One of our recommended books is Shutter by Ramona Emerson

SHUTTER


This blood-chilling debut set in New Mexico’s Navajo Nation is equal parts gripping crime thriller, supernatural horror, and poignant portrayal of coming of age on the reservation.

Rita Todacheene is a forensic photographer working for the Albuquerque police force. Her excellent photography skills have cracked many cases—she is almost supernaturally good at capturing details. In fact, Rita has been hiding a secret: she sees the ghosts of crime victims who point her toward the clues that other investigators overlook.

As a lone portal back to the living for traumatized spirits, Rita is terrorized by nagging ghosts who won’t let her sleep and who sabotage her personal life.

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This blood-chilling debut set in New Mexico’s Navajo Nation is equal parts gripping crime thriller, supernatural horror, and poignant portrayal of coming of age on the reservation.

Rita Todacheene is a forensic photographer working for the Albuquerque police force. Her excellent photography skills have cracked many cases—she is almost supernaturally good at capturing details. In fact, Rita has been hiding a secret: she sees the ghosts of crime victims who point her toward the clues that other investigators overlook.

As a lone portal back to the living for traumatized spirits, Rita is terrorized by nagging ghosts who won’t let her sleep and who sabotage her personal life. Her taboo and psychologically harrowing ability was what drove her away from the Navajo reservation, where she was raised by her grandmother. It has isolated her from friends and gotten her in trouble with the law.

And now it might be what gets her killed.

When Rita is sent to photograph the scene of a supposed suicide on a highway overpass, the furious, discombobulated ghost of the victim—who insists she was murdered—latches onto Rita, forcing her on a quest for revenge against her killers, and Rita finds herself in the crosshairs of one of Albuquerque’s most dangerous cartels. Written in sparkling, gruesome prose, Shutter is an explosive debut from one of crime fiction’s most powerful new voices.

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  • Soho Crime
  • Hardcover
  • August 2022
  • 312 Pages
  • 9781641293334

Buy the Book

$25.95

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About Ramona Emerson

Ramona Emerson is the author of ShutterRamona Emerson is a Diné writer and filmmaker originally from Tohatchi, New Mexico. She has a bachelor’s in Media Arts from the University of New Mexico and an MFA in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts. After starting in forensic videography, she embarked upon a career as a photographer, writer, and editor. She is an Emmy nominee, a Sundance Native Lab Fellow, a Time-Warner Storyteller Fellow, a Tribeca All-Access Grantee and a WGBH Producer Fellow. In 2020, Emerson was appointed to the Governor’s Council on Film and Media Industries for the State of New Mexico. She currently resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she and her husband, the producer Kelly Byars, run their production company Reel Indian Pictures. Shutter is her first novel.

 

Praise

Longlisted for the National Book Award
An ABA IndieNext Pick for August 2022

An ABA IndieNext Gift Guide Selection
A PLA LibraryReads Pick for August 2022
A Publishers Weekly Editor’s Top 10 Mystery for Fall
A CrimeReads Most Anticipated Crime Book of Summer
A Scribd Best Book of August

“Haunting.”The New York Times Book Review

“This paranormal police procedural is unusual and multilayered, but what stands out is the gorgeously expressive and propulsive first-person storytelling, which is split between Rita’s present and her past. A former forensic photographer herself, the pictures Emerson paints with words are as vivid as they are brutal.”—Oprah Daily

“This mystery-crime-thriller is beautifully and chillingly rendered.”—Ms. Magazine

“Rita is a starkly compelling figure, and she, combined with the cacophonous voices of the dead, makes this debut novel a strange and potent brew.”—AirMail

“Emerson touches upon subjects that Diné often are reluctant to raise or discuss in intimate circles, and does so in ways that allows for conversation about death, the possibilities of a spirit world, gifts of second sight, and witchery and evil . . . Yet, we must acknowledge and work through because it is reality, it is more so a coming-of-age story.”Navajo Times

“Shutter is utterly unputdownable. It is a haunting thriller, written with exquisite suspense, and filled to the brim with beautiful writing, through the lens of cameras and memory—an ode to photography, written across the landscapes of the Navajo Nation and cityscapes of New Mexico, about what it means to witness and capture death, be captured by it, told unflinchingly by an author who knows what she is doing on every page. It is fun, and funny, and chilling. This is a story that won’t let you go long after you finish, and you won’t want it to end even as you can’t stop reading to find out how it does.”—Tommy Orange, author of There There

“This debut, spellbinding, gritty and beautiful, laced with body parts, hauntings, humor, residential school trauma and a lot of bloody noses, is, in the end, the story of a young girl who fell in love with a camera, and followed that camera into a life. Layered, depth-plumbing, radically suspenseful, deeply felt, Shutter moves between making your blood run cold and warming your heart, so quickly, smoothly and stealthily you won’t know what hit you.”—Pam Houston, author of Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country

Discussion Questions

1. What sort of person is Rita? How have the sacrifices she has made for the sake of her family, such as staying in New Mexico for college, shaped her character? If you had her supernatural abilities, how do you think it would affect you—and in contrast, how does it affect Rita? Has her trauma broken her, or strengthened her?

2. Shutter is marked by violence and gruesome descriptions of death, but also thoughtful, poignant scenes of a young girl growing up. How would you describe the genre of this book?

3. What do you think Rita should have done about Erma? Rita did feel compelled to help her—but was it out of selflessness, or just because Erma was making her life “a living hell”? How about the rest of the ghosts, who all need help, too? When does asking for help become an act of violence? Is Mr. Bitsilly right when he insists that trying to help these “things” that latch on to Rita is not only pointless, but also dangerous?

4. Do you relate to any of the beliefs expressed in Shutter about death and ghosts, such as the Navajo perspective that these topics are morally wrong and to be avoided at all costs? What are some of the different approaches taken by Shutter’s characters to the afterlife?

5. Not everything in Rita’s life is gore and ghosts: she also has two close friends, a warm relationship with her supervisor at work, and even a one-night stand with an attractive stranger. Could these people ever truly accept her for who she is, or are there parts of her life that she can never share? What are the risks inherent in Rita being honest about her abilities?

6. Did Angie do the right thing by putting Rita on suspension for three months, even though she didn’t know the truth about Rita’s “hallucinations”? At what point is Rita a danger to herself, rather than a potential help to others?

7. How much do you know about life on reservations? Were you surprised by anything you learned from the sections of Shutter taking place in Rita’s childhood?

8. Rita’s initial suspicions about Garcia are proven entirely correct when she uncovers his involvement with the Marcos cartel, but she worries about whether he will ever be held accountable, as he is himself a police officer. What is the best course of action when it comes to crimes committed by the police? Who holds law enforcement accountable, and whom can you call or trust when a law enforcement officer broke the law? Common wisdom is that “one bad apple spoils the bunch”—what do you think?

9. Most of the ghosts Rita sees, even the children, want something from her, and are extremely reluctant to leave her alone until they’ve gotten it; often, they attempt to hurt her physically, or, in Erma’s case, annoy her to the point where she can no longer ignore them. Are these spirits inherently evil?

10. Rita, her mother, and her grandmother are all interested in photography. Do any hobbies or interests run in your family?

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