The Alpine Xanadu (Emma Lord Series #24)

The Alpine Xanadu (Emma Lord Series #24)

by Mary Daheim

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An exhilarating installment in Mary Daheim’s beloved and long-running small-town murder mystery series set in Alpine, Washington, and featuring unforgettable newspaper editor Emma Lord
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.
The Alpine Xanadu features beloved characters from the series alongside some sinister new ones—not to mention a mystery that will shake Alpine to its core.
Praise for Mary Daheim and her Emma Lord mysteries
“Always entertaining.”—The Seattle Times
“Mary Daheim writes with wit, wisdom, and a big heart. I love her books.”—Carolyn Hart
“Daheim writes . . . with dry wit, a butter-smooth style, and obvious wicked enjoyment.”—The Oregonian
“The characters are great, and the plots always attention-getting.”—King Features Syndicate
“Even the most seasoned mystery fans are caught off-guard by [Daheim’s] clever plot twists.”—BookLoons Reviews
“Witty one-liners and amusing characterizations.”—Publishers Weekly

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345535344
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/25/2014
Series: Emma Lord Series , #24
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 506,088
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.30(d)

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 One

I was stunned by the letter from my old pal and Oregonian newspaper compatriot Mavis Marley Fulkerston. Not having heard from her in over two months, I worried. The reason for the lapse was valid, but the rest of the message upset me.

“Dear Emma,” she began, “sorry for not thanking you sooner for the exquisite ­mother-­of-­pearl vase you sent for Christmas. Ray and I love it. Your backwoods gallery owner has surprisingly good taste.

“Ray and I took our usual ­post-­holiday Oahu trip to escape Portland’s gray skies. We had a great ­time—­until we were waiting for the airport shuttle to take us home and Ray had a heart attack. One quadruple bypass later, he was pronounced viable (if ornery) and sent to rehab for two weeks. He’s still grouchy and I may have to kill him.

“Your recent close call with death horrified me. Hope you’ve recovered by now. Hope you’ve also ­deep-­sixed your zany idea about marrying the local sheriff. That shocked me more than hearing about the nut who tried to kill you both. The last time we talked about Milo Dodge was years ago, just before you dumped him. He sounded so unlike your kind of guy and about as exciting as meat loaf. Maybe you’ve spent too much time in Alpine. What happened to the independent, culturally aware, freethinking gal I knew on the Oregonian? I envision you atrophying like a petrified cedar stump in that isolated mountain burg.

“Okay, it’s none of my business. I know you’ve been looking for a new man since Tom Cavanaugh died. I never met him, but when he abandoned you for his crazy wife and ­didn’t help support your son until Adam was grown up, I thought he was a jerk. I’d hoped you had something going with the AP stud, Rolf Fisher, but then he retired and moved to France. He was civilized, single, and, according to you, ­good-­looking. Maybe I’m venting, taking out my frustration with the Resident Grump, who ­doesn’t even like the way I make toast these days.

“Go ahead, marry the dull and boring sheriff. Just hope he never has a heart attack and falls on top of your new designer luggage. I don’t want to see you make another mistake when it comes to men. You’re too good for ­that—­you’re too good for Alpine.”

Mavis always sent her letters to The Alpine Advocate office instead of to my little log house. Maybe I’d complained too much about our often careless postman, Marlowe Whipp. It was the third Wednesday of February, ­post-­pub day. I might have time to answer Mavis.

“Well?” my House & Home editor, Vida Runkel, demanded, startling me out of my gloom. “You look like the pigs ate your little brother.”

“My big brother ­wouldn’t appeal to pigs,” I said, trying to shield the letter from ­Vida’s probing eyes. “Ben’s still on the Mississippi Delta getting reacquainted with his former parishioners.”

Vida sat down in one of my two new, if used, visitor chairs. I’d replaced the originals after my former ad manager, Ed Bronsky, broke one of them just before New ­Year’s. “Of course,” she said testily. “He and Adam discussed their mission work on my radio show. Such hardships. So cold for Adam in that Alaskan village, so hot for Ben in Arizona. Are you going to Delia Rafferty’s funeral at the Lutheran church?”

I grimaced. “I forgot. It’s at one, right?”

“Yes. Despite the Irish name, the Raffertys ­aren’t Catholic.”

“I went to Tim’s service, remember?”

