A hundred and one degrees in May -- in Grand Junction? Ridiculous.
Impossible. Much too hot to work. Nothing to do about it except sit
back and read a mystery.
The perfect antidote to a hundred degree day in Happy Valley is "Murder
on the Yukon Quest," by Sue Henry who wrote "Murder on the Iditerod
Trail." This one is the tale of Alaska's second most important
distance dog sled race, from Whitehorse in the Yukon to Fairbanks, over
more than a thousand miles of the most remote region of North America.
And it takes place in February, when the temperatures often fall between
-30°and -50°. Jessie Arnold with her wonderful team of huskies is ready
for it. There is a murder and a solution, but the plot is secondary to
the race itself, the scenery and those unbelievable dogs who are really
the most important characters. They get better care than the human
racers, which seems only fair. Jessie's lead dog, Tank, is smarter than
most humans. A great summer read, now in paperback.
Lisa Scottoline's latest book is "Moment of Truth" . I think she writes
better legal mysteries than anyone, including John Grisham. She is an
honors graduate of the University of Pennsylvania law school and has
been a trial lawyer. Somewhere along the way she learned to write,
too. In this book, Jack Newlin, a wealthy attorney in Philadelphia,
confesses that he killed his wife in a moment of drunken rage. But his
rookie attorney, Mary DiNunzio,
doesn't believe him. She is stuck with the case because her boss, our
old friend Bennie Rosato is in Europe. Mary is convinced that he is
willing to give his life to protect his 16 year old daughter Paige, whom
he thinks murdered her mother. Sufficiently confusing? I'll never
tell who-done-it! But it is a great way to spend some hot summer
A complete contrast in weather and locale involves my favorite park
ranger, Anna Pigeon, who has moved south. In Nevada Barr's latest,
"Deep South" Anna has listened to the ticking of her bureaucratic clock
and her thin savings account, and accepted a promotion to district
ranger. But to do it she had to leave her much loved Mesa Verde for
Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi and Louisiana. She discovered
right away that Mississippi had a whole new natural history she would
have to learn -- frogs, alligators and moss, lots of moss. The plot
involves a group of Civil War reenacters, a teenage murder victim with a
noose around her neck and wrapped in a sheet reminiscent of the KKK .
Actually, this setting is like coming home to Barr, who lives in
Mississippi, but it is like another planet to me. I didn't like it as
well as her books about the west, but Nevada Barr can write about a
sandbox and make it fascinating.
As a native westerner, I am more familiar with the horses cowboys ride
than with those which hunt foxes. But with "Outfoxed," my old friend
Rita Mae Brown is back with a story of the highly ritualized world of
the Jefferson Hunt. In Virginia fox hunting is a way of life. The
protagonist, Jane Arnold who is known as Sister, is Master of the
prestigious Jefferson Hunt Club and the most revered citizen in her
Virginia Blue Ridge Mountain town. The murder doesn't happen until
about three-quarters of the way through the book, but in the meanwhile
we have become involved in that mysterious world of casts, whippers,
scent stations, and the social rules of the horses, foxes and hounds.
Oh yes, and of people, but as usual in a Rita Mae Brown novel, the
animals have the best lines as well as the last word.
An excellent first novel is Virginia Swift's "Brown Eyed Girl."
Sally Adler, the hard-drinking, guitar-playing, hell-raising singer
returns to her home town of Laramie after 17 years on the west coast.
She's back as a respected scholar and holder of the Dunwoodie
Distinguished Chair in American Women's History at the University of
Wyoming. Academic politics, paramilitary paranoia and a puzzle dating
back to WWII make for an exciting story.
OK, so it's hot out. Why not go inside and read a mystery?