Tag Archives: Mystery

Summer Read: Page Turner Novel Takes Us to Australia–Then and Now

Destination: The Blue Mountains, Australia

Book: Evergreen Falls by Kimberley Freeman (New in paperback, first published in 2014)


This book was just plain FUN!  Not that the characters were always having fun.  Au contraire, the life of an heiress in one of the parallel plots, set in the 1920s, was not as carefree as you might imagine. And the love story of the waitress in the tony resort where the heiress, her brother and her finance and his thugish pals were spending some away time, becomes a nightmare before the novel ends.

In the second plot, set in 2014, a young woman trying to escape her smother mother, flees to the same Blue Mountains where the heiress had vacationed. There she gets a job waiting tables in a cafe. The old resort is in ruins, but is undergoing restoration, so as the present day waitress fires up her own romance, she also finds hints of a 1920’s love affair that make her want to find out who was involved and how it turned out.

Just as in Lighthouse Bay, (the earlier book by Kimberley Freeman that I reviewed here), the two interwoven plots have us bouncing between the past and the present in one place.

While I recommended Lighthouse Bay for a summer read, I like this one even better. And talk about a book making you want to GO Somewhere, how would you like to stay at a glam resort in this location? (Just remember Australia seasons are reverse of U.S., so go in THEIR summer. Winter could be brutal (see the book.)

Blue Mountains Australia
Blue Mountains of Australia. This gorgeous picture is by Tony Fernandez, found at Flickr.com

We want to know to, and that’s what kept the pages turning, and the vacuuming undone, as I read-read-read about these delightful characters.  Australian writer Kimberley Freeman has a way with creating likable and interesting characters–each distinct–never sliding into romance novel stereotypes.

The setting is charming, and made me do a bit of research to find out where these remote Blue Mountains of Australia are. Turns out they are not so remote after all, their foothills spilling into the suburban enclaves of Sidney.  However, the area is huge and you can definitely get away from civilization–even living the life of the wealthy in the early 20th century in classic old resorts.

So dive in.  You don’t have a lot of time left for summer reading–but this romance- adventure-mystery visit to Australia is just the ticket for a fun read.

Here Kimberley Freeman talks about her inspiration for the book.

Note: This post contains links to Amazon, in case you’d like to buy one of these books. You should know that I am an Amazon affiliate, so anything you buy, although it costs you no more, earns me a few pennies.

The publisher provided me with a paperback copy of this book for review, which is standard practice, and in no way influences what I recommend to you.

COMING SOON: A book for Emily Dickinson fans and a book set in Germany during World War II that is possibly my favorite of the year. Stay tuned. Tell your friends they can subscribe for free updates, just like you do. You DO, don’t you? And you know that I would NEVER use your information for anything other than this subscription?

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Brigid Quinn is Back and in Serious Trouble

Destination: Tucson, Arizona

Book: Fear the Darkness by Becky Masterman



Becky Masterman, a Tucson resident, created a female character who stands out in the crowd of female detectives.  Fans who read her first novel,Rage Against the Dying, have been eagerly waiting for the second in what they hope will be a lengthy series  featuring Brigid Quinn. A retired FBI agent, married to a retired Episcopal priest, she has recently settled (not that Brigid actually settles) in Tucson.

Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park, Tucson

You might guess by the “retired” that comes before FBI agent, Brigid Quinn is somewhere north of 55, but age is just a number, and she’s not counting.  She is insatiably drawn to mysterious situations with a dangerous edge, to the despair of her peace-loving husband.  Brigid still knows how to handle bad guys–and gals–both physically and through meticulous analysis of evidence and application of street smarts.

The new book, Fear the Darkness, shows Brigid trying to fit in to a ‘normal’ life.  She has followed through on a promise to her brother’s dying wife and brought the couples college-age daughter to Tucson to live so that the girl can establish residency for college.  As we learn more about Brigid’s former job as an undercover agent–adapting to roles of prostitute, drug runner, or other lowdown vermin– it is easy to see how she can have doubts about this normal-family-surrogate-mother thing.

