Bitter Alpine: An Emma Lord Mystery

Bitter Alpine: An Emma Lord Mystery

by Mary Daheim

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New year, new murder . . . Emma Lord is on the case when death finds its way back to the wintry mountain town of Alpine.

After a relatively calm and cozy holiday season, neither Emma Lord, editor and publisher of The Alpine Advocate, nor her husband, Sheriff Milo Dodge, are surprised when their new year gets off to a rocky start. A woman’s body has been found in a squalid motel. Her driver’s license shows that Rachel Jane Douglas was in her late thirties and lived in Oakland, California—and the only connection between that town and Alpine is their gold-mining and logging origins. When they discover that Rachel’s room reservation was open-ended, Emma, Milo, and the ever-inquisitive Advocate receptionist, Alison Lindahl, are more than mildly curious. And never mind that the youthful Alison is a bit distracted by the new county extension agent’s virile good looks. She can still sleuth while she stalks her newest crush.

But that’s not all the news that’s unfit to print. There’s something strange about the older couple who have moved into the cabin down the road that was once owned by a murder victim. The elderly wife seems anti-social. There’s got to be a reason, which Emma, Milo, and Alison intend to find out—even if it puts them in deadly danger.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399594816
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/04/2020
Series: Emma Lord Returns , #2
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 1,379
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Mary Richardson Daheim started spinning stories before she could spell. Daheim has been a journalist, an editor, a public relations consultant, and a freelance writer, but fiction was always her medium of choice. In 1982, she launched a career that is now distinguished by more than sixty novels. In 2000, she won the Literary Achievement Award from the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. In October 2008, she was inducted into the University of Washington’s Communication Alumni Hall of Fame. Daheim lives in her hometown of Seattle and is a direct descendant of former residents of the real Alpine, which existed as a logging town from 1910 to 1929, when it was abandoned after the mill was closed. The Alpine/Emma Lord series has created interest in the site, which was named a Washington State ghost town in July 2011. An organization called the Alpine Advocates has been formed to preserve what remains of the town as a historic site.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

I’ve never been called a prima donna, but as editor and publisher of The Alpine Advocate, I, Emma Lord Dodge, am entitled to be annoyed when I enter my office on the second Monday in January and find a chicken clucking on my desk. Never mind that the Bantam Red hen was staring at me with beady-eyed indignation. I stared right back.

“Whoa!” The masculine voice behind me belonged to Leo Walsh, my ad manager. “How’d that get in here?”

“That’s what I want to know,” I said. “Where’s Alison? I didn’t see her at the reception desk when I came in.”

“The back shop, maybe?” Leo leaned down to pick up the hen, but she flapped her wings and skittered away to land on my chair. “Hey!” he shouted as he clapped his hands. “Out! Now!”

Apparently the chicken didn’t like loud voices. She turned her back on us and pecked at the draft of an editorial I’d started Friday afternoon. It wasn’t one of my better efforts, so maybe that was her way of offering criticism. Before Leo or I could react, our office manager ran toward us.

“So that’s where the chicken went,” Alison Lindahl muttered. Diving across my desk, she grabbed the hen. But the chicken wasn’t giving up without a fight. She tried to flap her wings, but Alison’s grip was firm as she carried our intruder through the newsroom and to the reception area.

Leo chuckled. “I’ll bet that hen followed the new county extension agent in here. I think he brought a news release.”

“And a chicken,” I muttered. “I haven’t yet met the guy, though Alison pointed him out to me on the street. Boyd Lanier.” I smiled at Leo. “He’s fairly young and good-looking. Quite a change from his predecessor.”

My ad manager nodded. “Single?”

I nodded. “According to the official Skykomish County news release, Lanier is thirty, from Wenatchee, and a graduate of Washington State University. I suspect Alison would let him lead a herd of goats into the office. She and I must talk.”

“And I,” Leo said, turning toward the newsroom, “must talk local merchants into buying ads so we Advocate staffers can afford food. My wife is fond of both cooking and eating. I’d gotten used to meager meals during the years we lived separate lives. Liza didn’t. Now we find two Walshes can’t live as cheaply as one.”

“But you’re both happy about that,” I pointed out.

“True. Incredible, but true.” Leo’s walk was almost a swagger as he headed through the newsroom.

I smiled as he put on his trench coat. It was raining, which was good, since Alpine is at the three-thousand-foot level of the Cascade Mountains. Old-timers recalled as much as eight feet of snow on the ground during winters when they were young enough not to be hampered by having to tunnel their way to school on Tonga Ridge. Recent winters had been more benign. Global warming has had its effect during my sixteen-plus years in Alpine.

