Follow Here To Purchase Dead Rapunzel (Loon Lake Mysteries)

Author: Victoria Houston

Publisher: Tyrus Books, 2015

ISBN 10: 1-4405-6849-9 (hc)

ISBN 978-1-4405-6848-0 (pb)

ISBN 978-1-4405-6850-3 (eBook)

Ahhhh, Summer! Suggestions for reading come pouring in ahead of the monsoon rains. Our temperatures in Tucson are now in the 100s. What could be more refreshing than to dive into a story set in snow and ice? Victoria Houston’s Loon Lake mysteries are always a self-indulgent treat for me. The fictional town is located just sixty miles north of my actual hometown, Wausau, Wisconsin, where the “Wausau boys” are the incompetent crime lab analysts our solid, middle-aged Police Chief, Lew (Lewellyn) Ferris depends on for identification of bodies and such. Her Northwoods environment is where serious fishing takes place amidst the tourists and the natives who moved away but come to visit when the weather is nice. With all the to-ing and fro-ing there is so much potential for crimes!

In Dead Rapunzel, one daughter who left and later returned to marry an older, divorced, Loon Lake man, recently deceased, is set to open a museum in their modern, glass-walled mansion, unbeknownst to her husband’s children. But on a frigid March morning, just after arranging to buy two more Georgia O’Keeffe paintings, Rudd Tomlinson is run over by a logging truck as she crosses Main Street. The driver claims that she darted out in front of him, or maybe was pushed. This possibility is supported by a young kitchen worker who claimed he saw an old man run by the cafe window just before the “accident.” The next day that witness is found dead in the water below his ice-fishing shack.

The plot unfolds as more family members come onstage during a meeting to plan a memorial for their stepmother. It appears there is considerable rancor among them, and suspicion falls on each in time: Sloane, the crass, prodigal daughter; Tim, the testy, wannabee-artist son; Kenzie, the agoraphobic daughter who has been diagnosed bipolar. Kenzie’s husband Greg seems overprotective, and his father, Vern, intrudes as a disreputable builder.

The most interesting characters, though, are the regular cast. There’s Lew, unexpectedly attractive without her Sig Sauer pistol; Doc Osborne, the retired dentist whom she was teaching to fly fish (in book one) when he revealed his talents identifying people from inside-out; and Ray Pradt, a tracker and guide who wears a fur hat topped by a stuffed trout as his trademark. In each successive story (now fifteen), the author allows us to know these people better, and their philosophies of life underscore the benefits of living in a small town. In this episode we meet Judith Fordham, the close friend who was just arriving to help Rudd with the project when she got the tragic news. She sees beyond Ray’s comic exterior, so may be marked for a longer stay in town. Dani Wright the Chief’s pierced and tattooed intern is the new computer geek, though she wants to be a cosmetologist. Mallory Osborne, Doc’s sometimes difficult daughter, also returns to help with the museum, and they seem to have reached rapprochement. I hope all three hang around.

The underlying theme of the Loon Lake series so far seems to be threats to the idyll, expressed in big city ambition versus small town kindness, materialism versus naturalism, and thin personality versus depth of character. The overlay of fly-fishing is not just regional embroidery, but a reminder that practice, steadiness, perseverance, and patience are needed to achieve satisfaction, not unlike detective work. There’s so much yet to discover beneath the rippling surface.