At the edge of Northern Ontario, -10 degrees Celsius doesn't stop Belle and Ed from going snowmobiling or checking out a promising trail. The frozen lake would have been picture perfect except for one thing...a hand, pointing upward, sticking out of a refrozen hole.
Worse yet, the hand belongs to Jim Burian, a young friend of Belle's. Jim was in Forestry Management, he knew the trails, knew the dangers and how to avoid them. Law officials say everything points to an accident, but Belle doesn't believe it. She suspects foul play and won't rest until the truth is known. Bit by bit, she examines inconsistencies, using her network of friends in the Lake Wapiti and online communities to track down the killers. Tracing Jim's footsteps leads to some strange and twisted people; and when they set their sights on Belle, only her dog Freya stands between them and her.
Land development is a key element in this mystery. Townspeople are torn between preserving their way of life and wanting to improve their lot at the same time. It's a timely theme in this day and age of urban sprawl, as we watch native trees and animals being rooted out of their homes to make way for more people and more buildings. Belle Palmer's firmly on the side of preservation, as was her young friend Jim.
Belle's a down-to-earth person, a realtor and classic film buff with a love of mysteries and an appreciation for food. With neighbors few and far between, and often inaccessible because of weather, she keeps in touch through her computer and modem. After dealing with day-to-day survival in the frozen wilderness, nothing much can throw her --- except the realities of why Jim was murdered.
Lou Allin excels at making the frigid Ontario cold seep into your bones with vivid pictures of life in the Northern wilderness. The book starts with the slow pace of winter and picks up as the spring thaw draws closer, as Belle sorts through the maze of clues and begins to hone in on the killers. NORTHERN WINTERS ARE MURDER is a cozy read.
Reviewed by Jamie Engle on October 1, 2000