I’d arrived with a college-bound son, a used Jaguar, and the ownership of a small-town weekly newspaper. Back then I was more intimidated by failure than hoping for success. The resident ad manager, Ed Bronsky, was a lazy, gloomy dud. I never had the heart to fire him, but after a frustrating three years he’d inherited money and quit. That’s when I hired Leo. Thanks to his hard work, the Advocate was still solvent. While newspapers were in peril all over the country, there was an advantage to living in a small town. The eight thousand residents of Skykomish County knew most of their neighbors. They liked reading about their fellow Alpiners—and themselves.

I was mulling other topics for this week’s editorial when our former House & Home editor tromped into my cubbyhole of an office. “Well now,” said Vida Runkel, settling her majestic self into one of my two visitor chairs, “Alison tells me you were invaded by a chicken. Don’t argue. I’m putting that in my ‘Scene Around Town’ column.”

“That’s fine,” I assured her. Not that Vida ever needed my approval. She’d worked for the newspaper long before I arrived in town. But in the fall, she had finally announced her retirement. Vida had been a staple of the Advocate for over ten years before I bought the newspaper. Naturally, there were occasional problems about which of us actually ran the show. Now in her late seventies, she was entitled to take her ease, but I’d had trouble imagining the newspaper without her. As it happened, I didn’t have to. Vida had retained her right to “Scene” with its snippets of Skykomish County residents’ daily lives, along with her advice column and an occasional feature about senior citizens. She’d been replaced—not quite the right word, since nobody really could replace her—by Leo’s wife, Liza, who had once held a similar job on a Los Angeles–area newspaper. In fact, that was how the Walshes had met some thirty years ago.

“I’d hoped,” Vida went on, “to interview the sheriff’s new deputy, since she’s female, but my nephew Billy told me Mitch Laskey has already gotten the assignment.”

Bill Blatt was one of Vida’s numerous relatives on her mother’s side and thus duty bound to tell all to his redoubtable aunt. He was also one of Milo Dodge’s deputy sheriffs.

I shrugged. “County law enforcement is part of Mitch’s beat. I could hardly not give him the interview.”

Vida adjusted the single pheasant feather of her broad-brimmed hat. “I suppose that’s so. But I’ve already met her.”

“So has Mitch. He introduced himself on her first day of work last Monday.”

“So did I.” Vida’s gray eyes were glittering behind her gold-rimmed glasses. “She’s rather nice-looking.”

“Is she?”

“Didn’t your husband say so?”

“No,” I replied. “Milo mentioned that she was qualified and seemed sharp. There were four other candidates, but he considered her the one best suited for the job. She’d worked for law enforcement in Tacoma but wanted a change. Having only one female deputy until now, the sheriff felt Doe Jamison has been overworked dealing with abused women, especially during the holidays with so much drinking.”

“Yes. I’m sure she’ll find Alpine a wonderful place to live. And work.” Vida turned thoughtful. “Consuela De Groote. What can she be?”

“Milo’s new deputy?” I smiled when I said it.

Vida wasn’t amused. “I meant her nationality. She looks French to me. But the name doesn’t suit her.”

“She’s probably gotten used to it.”

“Perhaps.” Vida paused, then shrugged her broad shoulders. “I must get to work on ‘Scene.’” She made her splayfooted way out of my cubbyhole.

I returned to my editorial. After my standard—and dull—hope for everyone in SkyCo to have a healthy, happy, prosperous new year, I needed something fresh. What I really wanted was to demand that County Manager Jack Blackwell put streetlights on Fir Street where the sheriff and I resided in what was now our log cabin since we’d finally gotten married last spring. I could also push for sidewalks, but knew that’d break the budget. If there was one. But whatever I suggested, Blackwell would dismiss. He and Milo had never gotten along since Jack first came to town thirty years ago, when my future husband was still a deputy. I couldn’t stand Jack, either. Yet he ran Blackwell Timber as an efficient, safe operation and treated his employees fairly. He had even survived a public tirade against him by a woman who blamed him for her husband’s death in an Idaho logging operation. Being our second-biggest employer after the community college, I had to tread lightly around Black Jack.

Alison brought in the mail a little after ten-thirty, which was later than usual. “Marlowe Whipp’s limping,” she said in a cheery voice. “He was hit by a car.”

Our regular mailman was a chronic complainer, but this news jarred me a bit. “But he’s doing the route? What happened?”

