Fun New Mystery Novel About Basques in Boise

Book cover reflecting southern Idaho landscapt of mountains and plains.

Deception at the Diamond D Ranch by G.R. Stahl is a book about the Basques

Nancy Zubiri, Writer

A Park Service ranger is helping establish a new national park, which will be dedicated to Basque culture, in a rugged region overlapping northern Nevada and southern Idaho. Meanwhile, his guilt over the recent disappearance of one of his employees leads him on a dangerous journey with one of his political opponents into a nearby mountain range in search of the missing man.

While G.R. Stahl’s debut mystery novel “Deception at the Diamond D Ranch: A Cade Rigens Mystery” (2022) is a fun, page-turning suspenseful read, the story will captivate Basques and Basque lovers even more because of the author’s clear enthusiasm for the Basque people, who speak the oldest language of Europe.

A lot of the book’s action takes place on the actual Basque Block in Boise, Idaho, the heart of the local Basque community. Cade Rigens, the book’s main character, works in a historical building that actually exists, right behind the Basque Museum in the middle of the block. The new national park he is working on is to be named “Legends of the Basques.” So it’s a fictional story set in a real place.

Stahl goes to great lengths throughout the novel to paint a true picture of the Basques, their history in Idaho and their ancient culture.

The opening scene takes place in Boise’s historic Basque handball fronton (court), as preparations for the start of Boise’s huge Basque festival known as Jaialdi are underway.

The writer explains the historical significance of the Gernika oak that actually grows in the front yard of the museum’s boardinghouse and the symbolism of the four-headed lauburu. Other detailed tidbits about the Basques are scattered throughout, interwoven into the action.

“Cade walked the shady side of the street, watching the embossed symbols and poems pass beneath his shoes. A song portrayed in the old Basque language, caught his eye. ‘The tree of Guernica is blessed. It is much loved among Basque people. Blossom and spread your fruit to the world.’’

I bought Stahl’s book during a visit to Boise in July 2022 to promote my latest book, “Jaialdi: A Celebration of Basque Culture,” at the well-stocked independent bookstore Rediscovered Books. A store employee recommended the mystery novel, lauding it as an enjoyable read that taught her much about Basque culture. Buy Stahl’s mystery novel here.

I was pleased to find that most of the references to the Basques and Basque locations in the book were accurate. I later called my friend, Patty Miller, the former director of the Basque Museum, and found out that she was one of the proofreaders of the manuscript. I’m glad to hear Stahl went to those lengths to get his details right. Miller also told me that the writer gathered a lot of the information about the Basques and the Basque Block while he lived in the apartment behind the museum’s boardinghouse, the same one that serves as Rigens’ Park Service office in the novel.

The protagonist is a likeable character, who appears to want to do the right thing. Yet the retired smoke jumper has a secret in his past, which is only slowly revealed. The desire to find out how he is broken lures the reader in.

Another important and appealing character is Amaia Ibarra, a local cop-in-training who is a big proponent of her Basque culture. Rigens relies on Ibarra, a solid, conscientious young woman who is helping him in the search for the missing man. She’s eager to do her job well, but she took the police job mostly to pay for her eventual goal of a PhD in Basque studies.


An Enduring Legacy: The Story of the Basques in Idaho

Lekuak: The Basque Places of Boise, Idaho

Jaialdi: A Celebration of Basque Culture

Travel Guide to Basque America

The novel has some typical attributes of a Western, with a shooting and a chase scene on a winding mountain road. It also aptly presents the people and viewpoints that create the political tension over the federal government’s use of land in the West.

The book’s series brand – A Cade Rigens Mystery – implies there are more in this vein to come from Stahl, although I suspect the Basque theme may be limited to this one.


A real-life break-in to Stahl’s apartment while he lived on the Basque Block inspired an incident in his book. Hear him describe it on this YouTube video.

Stahl did a fair amount of research on the Basques before he wrote the book. Here is a post he wrote about his research on the Boise Basques and another post on the mysterious words “Heben Nuk” from a book called “Basque Legends.” Dating back to 1877, the book Basque Legends is available on Amazon.

Check out our video on the Basque Block.