Durangoans will be treated to a trio of Colorado mystery writers Thursday at Maria’s Bookshop. The featured authors are Scott Graham, Emily Littlejohn and Margaret Mizushima.
Graham’s newest National Park mystery, “Yosemite Fall,” was reviewed in The Durango Herald on May 18. Littlejohn’s newest book, “Lost Lake,” will be released Nov. 6. Mizushima’s most recent Timber Creek K-9 mystery, “Burning Ridge,” was released in September.
“Lost Lake” takes place in a small mountain town in Colorado, and Detective Gemma Monroe is the star in this third police procedural by Littlejohn. Monroe is a detective in the Cedar Valley Police Department, and she has a 6-month-old daughter, Gracie, and a fiancé, Brody. On a cold, clear day in early May, Monroe is called to a remote location in the nearby mountains because a young woman is missing.
When Monroe arrives at Lost Lake, she finds three distraught friends who have been searching for Sari Chesney all morning. Boyfriend Matt and best friend Ally, along with Matt’s cousin, Jeff, are convinced something terrible has happened to her. Monroe tries to ease their fears but agrees to list Sari as a missing person.
As Monroe pursues leads in her investigation, she is distracted by family matters. Her grandmother, who raised her after her parents were killed in a car accident, is suffering from dementia and keeps wandering away from home.
Still trying to find the missing Sari, Gemma is shocked by a call of a brutal murder.
Littlejohn has fashioned an engrossing mystery with many unexpected twists and turns. Her small community is packed with many interesting characters, and Monroe’s own family and her living situation provide for a compelling read.
Mizushima’s fourth novel in her series, “Burning Ridge,” is also set in Colorado, but her town is much smaller. The community of Timber Ridge boasts a mere 6-block-long Main Street. Its law enforcement consists of a small, colorful sheriff’s department, which includes deputy Mattie Cobb and her K9 partner of one year, Robo.
Robo is 100 pounds of sheer focus and muscle. Robo was brought to the force as a drug-sniffing dog to combat the flood of illegal drugs that have inundated even small, rural towns throughout the U.S. Despite this fact, Robo has shown a wide variety of skills. He has tracked a kidnapped child, scented items and was able to find the correct owner, and now in this adventure, proves that he can also locate the dead.
Mizushima has taken a fascinating topic, K9 dogs, and woven the training practices and the actual routine of working with the dogs into stories that highlight their worth and effectiveness. It is especially telling when dogs are able to lead law enforcement to victims who could have died without their intervention. She also hones in on the special bond that forms between the officers and their four-footed partners. Mattie and Robo have this bond.
As “Burning Ridge” begins, it is May in the mountains. After a tough few months, local veterinarian Cole Walker is treating his daughters to a Sunday horse ride into the mountain to see mountain sheep and vivid spring wildflowers. Their dog is with them, and when he returns from poking around, he brings back what looks like a piece of wood. Unfortunately, it is a boot and it’s not empty. The fun, family day is brought to a halt, and the Timber Ridge Sheriff’s Department must respond to the mountain and find the rest of the victim.
Timber Ridge is shaken when not just one victim but four are found. Then when one is identified, it becomes very personal to Mattie. Mattie’s past becomes a catalyst to discover the fate of these four, whose bodies were burned to keep their identities secret. Mizushima reveals Mattie’s family history to readers as Mattie herself makes the connection to the person who has come back to settle a score.
As the investigation continues, Mattie and Robo become the targets of a mysterious, deadly person. Mizushima has created a mystery rife with suspense and terror. Her characters are vivid and relatable, and her use of Robo will attract the interest of dog lovers. Her plotting is spot on, and readers will want to follow the continuing adventures of Mattie and Robo.
Graham, Littlejohn and Mizushima have placed their novels in our state and have created fascinating stories for lucky readers to get a good taste of Colorado and the hardy people who populate it. Happy reading ahead.
Leslie Doran is a retired teacher, freelance writer and former New Mexican who claims Durango as her forever home.