Alpine Advocate editor-publisher Emma Lord knows that every good newsperson needs a reliable source. When that source is your estranged cousin who is sitting in jail for a murder he claims he didnít commit and wants you to clear his name, Emma thinks sheíd be better off with no front page story at all for the small Alpine, Washington, weekly. When house and home editor and unofficial town gossip/historian Vida Runkel realizes that the murder victim, Carol Stokes, was once a local girl who left under a cloud of scandal, she is all for Emma going to Seattle for Easter weekend to help cousin Ronnie.
Emma is terribly reluctant to go, she hasnít seen or heard from Ronnie in many years and always viewed his branch of the family tree as a lower class than the rest. Emma is also fond of Triuum (the days leading up to Easter) and would prefer to attend mass and services in her own parish, St. Mildredís, rather than Cathedral in Seattle.
Because Emmaís dinner guests cancel one by one and because she is either very worn down from her semi-permanent houseguest, or just doesnít stand up for herself, she heads to Seattle kicking and screaming with Vida. Once there, Emma realizes that Ronnie will not offer much in the way of help in his defense, and reluctantly begins an investigation to help a cousin she never really cared for.
Emma begins to meet many people who had a connection to Carol, none of whom seem to particularly care for her, yet none who disliked her enough to see her dead. Both of Carolís neighbors act a bit odd, but when Emma learns that Carol stole Ronnie from one of them, she understands the disharmony, but doubts itís a motive for murder. Emma also meets Kendra, the seventeen-year-old girl Carol gave up for adoption and her adoptive parents, the Addisons.
None of these characters is portrayed in a positive light, almost as if to excuse their behavior. When one of Carolís neighbors is found dead, Emma is certain there is a connection to Carolís death. She realizes that either the same person killed both women and Ronnie is innocent since he is still in jail, or there is another murderer that Emma needs to be on the lookout for.
Alpine Menace, the thirteenth, in Mary Daheimís Alpine series is a very interesting mystery in that the murders are complicated and it will take careful reading to sort out all the clues and arrive at the correct solution. There are also several clever twists along the way to keep smug readers who think theyíve solved the mystery off balance.
Emma Lord seems very tired after solving thirteen mysteries. She is led, amid protests, by Vida to Seattle (where she grew up) to help a cousin she has no desire to help. Emma has had a young, un-wed mother and child staying with her for sometime and the woman seems to be making little effort to contribute to the household, yet a soft spot in Emma allows it to continue.
Emma, it seems, does realize that she is in a rut and at time allows people to take over her life, so perhaps by the next Alpine outing she will be less out of sorts and back to feeling more like her old self. Alpine Menace is a quick read that fans of the series will want to check out to stay current with the happenings in Alpine.
-- Jennifer Monahan Winberry