“The car had started to back up and only bumped him,” she replied. “But you know Marlowe. He likes to gripe. I’m surprised he didn’t ask the post office to relieve him for the rest of the day.”

I was, too. But before I could say anything, Alison went on. “The new county extension agent is a hottie. He’s not married.”

“So I understand from the news release. Has he asked you out yet?”

The cheer faded a bit. “No, but I’ll figure out something. Maybe I’ll ask him if he could teach me to churn butter.” Alison didn’t quite dance out of my office, but she came close.

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Bitter Alpine: An Emma Lord Mystery 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Dollycas 1 days ago
Dollycas’ Thoughts This series continues as we enter 2007. The Alpine Advocate editor Emma Lord and her new husband Sheriff Milo Dodge ring in the new year only to find themselves embroiled in another investigation. A women’s body is found in a local hotel and they can’t find any connection between her and Alpine. The new Advocate receptionist even does a little sleuthing. All three are also concerned about an older couple the have moved in down the road. Needless to say, all their snooping could be dangerous. I have enjoyed all the previous 27 books in the series. This time Emma and Milo are even more cantankerous than usual and I felt Emma has lost some of her conviction and that detracted from the joy I usually feel when visiting Alpine. Emma also uses a derogatory term to describe her son that almost had me putting the book down for good. I know the story is set 13 years ago and the author probably used it as a reference for the time, but it is a term I believe was even seldom used even then. I was also taken aback by the way domestic abuse was handled. In fact, that word, that abuse, and some of Emma’s actions ring more from the ’50s instead of the early 2000s. As I kept reading I understood why the author handled the abuse as she did, but it was hard to read in places. Vida also has her share of troubles within these pages. The mysteries were hit and miss for me. One of the problems with a long-running series is giving new readers background on the town and its inhabitants. It is important to learn the small-town dynamics like everyone is related to Scene Around Town columnist, Vida Runkel and that Ed Bronsky is going to drop by the Advocate office with some new scheme. Ms. Daheim did that almost too much this time. The asides messed with the flow at times. Emma seemed to be off her game with these investigations. I did think it was hilarious near the end of the book when Milo locked Emma in the car and warned her not to try to get any closer. What was sad was that she actually did it. Not all the loose ends are tied up at the end. Emma’s son Adam has been transferred from Alaska to Michigan and Vida’s replacement as she retires looks to be ad man Leo’s wife Liza. The author continues to capture the weather and atmosphere of Alpine, Washington. January there can be brutal. I am hoping the stumbles in this story are just a blip in the life of this series. Writing 28 books featuring the same characters and keeping things new and fresh has to be incredibly hard. I will be looking forward to the next installment because I do want to see what happens next for the residents of Alpine.
TarynLee 5 days ago
Emma and her husband Milo had a lovely holiday season and all is going well in their world. The paper is doing well and Milo hasn't had a thing bad to investigate. When life is happy something bad is eventually bound to happen and in this case does. A young woman is found dead in the local dirty motel. They soon learn the young woman is from California but are having a hard time with figuring out what or who brought her to town. Meanwhile several other weird things are going.on around town, an older couple is living in a local cabin and no one is are when they moved in and how long they will be staying there. Emma's neighbor is kidnapped by her boyfriend and no one can seem to find them, with the weather it's hard to imagine they got far. With everything going on Emma has tons for the paper businesses to dig more into the young woman's murder. Can she figure it all out with the few clues that she has or will her murder remain a mystery?
VWilliams 5 days ago
Newlywed Emma and her local sheriff hubby, Milo Dodge are in their 50s, settling down to married life. Emma has succumbed to the stereotypical housewife persona, albeit somewhat 1950s style, and seems to have become comfortable with their unusual lifestyle. As sheriff, he is often called out and spends long hours on the job; she as owner and editor of the local weekly Alpine Advocate operates on a thin budget with a few employees who handle different aspects of the news. Vida, a long time employee who handles the House and Home section along with the Scene notes she is ready for retirement, forcing a slight reshuffling of staff. Mitch handles reporting assignments. Milo is called out to the apparent murder of a woman at the motel on the fringe of town and sets off the investigation leading to some red herrings which will definitely throw you off track in this cold, heavily snow-laden mountain community narrative. As editor of the local newspaper, of course, it's in her interest to get the news, although no one is going to break a sweat over it. Support characters and their lives provide ample distraction. Difficult to invest in most of the characters. I had some challenges with their routine (even given the year of 2007) and the interaction between Emma and Milo (why did they marry?). More character-driven than cozy, slow pace ended with an abrupt conclusion. This would work as a standalone. I received the digital download by the publisher through NetGalley and appreciated the opportunity to read. 2.5/5 rounded down
