Yesterday I revealed Reason #10.
Today, Reason #9:
Researching a novel--particularly a mystery, particularly a forensic mystery, particularly a forensic geology mystery--creates such an enigmatic trail that the path doesn't resemble anything except Alice's trip down the rabbit hole.
So I can't say how I stumbled across benitoite, only that once this beautiful blue gem crossed my screen, I couldn't not write about it.
Benitoite is state gemstone of California, yet so rare that some professional geologists have never heard of it. I keep waiting for benitoite to pop up on the game show "Jeopardy." Example: "Alex, I'll take More Precious than Diamonds for $1000."
First discovered in 1907, benitoite was named by a gemologist who pinpointed its origin to the headwaters of California's San Benito River. (You can read the interesting history of its discovery, a story which offers its own intrigues--see what I mean about research?). To this day, that small portion of California is still the only place on the entire planet where gem-quality benitoite's ever been found.
And when it's gemstone-quality, benitoite can sell for as much as $1000 per carat. But it gets better. Benitoite occurs in two even more rare forms: a five-pointed star, and a six-pointed "star of David." Yes, it looks exactly like a star of David, as if carved by hand.
Only about 24 star samples have been found, although last year somebody (weirdly, related to Keith Carradine of "Grasshopper" fame--see what I mean about research?) found a five-pointed star, setting off an international sensation.
I won't offer any spoilers, but suffice to say, beautiful blue benitoite played a starring role in The Mountains Bow Down, thus making it my #9 reason for writing this Raleigh Harmon mystery.
Here's an early excerpt, where the gem makes one of its first enigmatic appearances:
He looked into the drink again, then downed the rest of it. "That's all you need to know about my wife. The woman was a real saint."
"Did the saint leave a suicide note?"
I wasn't his buddy. I wasn't interested in his charm. And somebody killed his wife.
After a moment, he shook his head, indicating she left no note, and I pulled the plastic bag from my pocket. With the room's intense illumination, the blue gems glowed like tiny gas flames. Hypnotic pilot-light jewels. "Did this bracelet belong to your wife?"