Charlotte Pass by Christine Lee
Ski patroller Vanessa, attractive and vivacious, finds human bones high in the Snowy Mountains, at the isolated ski resort of Charlotte Pass. When tall and dark and handsome Detective Pierce Ryder, of the Sydney Homicide Squad, begins to investigate, the attraction is immediate and the sparks of a romance begin to flicker. And when the human remains are found to be those of a young woman, Celia, who mysteriously disappeared in a snow storm in 1964, and was seemingly murdered, a mystery is added to the mix.
The stage is set with a cast of characters who were also present the night Celia disappeared. A scarred and wizened lift operator, a charming older celebrity skier there to open a new ski run, the hardbitten husband and wife resort owners, the husband of the dead woman still playing in a band are all at the resort 55 years later . Even an elderly detective who investigated at the time turns up. A coincidence? I think not! The question of who and why they were assembled is part of the suspense. There are police interviews, DNA testing, much investigating and many suspicions but it is the night that Vanessa and Pierce act on their passion for each other and Pierce reveals his past tragedy, that a crisis explodes when another young woman is found murdered. Pierce follows leads, the clues fall into place, the penny drops, the snow falls and there is a thrilling chase in the snow before all is revealed and explained. And then there is the outcome of the romance!
This book is a murder mystery in the classic tradition, revealing a cast of characters from the past and slowly revealing secrets and connections. And this comes interwoven with a side serving of romance for the present day characters.
While I had my doubts about the plausibility of all the key players still being around, even the girl's aged parents, after such an enormously long passage of time, and I would have found a passage of time in the region of forty years at the most to be more believable, this novel is solidly grounded. Charlotte Pass is a real resort, and google maps indicate the locality is a real area in the Snowy Mountains and the workings of such a place, the life for staff and the snowy landscape, the technical aspects of ski-ing and even the police relationships and processes, are detailed in a straightforward and credible way.I could see the events being played out as if in a television drama in my mind; with the narrative both arousing speculation and focused on moving the plot forward.
Despite the formulaic nature of the murder mystery and the predictability of the romance, the novel kept me interested and guessing, turning my sympathies in the expected directions as I turned the pages and allowing me a certain sigh of satisfaction as I closed the book. An entertaining combination of mystery and romance.
Reviewer: Clare Lyon
Allen & Unwin,
Release date: February 4 2020