American Girl Publishing

secrets in the hills: a josefina mystery, american girl mysteries



Ranked in Top 1% of US Sales
out of 8 Million Printed Books
for a Running Total of 320 Days
Nielsen BookScan




This is Kathleen's fifth mystery for American Girl, and her twelfth published books. It is written for readers ages 9 and up who enjoy stories about Josefina Montoya and growing up in Nuevo Mexico.

Story Description

Josefina has heard tales and legends all her life: rumors of gold and silver buried in the hills, and even tales of a ghostly Weeping Woman who haunts the countryside. But she never imagined that such stories might be true--until one day a mysterious stranger arrives at her rancho.

This suspenseful tale is set in New Mexico in 1826.

The book includes an illustrated "Looking Back" essay and a glossary of Spanish words used in the story.

This story was originally released as a 192-page book in softcover, hardcover, and multiple ebook formats.

What Others Are Saying

Image of the American Library Association logo.  Booklist Magazine
American Library Association
Book Review

"...readers will be easily drawn in by the search for gold and the chilly hints of the supernatural, and they'll see themselves in Josefina's realistic sibling squabbles and her yearning to develop her talents and help her community."
Children's Literature logo. Children's Literature
Book Review

"[Josefina's] story is earnest, interesting, and extremely enjoyable."
Mystery Readers Journal logo. Mystery Readers Journal
Book Review

"This award-winning author adds to her growing list of fabulous books."
School Library Journal logo. School Library Journal
Book Review

"Rich with tales of buried treasure and local traditions, foods and crafts."
Image of Barnes & Noble logo.  Prize Selection
Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program

Secrets In The Hills: A Josefina Mystery was chosen by Barnes & Noble as a prize for readers who completed their summer reading program.

About the Author

Bestselling author Kathleen Ernst writes award-winning mysteries, historical fiction, and non-fiction for adults and young readers.

Her work has earned numerous honors, including two lifetime writing achievement awards, an Emmy for educational television, and an Edgar Allan Poe and multiple Agatha Christie mystery award nominations.

To date nearly 1.8 million audio, ebook, and print copies of Kathleen's thirty-eight published books have been purchased. more>>

Related Blog Posts

Enjoy the author's insights about the story, characters, and settings.

The Stories Behind The Story

Photo by author Kathleen Ernst of New Mexico landscape. 

When my editor at American Girl asked if I’d like to write a mystery about Josefina, I was delighted! This project combined several of the things that I love to learn about: history, people with different cultural backgrounds, and an intriguing and beautiful landscape... more>>


Click to Order

American Girl has 're-branded' the Josefina books, including this one. Fortunately it is still available from the vendors below.

NOTE: You can buy 'as new' softcover and hardcover copies of Secrets In The Hills—while supplies last—directly from me, signed and personalized as desired. Request a quote by clicking HERE.

Buy from Indiebound Books PAPERBACK logo  PAPERBACK
Apple iTunes Store logo. iBOOKS eBOOK
Buy from Barnes & Noble NOOK eBOOK

You can also buy a signed, personalized paperback copy this book from the author. Request a quote by clicking HERE.

Author's Note

For me, there are few things more fun than plunging into research for a book set in a new time and place. So I was delighted when American Girl invited me to write a mystery about Josefina.

I traveled to New Mexico and tried to immerse myself into her world by visiting historic sites, museums, and desert trails.

Many of the vivid details that caught my imagination made their way into Secrets In The Hills. I hope that reading the story transports you back to Josefina's world. 


Book Goodies

Partial image of the book cover of "Secrets In The Hills: A Josefina Mystery" written by Kathleen Ernst, published by American Girl. PREVIEW
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inside this book 

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Hanging Display of Colorful Native-Dyed Yarns

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Josefina Montoya's World - Nuevo Mexico - 1826