This is an excerpt from Crow Calling by Sherry Roberts. Enjoy.

A Murder in Gabriel’s Garden

This unconventional cozy combines the intrigue of small-town Minnesota with an absorbing mystery and the challenge of saving the monarchs.

This unconventional cozy combines the intrigue of small-town Minnesota with an absorbing mystery and the challenge of saving the monarchs.

They kept coming. Crows. Sitting at my kitchen table, I could hear them overhead and outside the window—caws and clacks and rattles. Their presence pressed against the old fire station where I live and work, sliding a Hitchcockian finger down my spine one vertebrae at a time. The trees and air shivered with their agitation.

My neighbors, the people of Gabriel’s Garden, wondered and worried: What do they want? Our town is not on any migratory flight path that would account for this phenomenon, and besides, it was early summer and not the time for immense bird migrations. Looking for answers, I turned to the journal in front of me, the Down Dog Diary.

The Down Dog Diary is not its official name, but I had to call it something. And I think Book of Shaman Gibberish and Strange Smells is a bit much. All old books have a fragrance, but the shaman’s diary keeps changing its mind. One day the odor of stinky shoes drifts from the pages; the next it smells of bubblegum. And here’s the thing: only the keeper is privy to these bouquets, and I am its current keeper and protector.

As the keeper, I have learned it is wise to follow the diary’s olfactory clues. They lead me to passages that give me strength just when I need it, provide direction when I am lost, or offer some fortune-cookie absurdity which later turns out to be not so crazy after all. While I do not grant these writings supernatural powers, as some people have done, I do see the diary as a resource and a responsibility. That’s why I keep it locked in a safe most of the time.

Today, book in hand, I chased the scent of snowy air to an entry made by the man who left me the diary, James Tumblethorne. It said:
Once my tattoos were just about power: bringing it to me, warning others to walk lightly. Now the tattoo of the crow sits on my shoulder, whispering dreams of transcendence in my ear. The tattoo celebrates my first year at Whispering Spirit Farm. My first winter of peace. Only a year, and I am being transformed. I can feel the power of the crow.

Whispering Spirit Farm is the New Mexico commune founded by my parents and where I grew up. I had an artist mother, a geeky father, an older sister who prayed every night for a “normal” existence, and James “Tum” Tumblethorne, my nanny and mentor. There was also a whole community of adults who considered themselves family as well. Call “Mom” and five heads turned. It was why my sister and I referred to our parents as Evie and Larry. It was less confusing and more efficient.

James Tumblethorne, who died to protect the diary, was a reformed Hell’s Angel turned shaman. I am not a shaman, but sometimes people treat me like one. Tum used to explain it like this, “Maya Skye, you are hardwired to help. You lead with your heart and follow with your fist.” Not the best combination for a yoga teacher committed to raising the spiritual consciousness of this fragile place we call Mother Earth.

A peck at the window interrupted my reading. I glanced at the crow, then the clock, and realized the Monday afternoon yoga class would soon be arriving. “You’re right,” I said to the bird. “It’s time.”

I closed the diary, returned it to its home in the safe hidden behind the bookcase, and went downstairs. Standing outside Breathe, my yoga studio, I looked up and down Orchard Road, the main street in Gabriel’s Garden. The trees in my yard were thick with crows, and more were lined up on the rooftops of the nearby buildings. With my appearance on the doorstep, the clamor of the birds grew as if they all wanted to speak to me at once.

Peter Jorn strolled over from Northern Lights, the coffee shop down the block, with a black yoga mat tucked under his arm and a cup of strong fair-trade roast in his hand. Jorn and I met more than a year ago when, under doctor’s orders, he came to his first yoga class. At the time he told me he hated two things: yoga and being called Peter.
Jorn frowned at the crows. Then he looked me in the eye and took a deliberate sip of coffee, knowing full well that I disapproved of imbibing stimulants, especially before yoga.
Motioning toward the trees with his cup, he said, “Can’t you do something about this?”


“Yeah, tell them to go away.”

“I don’t speak bird.”

“They don’t seem to know that.”

He was right. The countless birds flitting from limb to branch, from maple to pine and back, appeared concentrated on my home. We were standing at Ground Zero.


Discover the entire series of Maya Skye cozy mysteries: Down Dog Diary (book one), Warrior’s Revenge (book two), and Crow Calling (book three). All are set in Minnesota and feature a yoga teacher who just wants some inner peace but murder keeps finding her.