Vida adjusted the green bow on her ­wide-­brimmed purple hat. “So sad when Tim was killed and their house burned down. Poor Delia had been gaga for some time. The ­baby’s a year old now. Walking, according to Dot Parker. What kind of name is Ashley for a girl?”

It was better than Tank or Pewter, both of which had been given to recent local newborns. “Tiff’s lucky her mom and grandmother babysit so she can work at the Grocery Basket,” I said, aware of ­Vida’s sharp gray eyes fixed on the letter I was trying to hide.

“Dot and Durwood enjoy their ­great-­grandchildren,” she said wistfully, probably thinking about her spoiled grandson Roger who’d finally disgraced himself. “Is that letter from an irate reader? It looks long.”

As the Advocate’s editor and publisher, I’m the boss, but Vida is over twenty years my senior, and keeping secrets from her is futile. She sees all and knows all, and God help anyone who ­doesn’t tell all. “It’s from my friend Mavis. She’s in a lather because Milo and I are engaged.”

Vida harrumphed. “What does Mavis know? She lives in Portland!”

“True,” I said, accustomed to ­Vida’s disdain for anyone who ­didn’t call Alpine home. She was also a bit jealous of my other female friends. “Maybe she’s off her feed because her husband had a heart attack.”

“Many people have heart attacks,” Vida asserted, “but their loved ones don’t go around meddling in other people’s affairs. ­Really, I cannot understand why she thinks she should give you advice. Has she ever met Milo? To my knowledge, Mavis has never been near Alpine.”

“True on both counts,” I agreed. “She thinks he’s the wrong type of man for me. Face it, Vida, you used to feel the same way.”

She bristled a bit, her imposing bosom heaving under her black vest and purple blouse. “That’s because you had so little in common. Now it’s ­obvious—­too obvious ­sometimes—­that you love each other. That trumps the rest. It would be nice, however, if you actually got married.”

“You know we have to wait for an annulment of ­Milo’s first marriage. Ben’s started the process with the Seattle Archdiocese.”

“Yes, yes.” She pursed her lips and frowned. “I still say that given your high profiles you should have a civil ceremony first. It simply ­doesn’t look proper for you to live together without being married.”

“We ­aren’t living together. Tanya’s been staying with him for over two weeks. I’ve hardly seen Milo. His daughter still has nightmares.”

Vida grimaced. “I thought the Hawaii trip would’ve cured her of that. It must’ve cost Milo the world to send her and her mother, Tricia.”

“It ­wasn’t cheap,” I said. “But I’m not unsympathetic to ­Tanya—­or even Tricia. It was traumatic for them to be held hostage by her crazy fiancé and have Tanya get shot before watching the guy off himself.”

“You and Milo had your own trauma. You don’t have nightmares.”

“I did for the first week or so,” I admitted. “I still dread the possibility of a trial. Maybe our perp won’t be judged sane enough to be tried. It’ll take two more months before he’s evaluated at Northern State Hospital. Giving all those depositions was bad enough.”

Vida stood up. “But you’ve come through it. As for Tricia, she may be manipulating Milo. She can’t accept the idea he’s marrying again, especially since her second husband betrayed her and they’re divorcing. So foolish to think he ­wouldn’t philander after cheating with her while they were both still married to other people. Which reminds me, I must work on my advice column. I still can’t believe Pastor Purebeck ran off with Daisy McFee. What will become of us Presbyterians?” Straightening her hat, she walked away in her ­splay-­footed manner.

I decided to delay answering Mavis’s letter. My sole reporter, Mitch Laskey, entered my office and put some hard copy on my desk.

“Here’s the last of my RestHaven series,” he said, placing a foot on the chair Vida had vacated. “I finally got some straight answers from Dr. Woo, the chief of staff. ReHaven is the corporation out of New York and RestHaven is for smaller facilities, like here. Have you taken a tour?”

I shook my head. “Is the grand opening still firm for Saturday?”

He nodded. “Converting the former Bronsky villa took longer than they figured. Ed and Shirley weren’t big on upkeep even before they blew all of his inheritance on fancy furniture and expensive cars.”

“ ‘All for show, not much for go,’ as Vida would say. The architect, Scott Melville, is very competent. He worked on a RestHaven project when he lived in California.”

“So Scott told me,” Mitch said. “The facility’s already at seventy percent capacity. They can take ninety ­patients—­forty in rehab, a dozen ­post-­ops in the adjacent unit, and ­twenty-­two in what they call the emotional restoration ward.” His lanky frame slumped a bit.

