LIE IN WAIT is already available for pre-order, and will launch on September 1. A classic police investigation mystery with a few twists, it's set in the fictional town of Canaan (ignore any idea that this matches the real Canaan, Vermont -- it doesn't, as mentioned for his previous Gothic thriller The Silent Girls) and takes place in 2010, during the height of the "Take Back Vermont" campaign (this too is a slight twist of "real" history, as the campaign happened in 2000; here's a link to a Wikipedia explanation). Some naive visitors to the Green Mountain State at that time misunderstood the lawn signs with the phrase, thinking it referred to a tourism effort (as in, buy Vermont products and take them back home with you). Actually it was a very bitter time in Vermont community life, as factions wrestled over whether the law creating "civil unions" for same-sex couples was a courteous and appropriate recognition of an established family form, or blasphemous and disgusting enabling of a sexuality that many considered "wrong," or at least "abnormal."
In real life, although the time was contentious and led to many public spats (and tears), the effort to keep conversations civil won out, and eventually, nine years later, Vermont made possible same-sex marriage as a legal entity. Tourism and same-sex weddings changed the minds of some who'd opposed the new law; others became quieter in their dissent; and many rejoiced.
Rickstad's fictional Vermont, however, is a dangerous place for a lawyer defending a civil suit brought by two men who want their union legalized. And as LIE IN WAIT opens, we find the entire town of Canaan up in arms over The Case that attorney Jon Merryfield is representing. Soon the domestic scene of the Merryfield home is marred by a brutal murder of the babysitter -- and the action rapidly intensifies.
At the heart of the book is Sonja Test, a detective on the town police force (Vermont residents, here's your cue again to recall that this is fiction). Eager to solve the crime and ensure justice, she's stymied right away by her position as a newbie and as a town detective -- because the state police, in the person of senior detective Richard North, rightfully takes ownership of the case. Test is so new at her job that she trips over her own feet, antagonizing both North and the witnesses.
As Test approached, North averted his eyes to the cellar stairs. Test could tell from the creases carved in his face by his scowl that whatever was down in that cellar was nasty. She'd not worked a murder scene. They were few and far between in Canaan.Sonja Test is someone easy to identify with. She's passionate about her job, wants to stake out her turf, longs to make a reputation as an effective detective. At the same time, she has two small children and a husband, none of whom are getting much attention as she repeatedly puts the investigation first. Risks to her kids arise; soon she's afraid her job's on the line, too.
She prepared herself by taking a slow deep breath through her nose; a technique she employed when running half marathons.
Her fist homicide and she would work it -- or support it, rather -- alone.
"It's not pretty," North said to Test without saying hello or shaking her hand. Had he thought she'd think it would be pretty? Was he patronizing her? She was uncertain.
Rickstad chooses to display the minds of several other people as the case goes along -- from the babysitter on the evening of her death, to three or four possible suspects, all of whom are linked in a crime from years ago that was never prosecuted. (Note: If you can't abide reading plots that involve sexual abuse, let this one pass.) And there's serious confusion for some of the townspeople, who confuse gay sex of adults, with the abuse of sexual power over children.
Test is a compelling character, so painfully human that her stumbles along the way are almost endearing. Her persistence and determination and willingness to risk being wrong add up to the capacity to get close to the solution of the crime. But as it becomes clear that someone is being framed, will Sonja Test be able to spot the real hand behind the evil actions taking place?
If I could change one thing about the way Rickstad wraps up this crime novel, it would be in terms of how Sonja Test puts together the facts at last; I like to see a plucky protagonist make worthwhile choices when it counts, and maybe this fictional investigator doesn't yet have the skills to pull off the final surge of detection. See what you think -- and whether you feel she's earned her way here.
What a treat to have this come out as an inexpensive e-book first -- if you have a device for reading an e-book, or are willing to use the software available to read it on your computer, it's an easy pick for a Vermont thriller. Purchase directly from the publisher with this link, or use other e-book routes that work for you.
Just remember -- it's fiction! (We Green Mountain folks want you to feel safe to come visit us!)