Preston Holtry


The Morgan Westphal Mysteries

The Morgan Westphal Mysteries


Four period mysteries feature Morgan Westphal, a former Rough Rider, town sheriff, and now a private investigator solving cases in Arizona and New Mexico in the early 20th Century.  Smart, resourceful, and relentless in finding the truth, he is also somewhat old-fashioned in dress and style. Still preferring a horse to an automobile, Morgan privately wonders if he’s making a successful transition to a more modern century.  Morgan has never gotten over the loss of his young and pregnant wife killed tragically many years before, a reality that complicates his relationship with any woman he meets.

The Westphal mysteries would appeal to any reader who enjoys both intricate plots and the opportunity to escape to another time and place.

Death in Emily 3 When Morgan Westphal receives a telegram informing him Frank Shaw, his volatile younger half-brother, has been jailed for murder in Adobe Wells and needs help, he thinks Frank just might be guilty.  Against his better judgment, Morgan goes to Adobe Wells and finds his brother accused of killing Phillip Hardesty in Tunnel 3 of the Emily Mine.  Morgan questions whether the mangled body of the murdered man in the town morgue is even Hardesty.  By the time Morgan discovers who was killed in Tunnel 3 and why, he will risk his life in the Emily Mine, become embroiled in a turbulent labor strike, and have a deadly confrontation with a sadistic deputy marshal.  

  “…Holtry mixes mystery, mining history and romance in this well-written and well –paced story, which offers a look at mining in the west circa 1915.” J.C. Martin, The Arizona Daily Star

A Troublesome Affair Rueben LeCroix, a highly decorated Negro sergeant, is in the guardhouse at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, accused of the robbery, rape, and attempted murder of a white woman. The victim is Sophia Parmenter, wife of an army major. Morgan Westphal is surprisingly asked to investigate the crime. As a civilian, Morgan at first has no wish to become involved in what he believes is a purely military matter with unwelcome racial overtones. He reluctantly changes his mind after being told LeCroix is the man who saved his life in Cuba during the Spanish American War 18 years before. Feeling morally obligated to help LeCroix, Morgan must put aside his intense dislike of the sergeant, overcome his latent racial prejudice, and ignore his doubt the accused is not as innocent as he claims to be. Against the historic backdrop of the U.S. Punitive Expedition into Mexico in 1916, A Troublesome Affair is a mystery with intricately connected characters caught up in a turbulent current of racial and military conflict.

  "Preston Holtry imbues his well-researched historical mystery with true-to-life characters, struggling with real-life passions and prejudices in the early twentieth century Southwest. A Troublesome Affair is a keeper!" Ann Parker, Author, award-winning author Silver Rush mystery series

Seal Of Confession Father Juan Salas hears a man confess to participating in the murder of Carlotta Ridgefield, a wealthy widow. The confession confirms the priest’s belief Donato Sanchez who was hanged for the crime was innocent. Determined to right a wrong without violating the Seal of Confession, Juan Salas enlists the help of Morgan Westphal to find who murdered the widow. Morgan can see no practical purpose or financial gain in taking on a case the Santa Fe police refuse to reopen simply because of a priest’s unsubstantiated assertion Donato Sanchez was innocent; however, saying ‘no’ to Juan Salas is harder than agreeing to pursue the matter. Morgan is challenged throughout the investigation by the priest’s refusal to say what he knows or even suspects. Before Morgan learns the truth about the murder and why Donato Sanchez was innocently involved, he will be a target for Harper Ordean, the elder brother of a man Morgan killed in Las Cruces ten years before, incur the wrath of Santa Fe’s Archbishop, and fall in love with a woman who is one of the suspects. Set in 1916 during a period of western railroad expansion and disputed Spanish land grants, Seal of Confession is a multi-layered plot with seemingly unrelated threads that in some way are connected to both the murder and the execution.

Intricately woven intrigue crafted by a gifted storyteller,   Seal of Confession grabs you from the first page and doesn’t let go.” Steve Brigman, author of The Orphan Train  

The Good Thief  Father Juan Salas interrupts a pleasant interlude that Morgan and Arianna are enjoying at Tierra Grande when he tells them a postulant at the Franciscan Mission of San Sebastián del Valle nearby has been brutally murdered.  The victim is Thomas Whelan recently arrived in New Mexico from a location and with a past unknown to anyone with the possible exception of Abbot Sylvestre. As the priest assigned to the mission, Juan Salas is once again successful in enlisting Morgan’s help solve the crime, this time by assisting Sergeant Benito Cruz, the chief of the mission police. Almost from the outset, the two men do not get along: Cruz resents Morgan’s help and expertise; Morgan privately thinks Cruz might well be the murderer.  When Morgan uncovers clues to Whelan’s past linking him to Saratoga, New York, he goes there to find out more about the victim, the motive for his murder and who may have killed him. For reasons of her own, Arianna accompanies Morgan to New York. By the time Morgan finishes the investigation, they will risk their lives and reach an unexpected turning point in their relationship.

“Detective Westphal is more at home on horseback in the desert but is forced to follow the clues from Santa Fe to Saratoga and back again for a final resolution of the mystery and a stunning climax. Well researched, memorable characters and a cunning plot" The Good Thief is a great read.” Charles H. Hayes, author of The Briefcase