Reviewer Karen Dahood : Karen lives in Tucson, AZ. After 35 years as a writer for businesses and nonprofits, she has turned to writing mysteries,the subtext of which addresses ageism, unpreparedness for aging, and America's wealth of experience and wisdom. Learn more about eldersleuth Sophie George at the Website Moxie Cosmos; Making Sense of Life Through Writing.
Publisher: Five Star Publishing
Author: Gail Lukasik
Publisher: Five Star Publishing
Protagonist Leigh Girard is a newspaper journalist in tiny Egg Harbor, a real town on the peninsular Door County, Wisconsin. Full disclosure: I am from Wisconsin and was drawn to this mystery series in large part by its locale on awe-inspiring Lake Michigan, close enough to Chicago yet only a short boat ride to what is left of the northern Midwest’s wilderness. But I like Gail Lukasik’s writing first and foremost because she has a complicated mind. I discovered her talent in her stand-alone history-mystery, THE LOST ARTIST, which left me fully satisfied, emotionally and intellectually.
The Girard series is perhaps “lighter” in its subject matter – if one can say that about murders; it has what the popular genre demands; but it also reflects the author’s intelligence and, I venture to say, her moral concerns. For example, Leigh cares about misunderstood and injured people, and she can’t keep her nose out of matters that call for justice. PEAK SEASON FOR MURDER opens where the more contentious of two Vietnam vets, recovering alcoholics, who have shared a shack with the blessings of most of the community, is suspected of killing the other. Ken swears to Leigh that he didn’t do it and he begs her to look for Brownie’s family. All she has to go on is his word and a glass shard from a wine bottle that probably held a local cherry wine no longer produced.
Meanwhile, Leigh’s paid job is to prepare some feature articles on the local Bayside Theater, small and foundering financially, but professional. She is assigned to interview Nate Ryan, the centerpiece of the cast for “The Merchant of Venice,” who appeared at BT early in his career , moved on to Hollywood, was tripped up by fast living, and has returned, it is rumored, to make a donation that will save the theater and perhaps his reputation. Unfortunately, before he can confirm that, he dies of apparent cardiac arrest in the yoga studio of Leigh’s friend, Lydia Crane.
Also unfortunate is that Lukasik’s complexities prevent me from introducing all the suspects. Suffice it to say she is very good at differentiating her characters and crafting confrontations. There is a good deal of spookiness involved, notably an unsolved disappearance of a local actress when she was a lovely neophyte, and the appearance in her family’s abandoned cabin of a white dress hanging in a cupboard and a table set for two and then three. Leigh explores alone, and senses footsteps behind her in the dark. The theater groundskeeper is stalking her in daylight. And she finds out Brownie was not who he said he was.
Lukasik’s works resonate with women’s concerns: finding a trustworthy lover, being free to follow one’s instincts amid patronizing males, and living past breast cancer. In PEAK SEASON, the males are mostly offensive or immature; and most females are flawed, either fake, fragile, or flighty. Yet, all of this is compelling, and I liked the book even though I was hoping for more of the landscape the author knows so well. Sitting here in the desert heat I gratefully settled for her dark and tangled woods, and the white noise of waves crashing against the Lake Michigan shoreline. They gave me the shivers.