealand. Everywhere she snooped, there was a mystery that needed writing. Molten Mud Murder, is Sara's debut novel. It is the first in the Alexa Glock Mystery series set in New Zealand.

Sara lives in Durham with her husband and golden doodle. She is a part-time educator and full-time snooper. She is the president of Triangle Sisters-in-Crime and a member of the North Carolina Writers' Network.

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