I knew what he was thinking. After his son, Troy, had failed in his second escape from the Monroe Correctional Facility just before Christmas, Mitch’s wife, Brenda, suffered a breakdown. She’d spent time in the psych ward at Seattle’s Harborview Hospital. Instead of bringing her back to Alpine, he felt it might be better for her to stay with their daughter, Miriam, in Pittsburgh. The Laskeys were newcomers to Alpine, having moved from Royal Oak, Michigan, in September. While he ­hadn’t said so, I wondered if Mitch thought Brenda might benefit from a stint at RestHaven.

“I may go on the formal tour,” I said. “You’ll take pictures?”

“Sure. What else have I got to do?” he asked wryly.

“Thanks.” I smiled, but I, too, had bad memories of ReHaven. I’d first heard of it when Tom Cavanaugh’s wife had been shipped off to their Bay Area facility. I’d finally stopped grieving for Tom, but occasionally something came back to hit me like a nagging pain from an old injury.

Mitch had started out of my cramped office, but stopped short to turn around. “Jack Blackwell’s still raising hell with the sheriff.”

“Now what?” I asked in exasperation. “Why ­doesn’t that jackass stick to running his mill? It’s the only one left in town.”

“He came in this morning just before I got there to check the log,” Mitch said, leaning one hand against the door frame. “His latest alleged brush with death was brake tampering on his SUV. Cal Vickers is checking it out at his Chevron station.”

“Did Jack get into it with Milo?”

Mitch shook his head. “Dodge ­wasn’t there. He had to take his daughter to the ER.”

“What?” I shrieked. “Is she sick?”

Mitch looked pained. “Dodge caught her downing a bunch of tranquilizers.”

“Oh, crap!” I cried, falling back in my chair.

“I guess she’s okay, but he wanted to make sure,” Mitch said.

“Right.” I realized my reporter looked puzzled. His absence from Alpine seemed to have left him out of the loop when it came to my relationship with Milo. This ­didn’t seem like the right time to enlighten Mitch. “There are so many people with emotional problems,” I said. “Your wife has had her share and ­that’s hard on you. Maybe we should all be in RestHaven’s psych unit.”

Mitch hung his head. “Maybe so.” He shrugged and walked away.

I was considering going to the hospital to check on Tanya when the phone rang. It was the city librarian, Edna Mae Dalrymple. “Emma, dear,” she twittered in her ­chickadee-­like voice, “I must congratulate you on standing up to Dixie Ridley last Thursday about the attempt to suppress Tom Sawyer from the high school curriculum. I meant to call you sooner, but I’ve been so busy. Did you write that editorial about it?”

“I did, but naming no names,” I said. “You’ll see it when the paper comes out today. I reminded readers that Samuel Clemens was related to Carl Clemans, despite the difference in the spelling of their last names.”

“Oh, excellent! No one in Alpine will dare criticize the original mill owner or his kin. He’s a legend here for being fair and generous. Dixie, as a football coach’s wife, should be the last one to quibble. You should hear how some of those players talk on the sidelines!”

“Shocking, I’m sure,” I said, wanting to get off the phone.

“If you think ­that’s shocking,” Edna Mae rattled on, though she’d lowered her voice, “have you heard about the pornography that was found in two of the basketball players’ lockers?”

“No. When did that happen?”

“Over the weekend when they played Granite Falls. Oh, ­dear—­I ­shouldn’t tell tales.”

I made a note. “I don’t suppose you know any specifics?”

“I ­wouldn’t want to know,” Edna Mae asserted.

“Of course not,” I said. “Thanks for the ­heads-­up, though.”

“You’re not putting it in the paper, are you?”

I hedged my bets. “The paper’s printed. Got to go. Thanks again.”

I put on my jacket and grabbed my purse, but stopped at Mitch’s desk to relay Edna Mae’s porn rumor. “Check with Principal Freeman. He’ll probably stonewall you, but you can deal with that. Keep track of Blackwell’s latest ­attention-­getting stunt. I’ve got to run an errand.”

Vida was on the phone, looking vexed. She stared at me as I rushed past her. Behind the reception desk, Amanda Hanson’s eyes widened. “What’s wrong?” she asked, her pert face alarmed.

“Family emergency,” I said, half stumbling out the front door.

