For many mystery readers, Alpine, Washington-Mary Daheim's fictional small town in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains-has become a beloved second home, a delicious retreat from the stresses of life. Yet the editor of The Alpine Advocate, Emma Lord, knows all too well that the picturesque old logging town is loaded with scandal: family feuds, illicit romance, chicanery, and sometimes deadly violence.
THE ALPINE RECLUSE
In the middle of a hot midsummer night, Emma is awakened by fire trucks rushing to a blaze at the nearby home of newlyweds Tim and Tiffany Rafferty. At daybreak, Tiffany and her unborn child are safe, but Tim, never blessed with good luck in all his thirty-plus years, has perished in the fierce conflagration. Sheriff Milo Dodge suspects murder and arson, and rumors fly from the Burger Barn and Mugs Ahoy to the Grocery Basket and the Venison Inn. Some swear the Rafferty marriage was crumbling. Others hint at stock fraud. A few mention momentary sightings of a possibly mad recluse known as Old Nick.
Sacrificing the heady enticements of a budding romance to nail down a great story, Emma shifts into high investigative gear while her fearless House & Home editor, Vida Runkel, rushes in where angels fear to tread: straight into the private lives of some of Alpine's most respectable-and now terminally edgy-citizens. But neither Emma nor Vida suspects the unbelievable truth.
From the Hardcover edition.
Well-drawn characters and a complex crime are a winning combination in Daheim's 18th Emma Lord mystery (after 2005's Alpine Quilt). The sleepy town of Alpine, Wash., is shocked when a local home goes up in flames in an act of arson--and murder. Tim Rafferty, a young husband and father-to-be, was at home when the blaze erupted, and Sheriff Milo Dodge soon realizes Tim was beaten to death with the proverbial blunt instrument before the fire was lit. When Emma, editor of the local paper and inveterate sleuth, learns that Tim was having an affair with another local gal, she wonders if Tim's bride, Tiffany, who isn't exactly playing the part of the grieving widow, might have offed her man. Or perhaps Tim's father-in-law did the awful deed. Emma gets so engrossed in the crime that she lets her nascent romance with a Seattle journalist wane, prompting hope that perhaps she and the sheriff will get back together in the next installment in this popular cozy series. (Mar.)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 25, 2007
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Excerpt from The Alpine Recluse by Mary Daheim
If I wanted to be hot," I said to Leo Walsh, "I'd go to hell in a handcart. There's no reason why it should be ninety-four degrees in Alpine, even in August."
Leo gave me his off-center grin. "You could always take a couple of weeks off and visit Adam in Alaska. I'll bet it's not ninety-four at St. Mary's Igloo."
"I'll bet it isn't, either," I grumbled from across the desk in the cubbyhole that was my office but felt more like a pizza oven even at eleven in the morning. To think I was sorry for my son, Adam, when his first assignment as a priest sent him up to the Frozen North. Now I envy him. "When will it ever rain? Everything is tinder-dry, Leo. It's a wonder the woods don't explode."
"They did," my ad manager said in his usual wry manner. "Or haven't you been checking the AP wire this morning?"
"I have," I retorted. "I mean all the woods, not the ones burning up in eastern Washington and other parts of the West. Grass fires, too. Not to mention that water and power rates are going to skyrocket because we haven't had enough rain, let alone snow."
"Why don't you write an editorial taking a tough stand against hot weather?" Leo inquired reasonably. "Maybe you can change it."
I glared at him. "That's not funny. Nothing's funny in this heat."
"Come on, Emma," Leo said, no longer smiling. "At least western Washington's not humid like the Midwest or the eastern seaboard. Dry heat's not as bad. I worked on a newspaper in Palm Desert where it was over a hundred and twenty degrees for a week."
"No wonder you drank," I snarled. "Besides, people from southern California deserve to be hot. Native Pacific Northwesterners like me don't."
Leo took no offense at my remark. We'd known each other too long and too well not to be able to speak candidly. He merely sighed. His well-worn face showed the ravages of his former bouts with the bottle. In my heat-crazed state, I decided that he'd also spent too much time in the sun. "Mad dogs and Californians . . . ," I muttered.
"Quit bitching and just look at the ad layout," Leo finally said, tapping the Grocery Basket's mock-up on my desk. "Jake O'Toole went over it with a fine-toothed thesaurus. What gets into that guy, wanting to use all those big words that half the time aren't what he really means?"
"Heat," I said. "He's a native, too."
"Knock it off," Leo retorted, temporarily forgetting that I was the boss. "Jake's been doing it forever when he talks, but he started in with the grocery ads back in April. Unsullied for fresh tomatoes? Temperate for tender pork chops? Un- skeletal for boneless chicken breasts? I'm not even sure unskeletal is a word."
At last, I scanned the layout. "You're right. It's stupid. Jake should stop trying to show off, especially when he doesn't know what he's talking about. It might be a midlife crisis. Maybe I'll talk to Betsy. His wife's a sensible woman."
"Go for it," Leo urged, standing up. "I'm changing this damned thing." He cocked his head. "With your approval, of course."
"Of course." Leo knew he didn't need my approval, which, I suppose, was why he occasionally forgot that I was The Alpine Advocate's editor and publisher. He did an excellent job, about fifty rungs above the lugubrious and lazy Ed Bronsky, a leftover ad manager from Marius Vandeventer's ownership.
"Lugubrious," I said, and managed a smile.
"Huh?" Layout in hand, Leo turned around to look back at me.
"The header for the grocery ad is 'Lazy Days of Summer.' It's a wonder Jake didn't ask you to put in lugubrious."
Leo grinned again. "He did--sort of. Only, he wanted to use lubricious."
I nodded. "He would."