Monday, April 27, 2015

The Alpine Zen (Book #26 Emma Lord Mysteries)

Author:  Mary Daheim
Genre:  Mystery

Three Stars

The picturesque town of Alpine in the foothills of Washington state's Cascade Mountains-home to Emma Lord and her weekly newspaper The Alpine Advocate-has long charmed and enthralled mystery lovers.  Now, with The Alpine Zen, Mary Daheim has at last reached the anticipated letter of Z.  Her legion of avid armchair sleuths will relish this deliciously gripping novel.

As an early summer heat wave beats down on Alpine, Emma and her staff are treading very lightly.  For unfathomable reasons, the paper's House & Home editor, Vida Runkel, is in a major snit, refusing to speak to her colleagues, or even her boss.  So when a peculiar young woman walks in claiming her parents have been murdered, and that she's in mortal danger, too, it fits right in with the rest of the craziness.  Then, to the utter bafflement of her colleagues, Vida vanishes without a word to anyone.  And just when Emma and her husband, Sheriff Milo Dodge, start to unsnarl these tangles, a male body, dead too long to identify, surfaces at the town dump-making what seemed merely weird feel downright sinister.  Has the hot weather driven everyone nuts, or are cold-blooded forces committing deadly misdeeds?

********

Emma Lord, having married her police officer, Milo Dodge, is enjoying marital bliss when a young woman bursts into her office with a picture of Alpine on a postcard.  She thinks it might have something to do with her biological mother, whom she thinks was murdered, and wants to know if Emma knew her.  Emma, of course, has no idea, and sends the woman to a local art gallery, hopes that someone there might recognize the picture and know something.  Along the way, the young woman stops everywhere searching, and tells everyone Emma sent her - which, of course, she didn't.  When the woman passes out at the art gallery and is sent to the hospital, we have the beginning of a mystery.  And there it stops.    We never know why she wants to know if her mother was murdered, and I really didn't even care about her or her parent.  I don't feel that we are ever really involved in this woman's life, and I never understood why she was searching for her birth mother anyway, especially since she said that she had wonderful adoptive parents and considered them her "real" parents.  If that were the case, then why would she even care?  There are also subplots involving the discovery of a human skeleton and Vida's disappearing for a few days without a trace.

This, the 26th installment in the Emma Lord mysteries, is more an homage to the other 25 books and merely gives us an update on everyone who was ever involved in those books, and the mysteries take a back seat to the people of Alpine.  Unfortunately, there were a couple of things that really bothered me:

Emma doesn't act like she's in love with Milo.  They bicker constantly, she 'glares' at him, calls him names and tells him she hates him; he calls her nicknames he knows she doesn't like, and expects her to feed him.  Why did they get married?  There are also renovations to her house, courtesy of her new husband, but they never thought to add air conditioning, and she complains constantly about the excessive heat - even mentioning that it might get to eighty degrees by the weekend - which made me laugh, considering we call that 'a nice Spring day' where I live.  But the big thing is the fact that Emma and Milo have no problem drinking and driving.  Even in 2005, there were drunk driving accidents.

I thought the book could have been more interesting if there were less reliance on all the intertwining stories of all the characters; since the first book was published in 1992, and they were read sporadically throughout, I would be hard pressed to remember everyone without reading the books back-to-back again, and for someone new to the series, it would be downright confusing, especially with characters with similar names (Rosemary, Rosemarie.)  I would suggest if you have never read the series that you start at the beginning, with The Alpine Advocate.

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