Blog posts about the Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mysteries and their author Rabbi Ilene Schneider



I always enjoy hosting guest blogs by fellow Oak Tree Press writers. And not only because it saves me from having to come up with a topic, but because their posts are just as entertaining and enjoyable as their books.

Amy Bennett’s debut mystery novel, End of the Road, started as a National Novel Writing Month project in 2009. It went on to win the 2012 Dark Oak Mystery Contest and launched the Black Horse Campground mystery series. It was followed by No Lifeguard on Duty and No Vacancy, both of which have been awarded the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval. At the Cross Road is the fourth book in the series. (Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page to read a description of and excerpt from At the Cross Road+.)

When not sitting at the laptop actively writing, Amy works full-time at Walmart of Alamogordo (not too far down the road from fictional Bonney County) as a cake decorator and part-time at Noisy Water Winery in Ruidoso (where you can find some of the best wines in the state of New Mexico, including Jo Mamma’s White!) She lives with her husband and son in a small town halfway between Alamogordo and Ruidoso. Visit her website at and The Back Deck Blog at

Here are Amy’s thoughts on one of my favorite topics: food. And I am in complete agreement with her first three sentences! (And salivating at the rest of her post.)

One thing that always bothers me is reading a book in which the characters never eat.

While I’ve never been a huge fan of books or series that revolve around recipes, I do enjoy reading about characters that are human. And humans eat!

I’ve never been one to go on in great detail about food—and you will rarely find food photos on my Facebook page—but what your characters eat can tell a lot about them and their setting. Stories that are set in coastal areas will, most likely, have the characters enjoying seafood. My stories are set in New Mexico and there are some things that New Mexicans eat that are unique to the area.

Chile peppers are a staple in the diets of many New Mexicans. The official state question is “Red or green?” and many New Mexicans, due to the fame of Hatch green chiles, have a definite preference for green and it goes into everything… even apple pie! It only makes sense that the residents of Bonney County enjoy the flavor and heat of green chile. Some characters, most notably J.D. Wilder, the transplant from Houston, Texas, feel that too much of a good thing can be overdone!

Another New Mexico favorite is the piñon nut from the state tree, the piñon. This nut has a particular flavor that melds beautifully with coffee to make a distinctive addition to the courtesy table at the Black Horse Campground and is Corrie’s favorite morning beverage.

New Mexico is also the oldest wine producing regions in the United States. The New Mexico wine industry has flourished in recent years and the area where fictional Bonney County is located, Ruidoso, is home to Noisy Water Winery, which produces up to thirty wines all made from only grapes grown in New Mexico. Because I love their wines—and I love working there!—it only made sense to me to include Noisy Water wines as a particular element of life in Bonney County!

So while I won’t be including recipes in any of my Black Horse Campground novels, you will read about my characters enjoying a cookout with green chile on the burgers, a bowl of posole at a church function, a plate of migas as a comfort food, and Mexican sweet breads (pan dulce) and breakfast burritos. After all, solving mysteries requires energy and there’s always room for one more around the table in Bonney County!

At the Crossroad
Trouble often comes in threes. It’s no different at the Black Horse Campground.

On his first day as detective with the Bonney Police Department, J.D. Wilder finds three cold case files on his desk—three women who have disappeared over a fifteen year period at five year intervals. It seems that no one has ever taken the cases seriously… or even properly investigated them.

Then J.D. receives a visit from two former colleagues who inform him that he’s about to receive another visitor; a woman from his past who is in trouble and needs his help. Again. The timing couldn’t be worse, since he’s finally about to ask Corrie on a date, but then Corrie also has a visitor from her past show up… someone who’s hoping for a second chance with her. In the meantime, Sheriff Rick Sutton has his hands full dodging his ex-wife, Meghan, who insists on discussing personal business with him… business that has to do with digging up a painful past.

When three bodies are discovered that prove the missing women were murdered, J.D.’s investigation reveals that all of their visitors have some connection to the victims. But which one of them killed three women… and is prepared to kill again?

When trouble comes to Bonney County, Corrie, Rick, and J.D. band together to protect each other and their community. But can they solve the mystery before the murderer strikes again?


J.D. returned to the Black Horse more wide awake than he had been in days. Amato’s words rang in his ears, while a voice in his head warned him that if he didn’t get some rest, he was going to be completely useless when the time came to have his wits about him and his energy. Still, a night spent in mostly inactivity wasn’t going to allow him to rest. He went into his cabin and changed into his running clothes. He needed to release some tension and energy if he was going to rest at all.

He slipped out of the cabin, casting a glance toward the campground store. It was almost six thirty a.m. and Corrie’s apartment light was on but the store’s lights were still out. He had missed the Friday night fish fry dinner, but he hoped to be back once she was open and be able to talk to her more. And get a decent breakfast.

He started out, following the path he’d taken a couple days earlier. The cool morning air was amazingly refreshing, helping clear his mind while invigorating and relaxing him at the same time. His breathing eased as his strides became more purposeful. He was near a breakthrough in the cold cases. He could feel it. Officer Amato had information that could help reveal the truth about what happened to the three women. After that… he’d have to wait and see.

He rounded the curve where he had seen the small cemetery the last time he had run this path and he slowed to a stop. He had pushed it to the back of his mind and had all but forgotten about it until this moment. Now was as good a time as any to pay his respects. His run had already accomplished its purpose. He knew he’d be able to sleep when he got to his cabin and he’d probably stroll back to the campground after this. He allowed himself a grin as he left the path, picking his way through the tall grass and brush to where the grave sites were.

Unlike most small cemeteries he’d encountered, there was no fence surrounding this one. In fact, there were only three wooden markers, crosses, all of them uniform but in different stages of weathering. He stopped when he got close enough to make out the lettering and suddenly the breath rushed out of him, leaving him feeling weak and dizzy with shock.

The first marker, the most faded, bore the name Carla Sandoval. The second, Rosalie Edwards. The third, the one with the least amount of weathering and the least faded lettering, read Benita Rojas.
Beside the one for Benita Rojas was an open grave. A plain wooden cross lay nearby. Both looked recent. Only a few days recent.

J.D. stumbled back, afraid that his eyes were playing tricks. He fumbled for his cell phone and let out an expletive when he realized he’d left it in his cabin when he changed his clothes. He reached the path and took off at a dead run back to the Black Horse Campground.

He’d been right; there had been more to the disappearances than what was common knowledge.

He hated it when he was right.


  1. Now I’m hungry. And REALLY thirsty for some Noisy Water!! 😃

  2. I agree wholeheartedly. Food isn’t just about feeding our bodies. It’s also how we connect with each other. What a character likes or doesn’t like to eat speaks volumes. As for Noisy Waters Wines, have they got distribution in California yet? I’ve tasted some New Mexico Wines and really liked them.

  3. I so agree with you, Amy. I love to know what characters are eating. As a former cookbook writer, I include food in my novels. Food not only speaks to the region, it speaks to the time. In my book set in 1882 Tombstone, the well-off ate French inspired food because, surprisingly that’s what restaurants served. In my current book,, set on a 1970 commune, it’s brown rice, lentils and goat milk. I think it makes your character real when she cooks breakfast for her tenants!

  4. Even as someone who doesn’t enjoy cooking, I very much appreciate mentions of what a character is eating or drinking and how the author’s choice reveals locale, ethnicity, social status, health consciousness or personality, you bet.

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