Although Dead Rapunzel is the 15th novel in Victoria Houston’s Loon Lake mystery series, it is my introduction to Police Chief Lewellyn Ferris; her boyfriend Doc Osborne, a retired dentist who often helps out with cases; and Ray Pradt, an eccentric fishing guide who helps out with tracking and photograph — as well as the rest of the Loon Lake cast. And from this one sample, it is a cast worth getting to know better.
Not only are her characters fleshed out with workmanlike finesse, but Houston is adept at recreating the Wisconsin setting in which they function. Dead Rapunzel is set in the dead of winter, but this is the great outdoors and these are people who cherish its joys. Even when it is so icy cold, dogs limp and hop along on the ice when they are taken out of the house. Even in the frigid winter, these hardy souls — bundled into fur lined coats and mittens, scarves wrapped around their faces — are not only out pursuing their everyday business, they are out on the frozen lakes ice fishing. So when a woman in killed by a truck traveling down an icy road in town and the driver insists she was pushed in his path, Ferris and her crew are ready to deal with the situation.
When it turns out that the woman is the wealthy second wife of a deceased millionaire who had planned on using her fortune to build and endow an art museum in the area, coupled with the fact that her three step children are less than grief stricken at her death, suspicions grow. Suspects include a sadistic ne’er do well son, a bitchy middle daughter, the youngest daughter who is bipolar, and the latter’s father-in-law, a very shady contractor. Things get complicated right from the start when another woman, a friend of the deceased arrives in town and reveals that she is the executor of her friend’s will, and she has been directed to devote the lion’s share of the estate is to the museum. With a little help from her friends, Chief Lewellyn sets out to get to the bottom of this mess.
Like a good air conditioned movie, Dead Rapunzel and Loon Lake in winter make for ideal reading in the dog days of August.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=1440568480]