Friday, August 26, 2016

Practical Sins for Cold Climates (A Val Cameron Mystery Book 1)

Author:  Shelley Costa
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Ebook
ISBN #: 9781943390441; 410; 9781943390410
Henery Press
282 Pages
$12.17; $15.95; $2.99 Amazon
January 26, 2016

Five Stars

When Val Cameron, a Senior Editor with a New York publishing company, is sent to the Canadian Northwoods to sign a reclusive bestselling author or risk losing her job, she is definitely out of her element.  Val is certain she can convince Charles Cable, but first she has to find him.  Aided by a float plane pilot whose wife was killed two years ago in a case gone cold, Val's hunt for the recluse becomes even more muddled.  When all signs point to Cable as the killer, she must work to clear his name before the scandal sinks her career.  Trapped in a wilderness lake community where livelihoods collide and a killer lurks, the prospect of running into a bear could be the least of Val's problems.


Valjean Cameron is a New York book editor who has been sent to Canada to get a signed contract from recluse Charles Cable before anyone else hones in.  Her boss Peter, really didn't give her a choice - get the contract or get a new job.  It doesn't help that she and Peter recently broke up, and Val believes they're "soulmates" and belong together - she figures it's only a matter of time before Peter figures it out.

What she's not happy about, though, is being in the north where she has no business being in the first place.  She knows nothing of woods, camping, or any other mysteries Canada has to offer, and she'd like to keep it that way.  After a rocky start and a lot of misgivings, she meets Wade Decker, Peter's friend and her guide to finding Cable, who comes and goes as he pleases.

What she also discovers is that Wade's wife Leslie Selkirk Decker, was killed two years ago in what at first seemed an accident, but others consider murder, since, on the surface, everyone loved her, right?  Only Val starts digging a little bit and finds out differently.  Wade tells her to leave it alone but Val, of course, doesn't.

What follows is Val's journey through the wilds of Canada to trap her elusive author and it's a jarring one for her - no fresh laundry, no comforts of home, everything she's been happy to avoid until now.  When she finally reaches her destination and is almost ready to go home, this is when she finds out the truth of Leslie's death - a truth that will hurt her very core.

This book is not just a murder mystery - it is a tale of secrets and lies, and how when kept too close to the chest can oftentimes lead to pain, betrayal, hurt, and a feeling that what one has lost in one human being can never be redeemed by another.  

To be honest, I didn't much care for the character of Val - she seemed shallow, self-serving, spoiled, and not the kind of woman I'd want to be friends with.  I never really felt that she loved Peter, only that she had an obsession of sorts about him, wanting to make him love her.  An adult realizes that you can't "make" anyone love you; but an obsessed person won't see this.  It didn't seem realistic that everything she did, she did for Peter.

There were redeeming qualities to the book that I enjoyed very much indeed, and they showed through:  Raw pain - from Carolyn regarding Martin; Charlie regarding Marcus; Wade regarding his late wife (in that he knew he'd been used); but no raw pain from Val regarding Peter.  That one bothered me a little bit.

However, the one thing that stands with me is the fact that there are many people who pass through our lives; those we know will stay a short time and those we know will stay forever.  When a man stands before you - naked under a waterfall, totally at peace with the world and with himself, you'd be a damned fool to walk away from that.  This is an act of sheer beauty; not nature vs. man, but with man, someone who's been through whatever the world throws at them and can still find life worthwhile.  Val would be an utter fool to allow him to leave her world.

As far as the mystery goes, it was interesting enough, and I liked the surprise ending.  It made the book come together well, and it helped that the characters were enough to make you care what happened to them.  Ms. Costa's portrayal of not just the solving of a murder, but the people left behind and their shattered lives speaks volumes.  As a start to a new series, this one does very well indeed.  Highly recommended.

More on Shelley Costa's books:


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