bamcooks 7 days ago
Many years ago I had the pleasant task of keeping my elderly mother supplied with cozy mysteries, which we often read and shared. One such was the Alpine Advocate series featuring Emma Lord, publisher of a weekly newspaper in the small town of Alpine, Washington. They were so interesting that even my husband and daughter got into reading the series along with us. Those books followed an A-Z pattern in the choice of their titles so we were sure that when Miss Daheim hit the letter Z, the series would be over. But no, she has resumed the series as 'Emma Lord Returns' and has started the alphabet titles over again. Bitter Alpine is the second book in this new series and is set in January of 2007; Emma and Sheriff Milo Dodge, who are in their 50s, have been married for almost a year. Dodge is called out one evening to investigate the strangulation death of a young woman from Oakland, CA, who was staying at a local motel. No one seems to know why she was in Alpine. Emma, of course, always has to stick her nose in any case to get the news for her paper and as usual, she is fighting a deadline. There have been some changes in her office staff: Vida, her long-time Home and Garden editor, wants to retire and it looks like the wife of Leo, the advertising man, will try to replace the formidable icon. Emma's son Adam, a priest, announces he is being transferred to Gaylord, Michigan, from a remote Alaskan village. (Note to both publisher and author: Gaylord is NOT in the upper peninsula of Michigan; it's in the upper part of the lower portion of the state.) In the storyline, Emma does a lot of reminiscing to catch new readers up on past history and I have to say my hackles rose when she refers to her son as 'illegitimate.' I thought we had moved beyond that kind of terminology. If any one is illegitimate, it's the parents, not the child! Newly-wed Emma seems to have fallen into the stereotype of a married woman, rather surprising for someone who has lived most of her adult life on her own and has been a modern and independent business woman: she is always the one to do the grocery shopping and cooking and Milo demands his drink and dinner as he walks in the door--and 9 times out of 10, it's steak and potatoes. He of course controls the tv remote and they watch a lot of sports every evening with frequent romantic bedroom breaks. And even knowing that Emma is once again trying to quit smoking, Milo has an evening cigarette in front of the tv. These are all personal gripes on my part, but are still things I noticed. The focus of these mysteries has always been small town dynamics--how most everyone knows their neighbor's business. Vida for instance is related to most everyone in town and can gossip with the best of them in her Scene Around Town column, but don't you dare criticize her ne'er-do-well grandson who is serving time in prison for drug-dealing. It's a good thing a new community college and business start-ups have brought an influx of new people to the Alpine area or all the townspeople would have been murdered off by now in these books, lol. I received an arc of this new cozy mystery from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks for a fun read!
casey710 7 days ago
I absolutely love love love this series! I feel as though I have gotten to know Emma and Milo over the years and really enjoy catching up with them. I was happy to see the author carry on beyond the original alphabet series. I am looking forward to many more and highly recommend this to anyone who has not read the series...the perfect distraction! Thank you NetGalley for the advanced readers copy for review.
Anonymous 7 days ago
Emma and Milo are happily married and balancing her role as newspaper owner/editor and his role as sheriff. New people are coming to the small town of Alpine, a woman is murdered in a trashy motel in town, and who are the older couple who moved into a cabin where a family was killed? There’s always a lot of small-town news in town, but the pace was a little slow. I really didn’t want or need to read about Emma and Milo’s nightly whiskey and watching whatever sport was on TV that night. The series has many wonderful characters and we learn more about them in each book.
Marcia Schmidt 7 days ago
Another homerun in the Alpine series! Please keep them coming!
Susan Christensen 8 days ago
I loved the way she incorporated old plots into her story. They were old plots that I have & I suspect other readers had forgotten. I have read all her Alpine books & this was one of the best.
cahicks 9 days ago
Another great addition to the Alpine series. I would highly recommend it.
bluegreen91 12 days ago
For a small mountain town in Washington state, there seems to be a lot of crime going on in Alpine! But such is life in a cozy mystery setting, and over this series' literary course of 16 years (or 28 years in real-time), crime will happen, even in a small town. As a long-time reader of this series, I love revisiting Alpine, with Emma and Milo and Vida in each story, and some of the "newer" characters like Leo and Mitch. There are a few interesting things happening in town: the death of a California woman with possible connections to Alpine, an older couple outside of town who keep hearing prowlers, a prison escapee, and a couple new Alpiners. We also see less of Vida, who seems ready to retire for good. Because this is the 28th book in the series, there are a lot of characters and townsfolk, but when someone from a past book is mentioned, there's usually an explanation that doesn't contain spoilers for previous books. I had a hard time putting this book down, because I just had to know what was going to happen next. I think anyone new to this series could read this book without knowing the backstory, but isn't it more fun to start from the beginning and enjoy the characters' changes and growth? I received an advance copy of this book. This review contains my honest thoughts and opinions.
