Friday, June 06, 2014

Murder and Adventure in the Northwest: SCENE OF THE CLIMB, Kate Dyer-Seeley

Here's a chance to jump into a well-written and adventurous mystery series right at the start, with the first book in Kate Dyer-Seeley's Pacific Northwest Mysteries. SCENE OF THE CLIMB offers an amateur sleuth in the great tradition of nosy journalists -- and protagonist Meg Reed not only has a nose for the wicked and dangerous, but also has the skills to write good copy for the outdoor magazine that's just hired her, in part on the basis of her late father's reputation as an amazing reporter (if also a weirdo near the end of his life). Too bad Meg doesn't have the rugged outdoor skills to go with her adrenaline-drenched assignments -- especially when she's climbing her first rugged mountain and a man's body drops past her, crashing with definite killing effect onto the rocks below.

Dyer-Seeley's website,, describes her as a writer of "cozy mysteries." This book gives a prime example of why the label doesn't work well: True, there are few descriptions of gore, Meg's not mired in alcoholism or despair, and she's as clueless about the terrain of murder as she is about breaking in a pair of climbing boots before putting miles onto them in tender feet. But this is far from a tea-and-cats mystery; it's action and investigation and well-written dialogue. Of course, there has to be an explanation for each amateur sleuth's decision to leap past her or his normal sensible boundaries, and here is Meg's:
Matt maneuvered the truck in the direction of Angel's Rest. I filled him in on the events of last night.

When I finished, he shifted around a corner and gave me a wary look. "Jesus, Megs, this is getting serious. But why go back? I don't get it."

"I want to see if there's anything on the trails. It's not raining. Maybe we can make our way to the deer trail? Maybe I can figure out what the missing photo is. Andrew had to have left a clue somewhere." ...

Matt said, shifting once again, slowing, "You're playing with fire here. I think it's time to call the sheriff."

"I did. I left him a message this morning. You don't understand." I hated the pleading tone in my voice. "I have to find real evidence. I know it's Andrew. I have to prove it."
Meg's cute and smart, and flirtation definitely raises its head -- but that doesn't distract from the pace or Meg's independence and sharp learning curve. And that's another reason the label "cozy" doesn't quite match here -- this is not a mystery twining around a romance, but rather a plucky chase after clues, motives, and risk.

One more reason I'm suggesting picking up this book now, while the series is new and people don't know about it too much (outside of Vancouver, Washington, where Kate Dyer-Seeley lives): Although the book isn't digging into life's deep issues as Louise Penny's very different (and also NOT cozy) series does, there's an aspect of Dyer-Seeley's plotting that pushes SCENE OF THE CLIMB toward what Penny does: Underneath the quick and well-paced action is a dark secret of Meg's past that's hinted at, but not actually confirmed until the finale of the book -- so it's clear the series has a double arc of plot that's going to take us to an even riskier, more wicked flow of events.

I can hardly wait!

1 comment:

Kate Dyer-Seeley said...

Thank you so much! I'm thrilled that you enjoyed Meg. And you're spot on, she's a new breed of cozy. We need a new genre. Just seeing my name anywhere near Louise Penny's makes my entire week.