I could do this.  I was tough.  I may be small and have prematurely white hair, but I’m as psychologically and physically fit as you can be at my age.  And as I’ve explained, I can disarm a grown man before he could say..anything….Next to somebody like me, Chuck Norris is just a wuss.  How hard could it be to be a good aunt.

To add to her angst, Gemma Kate, the neice, shows some odd quirks of her own.  In fact her behavior is so odd that Brigid begins to wonder if the clever girl is a psychopath. Bad things start happening all around, and Brigid herself becomes  a target of some sort of evil that she can’t quite identify.

The plot is complex–peopled with the sort of friends and neighbors you can recognize without thinking “stock characters.”  This complexity takes a lot of time to set up–the mysterious teenage suicide; the devotion of a friend (the only one Brigid has ever had) to her paralyzed husband; the appearance of an appealing man at church one day; even the rather unenthusiastic minister. Then there’s an arrogant doctor with a wife who seems unhinged; a cop who may be hiding family secrets.  Readers who want their thrillers to leap right in to the action are going to have to cool their heels while they meet these characters and experience how “normal” can slide into a horror show so gradually that you hardly notice.

The climax is frightening not just because of the violent action, presented in proper thriller fashion in a breath-taking sequence, but also because the “I never saw that coming” ending has you wondering about the assumptions you make in your own life. It’s not as though the author didn’t try to warn you.

I admit from the start it’s at least embarrassing to not recognize the devil, but I can understand because I’ve been there…During my time with the Bureau, I lived among killers who cheerfully attended their daughters’ ballet recitals, and men who trafficked in human flesh whole baby-talking their parakeets.

Although I was impatient with the slow setup of this book, I still am a big fan of Brigid Quinn and her smart-ass wisecracks and derring-do. The first book was a nominee for best first novel in the Edgars (mystery writing) and no doubt this one will garner some of the same recognition. Brigid’s dialogue is not the only smart thing about the writing.

Sunset and rain, Tucson
Sunset and rain, Tucson











If you’re wondering what Tucson is like–not just the mountain paths and the wildlife, but also the culture–Masterman weaves that kind of information into the story.  Just one thing threw me, and I’m probably petty for mentioning it, but I can’t resist.

Night Blooming Cactus
Night Blooming Cereus

Gemma Kate and her boy friend  take off for Sabino Canyon and tell Brigid that they are going to look at the “night-blooming cactus and the wildlife”.  Sabino Canyon does have moonlight walks. Except this scene takes place in March. The night-blooming cereus–the night-bloomer that makes the best show doesn’t bloom until late June or early July. Until then, all there is to see is a pathetic plant lying on the ground imitating a dead stick.  I know–picky, picky, picky.

Where you can absolutely depend on Masterman’s research, of course, is in forensic details.  She has worked for years as an editor of forensic medicine books or law enforcement officials, and has a wide array of experts to call on. These nitty gritty details make the novel come to life. And nothing is livelier than the terrific creation, Brigid Quinn.


The publisher sent me the book for review.  I have met Masterman personally, and interviewed her after her first book was published (you can read that interview here.) Neither of these things affects my giving you my honest appraisal of the book.

There are links to Amazon here, for your convenience. You need to know that I am an Amazon affiliate, so anything you buy through a link on this site makes a few cents to help keep A Traveler’s Library alive. Thank you.



A Frozen Body in Saranac Lake

Saranac Lake, book cover
Destination: Saranac Lake in  New York State

Book: A Cold and Lonely Place by Sara J. Henry

As I write this, a cold wave is chilling the Western U.S., threatening the East, and slowing down travelers. Albuquerque airport is closed. Dallas is digging out. Here in Tucson, we covered plants last night anticipating a freeze. By the time you read this review of a mystery set in Wisconsin, the cold wave may have passed. But if you are curling up with A Cold and Lonely Place: A Novel, better bundle up.