TheCozyReview 12 days ago
From Random House comes a new addition to the “An Emma Lord Mystery” cozy book series, Bitter Alpine, written by Mary Daheim. This is a cozy book series that has been around for quite some time, and the first one I have read. I am sure that there are lots of fans of this series out there, but unfortunately, I am not going to be one of them. If this book is any indication of what others in the series are like, I can honestly say that I not only won’t be reading them, I won’t be recommending them either. There was not a single character in this story that I liked or wanted to hear more about. There wasn’t even one likable person in the entire book. It is not often that I can’t find something to like about a book, even one that isn’t fantastic. But in this case, there isn’t a single thing I found appealing in this cozy book. Of the issues that grated on me the most, I would say that the physical abuse is at the top of the list. Although set in 2007, the acceptance of physical violence was not okay, and the laws against abuse were plentiful. Several women are physically abused by their partners throughout this book, and none of the abusers are arrested. Even in 2007, we had mandatory arrest laws. The police had the right to arrest anyone who was accused of, or they had cause to believe had committed physical abuse to someone, even a spouse, without the spouse pressing charges. The fact that the abuse was considered routine and accepted in this book was heartbreaking. The sheer lack of an investigation into a murder, or the abuse, is number two on the list. There is little to no investigation into the murder of a stranger in a hotel. There are no real suspects; no one was brought in for questioning about where they were the night of the murder. And several possible suspects left town and the country without anyone caring. The killer is wholly unbelievable and feels as if a murderer was thrown in at the last minute, and the motive even more so as it is nonexistent. The main character, a newspaper publisher who doesn’t seem to do anything except drink coffee, eat donuts and gather useless info from her Sherriff husband (the couple, in reality, would never have married in the first place but most definitely would be divorced after only 1-year). The Sherriff and publisher do nothing except bully each other, yell at each other, and seem to live in the 40’s when the “little woman” had to have dinner on the table when the man of the house came home. Throw in a brooding reporter, who doesn’t come up with any leads of his own, despises his boss’ spouse, i.e., the Sherriff, and does so openly while getting all of his leads from his boss. There is a man crazed receptionist who doesn’t seem to care who she marries as long as its soon and a population that appears to be indifferent to the goings-on of their city leaders, including when they commit crimes. You have a long, dull, and at times, immensely distasteful story that, in the end, doesn’t even make sense. I won’t go into the issue that the Sherriff only eats steak and burgers; the couple eats out for lunch every day, drinks alcohol heavily, and they do it all on what appears to be a meager income. The problems go on and on in this cozy book. I am sorry to say that I cannot recommend this book.
CozyOnUp 12 days ago
This is the first book I have read by this author, and I'm not sure there will be a second. The storyline was a bit lackluster and the author long winded. While I feel there was a lot of unnecessary content, it seems that the author may be catering to her long time readers of her first Emma Lord series. Perhaps I would have been better served having read the first series, though I often read a book later in a series and never feel disconnected. This just isn't the author and series for me.
suesue62 12 days ago
I Love this series :) This "chapter" in Alpine has a lot going on...A stranger comes to town, checks in the (sketchy) motel, and is found murdered. Patti is battered one times too many, lands n the hospital and finally is moved to press charges. A resident from "way back" returns to town with his wife and Vida faints when she learns of this. Vida also claims to be retiring from her long standing radio show. And Emma's son Adam is reassigned from his long held position in his Alaskan priestly duties to northern Michigan. Almost everything is tied up neatly by the end of the book but we are left wondering about Vida and I'm looking forward to learning more about Adam's move. Its always good to go back and visit Alpine :)
jjthor 12 days ago
This is book 28 in the Emma Lord books . It was a great read. It passed quickly as the story held your attention and was very well written. Emma and her Husband who is the sheriff have the task of discovering the who and whys of the death of a young women found in a motel and a side mystery of an older couple who moved into the cottage and seem strange. A fast paced cozyish mystery.