Book Review: The Alpine Xanadu by Mary Daheim

The Alpine XanaduThe Alpine Xanadu
An Emma Lord Mystery
Mary Daheim
Ballantine Books, February 2013
ISBN 978-0-345-53531-3

From the publisher—

Winter in the small mountain aerie of Alpine should be as quiet as new-fallen snow on the Cascades, but from the Grocery Basket to the Venison Inn, the town is humming. At the Alpine Advocate, editor Emma Lord and her staff are on deadline with a feature about the opening of RestHaven, a new rehab and mental health facility. Front Street is buzzing with gossip about Emma’s recent engagement to Sheriff Milo Dodge. And now that fool Wayne Eriks has climbed an electric pole in the middle of a storm and got himself electrocuted.
Sheriff Dodge doesn’t buy the idea that Wayne’s death is an accident. But how—and, more important, why—he died is only one of the conundrums that keep the sheriff and Emma working overtime. Why is RestHaven giving Alpine so many restless nights? What to make of allegations that someone’s trying to kill the richest man in town . . . or whispers of a rash of indecent behavior at the local high school? After Vida Runkel, the Advocate’s stalwart House & Home editor, disappears into thin air, Milo and Emma suddenly have too many loose ends to solve before they can even think about tying the knot.

It’s February 2005 and small town newspaper publisher Emma Lord is engaged to the local sheriff Milo Dodge but life keeps getting in the way of their finally getting married. Murder, assault, mental patients who go missing, porn in the local high school, former husbands and wives who apparently can’t stay away from each other, convicts released on bond, the wrath of a miffed Vida Runkel, a reporter who thinks he’s still in a big city, endless rain that would dampen the spirits of anybody who’s not used to such weather…sounds like a depressing soap opera, doesn’t it?

Not in the least—this is just life in the small mountain town of Alpine, WA, and its citizens would hardly know what to do with themselves if there wasn’t so much scandalous and criminal behavior going on. Think of it as the West Coast version of Cabot Cove where there’s a body on every corner. Weekly newspaper publisher Emma Lord and Sheriff Milo Dodge might be the only really sane people in town but life is certainly never dull. The big question might be what is Vida up to and why is she in such a snit?

This is (obviously) the 24th in Ms. Daheim‘s series and is a return for me to a series I have loved in the past but had drifted away from. The Alpine Xanadu is every bit as entertaining as the earlier books I’ve read and reminds me of why I loved Alpine and its denizens at the time. Now I think I’ll have to go back and catch up on the ones I’ve missed while I await #25, The Alpine Y…?. I’m also very happy to note that the author hints on her website that the series will continue beyond the completion of the alphabet.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2013.