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THE ALPINE SCANDAL: An Emma Lord Mystery
By Mary Daheim
Ballantine, 2007 ($23.95)
ISBN 10: 0-345-46816-3
ISBN 13: 978-0-345-46816-1
Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel
When Sheriff Milo Dodge develops health problems, Emma Lord, editor of the Alpine Advocate, finds herself acting as an unofficial deputy to solve Elmer Nystrom's murder. Elmer's bludgeoned body was discovered face down in his hen house by Emma and her House and Home editor Vida Runkel when they went out to his home to check on him.
The odd thing is, an anonymous person sent Elmer's obituary to the paper a bit prematurely -- Elmer wasn't dead yet. As far as Emma can tell, Elmer, a car salesman, was liked by one and all. He was always generous and helpful to his customers, and eager to give advice about cars and such. His wife Polly and son Carter, however, are another story. Polly appears meek and shy, but she has a vicious tongue and is prone to creating malicious rumors about her townsfolk. Carter, an orthodontist who'd only recently come back to his hometown, has some detractors as well.
Emma's brother, Father Ben, has been staying in Alpine for several months, helping out in Emma's parish. He's moving on, and Emma is in a funk. She realizes she's lonely, but seems stuck - unable to move forward in her on-again off-again relationship with the sheriff, dissatisfied with her long-distance romance with reporter Rolf Fisher, but, as her friend Vida advises, she puts one foot in front of the other and keeps going.
Vida and Emma are determined to find Elmer's killer, and along the way they find they don't know some of their neighbors as well as they'd thought, as they uncover some pretty disturbing secrets. This is the nineteenth book in the series. I enjoyed it, but maybe not as much as others in the series. One must suspend disbelief somewhat to think a law officer would give so much information to a private citizen, even if she's his girlfriend. Still, it's an entertaining, cozy read.
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