That’s because Sara J. Henry provides an appropriately bone-chilling atmosphere for this who-dun-it–The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival. From her description in the book, or the web site of the event (which next takes place in the first week of February, 2014), you will get an idea of a winter travel destination with plenty of beauty and thrills.

Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Logo

If your experience of New York State is limited to New York City, you might be surprised by the Adirondacks. Northern New York (north of Albany) is bordered on the east by Vermont and on the north by Canada. The area is rugged with the forests of the Adirondack Mountains, and studded with lakes, like Saranac Lake, lower Saranac Lake and Tupper Lakes.

The area was thought of as a healthy place in the 1800s and today much of it is protected in parkland. The town of Saranac Lake is the largest Adirondack village with about 5000 people, but nearby Lake Placid, “about twenty minutes away if you don’t get stranded by tourists” is more famous for having sponsored the Olympic Winter games.

Fortunately, not every Saranac Lake Winter Carnival includes a dead body frozen in the ice, which is the start of freelance writer Troy Chance’s investigation in  A Cold and Lonely Place. She is in Saranac to take photos and notes for a story about the building of the ice palace. Volunteers are cutting the 2′ x 4′ blocks of ice to build the Ice Palace when they discover the body.

Saranac Lake Winter Carnival
The last blocks of ice are cut from Pontiac Bay for the 2013 ice palace. (Photo from the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival web page.)

I know a lot of freelance writers since I’m one of the breed, and as far as I know, none of them have ever chanced across a dead body–frozen or not.  But Troy, a former small town sports writer (just like Sara J. Henry), seems adept at stumbling over mysteries of this sort–and getting personally entangled. This one lands her a dream assignment, as well as a lot of personal turmoil. She recognizes Tobin Winslow, the dead guy, as the former boyfriend of Jessamyn, who rents a room in Troy’s Lake Placid house.

Add in a cub reporter who gets vengeful when his prose is rewritten, natural journalistic curiosity about the surprising “dirt” Troy is uncovering, small town gossip and a little drug dealing, and the whole situation goes from uncomfortable to sometimes downright dangerous for the writer.

We know we can trust Troy, because she owns a big dog named Tiger, whom she describes at “a half German shepherd and half golden retriever, and just about the best dog on the planet.”  In the story, Troy spends a lot of time making arrangements for Tiger to be taken care of when she has to be away. I appreciated that, because I’ve seen books where the authors treated dogs like  those books people line there shelves with because the covers are the right color–simply decorative.

Troy also spends a lot of time telling us everything she has eaten.  I sometimes had the feeling if she were my Facebook list, I’d unfriend her if I heard about one more peanut butter sandwich or name-brand fast food place. If A Cold and Lonely Place were a blog instead of a book, we’d have had food pictures every morning noon and night.

But all that detail sucks you right into the story. You feel the cold every time someone has to bundle up to go outside, or can’t wait to get inside to a hot cup of coffee. Sara J. Henry writes atmosphere. She also writes great character sketches. Nearly every character is introduced with one scapel-carved sentence that nails him or her, but each character also contributes to the general ambiance and definitely to the story.  The book has you cheering for Troy and her friends and wanting to help get to the bottom of all those family secrets that eventually thaw out with the ice block that encloses the body.

Saranac Lake Ice Palace
Saranac Lake – making ice palace. (Photo from Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Web Site)

So stir up a little hot chocolate, cuddle up under a comforter, and read A Cold and Lonely Place.  Or get on line and book your travel to the Adirondacks for this February’s Saranac Lake Winter Carnival

Looking for another chilling mystery? Have you tried The Boy in the Snow?

Note: The book was provided by the publishers for review, which is routine, and does not affect my opinion.  I tell you what I like and what I don’t.

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