Vengeance is up for grabs
Sometimes it’s a bad day for news. If you work for a newspaper, that means that nothing is happening. News and Features lounge about, trying to cobble something together, and the editor worries about what can be mustered up for page one, or for the editorial space.
On a particular December day, the staff at the Alpine, Washington, Advocate faces such a challenge, with House & Home (Vida), News desk (Mitch) and editor/publisher/heroine (Emma) discussing the dearth of options for tomorrow’s paper. Fortunately for page one, the sound of police sirens on the street alerts the newsroom, and word that an eccentric artist named Craig Laurentis has been shot and wounded quickly spreads throughout town. At about the same time, Sheriff Milo Dodge pushes open the newsroom door, carrying three anonymous messages he’s received that claim the innocence of one local, Larry Peterson, long ago convicted of murder and serving a life sentence. Milo also brings word that said convict has just died of a heart attack in prison. The anonymous notes were written before Peterson died, but the “coincidental” news is unsettling. Thus begins The Alpine Vengeance, Mary Daheim’s 22nd entry in her Alpine Alphabet series, in which the author revisits a previous book, The Alpine Fury (book six, of course!) where Peterson’s crime and punishment topped off a story that involved Emma and many others in the extended-family atmosphere of small town Alpine. Emma reruns these past events in her mind, but after she pens an obituary on Peterson’s sudden death, she herself is visited by a fourth anonymous message, this one coldly menacing. If Peterson was innocent, who was he protecting? Emma and Milo pursue the case, not willing to let sleeping—or would it be dead?—dogs lie. The duo also pursue their ongoing romance, liberally spiced by the compelling character of Milo.
Alpine is a veritable Pandora’s box of characters, and by this time (letter “V”) the author might have done well to append a cast of characters or family tree to help us cope with all the Petersons and their cousins and kin. The book’s action is oiled by quick-fire and frequently witty dialogue, with an occasional wet snowstorm thrown in to evoke the Pacific Northwest atmosphere. As the story develops, seemingly disconnected threads begin to seam together alarmingly into whole cloth. The events in Vengeance quickly prove that everything’s up for grabs as far as old murders are concerned.