The rain was a mere drizzle, so I walked the two blocks uphill to the hospital. My response to Amanda had come unbidden. Tanya ­wasn’t ­family—­not yet. But she would be when Milo and I got married. If we ever got married, I thought dismally. The new year had not treated us kindly. Not only had we narrowly escaped death, but trying to blow up a county sheriff and a newspaper publisher made regional news. We’d been pestered by the media, which had asked for everything from personal interviews to the possibility of a ­made-­for-­TV movie. Neither of us wanted our private lives invaded. We’d hunkered down in my snug little log cabin as much as our jobs would allow. Between ­KSKY’s Spencer Fleetwood and my own media contacts, we’d discouraged most of the snoops without Milo resorting to the ­strong-­arm tactics he swore he’d use if needed. I’d cringed at the thought of the sheriff decking a ­big-­shot Seattle TV reporter or one of my former Oregonian colleagues.

Mavis ­hadn’t a clue about Skykomish County’s sheriff, I thought as I waited for a Public Utility District truck to go by at Pine Street. Behind that often laconic exterior, a volcanic personality lurked in his imposing ­six-­foot-­five-­inch frame. My only regret was that it had taken me fifteen years to realize how much I loved him. Mavis was right on one ­count—­I’d been ­bat-­blind when it came to men. Milo had finally woken me up, though I was no Sleeping Beauty and he ­wasn’t Prince Charming. The words “Milo” and “charm” in the same sentence would have to include “not even close.”

I was panting with exertion by the time I reached the hospital. Jenny Bjornson sat behind the front desk. She and I had a bit of a history, but her father worked for Milo ­part-­time as a handyman.

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The Alpine Xanadu: An Emma Lord Mystery 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We're on X....not many letters this series getting ready to end? Gosh I hope not as I love these stories about Alpine. I think of this story as a reward to all of us die-hard Emma fans. If you've read any of these Alpine novels, this one is worth reading. You can read it if you never read any of the other books....but having read the other books would help to put some of the players into context.
Gran6 More than 1 year ago
I definitely recommend this whole series! this is another good one!
rhonda1111RL More than 1 year ago
4 STARS The Alpine Xanadu: An Emma Lord Mystery #24 This is my first time reading an Emma Lord mystery their is a lot of history that I don't know so at times I was a little lost and others why this was important to the story. I imangine if your a long time fan you would like this more than me at times. The Characters are well developed and you can tell most of them have been around along time with full backgrounds. Emma and the Sheriff sometimes I wondered at their relationship the way they talked to each other or yell. Other times I was laughing at them and with them. Emma is the owner of a newspaper and online news for the town of Alpine. Their is a radio station that is competition for the news. Vida works for both of them. She is mad at the Sheriff for something in the past. She knows everything that is going on unless it has to do with her blind spot Roger. Their is a new rehab and mental health center opening up. They keep lots of secerets. Close by a man fixing something is killed. It seems to be accident or was it. One of Emma's reporter does not realize that the Sheriff is living with her. He does not trust the sheriff. The Sheriff's daughter has come to town after she has some problems and feels only safe living with him. So he moves back to his house for a while. He plans to sell his house and wants to expand Emma's and keeps getting bigger and bigger. She is worried how they will be able to pay for it. Their is lots of small town information in the story that makes it nice to know. I wish I had read earlier stories about Emma Lord seems like a lot goes on for a small town. I will be on the lookout for more of Mary's work in the future. I was given this ebook to read and asked to give honest review of it by Netgalley. 01/29/2013 PUB Random House Publishing Group Ballantine 336 pages
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the Alpine series and now that we are closing in on the end of the alphabet I worry that there will be no more. :-(
BuriedUnderBooks More than 1 year ago
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.
Dollycas More than 1 year ago
Things are crazy in Alpine! RestHaven, a new rehab and mental health facility is finally opening and the Advocate staff in on deadline to get the feature out that will introduce it to the community. The town is buzzing about the news that Emma and Sheriff Milo Dodge are engaged. Then that fool Wayne Eriks has climbed an electric pole in the middle of a storm and got himself electrocuted. Or did he? Something is not adding up for the sheriff. Add to that 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… and Vida Runkel, the Advocate’s stalwart House & Home editor, disappears into thin air. Milo and Emma have no time to even think about a wedding. They have too many mysteries to solve. Their happiness will just have to wait. Every visit to Alpine is entertaining and fun! This edition is jam packed with action and keeps the reader on their toes. Twists and turns galore. It is hard not to get caught up in the tangled web of these characters lives. I don’t know if my husband could away with some of the comments the sheriff makes to Emma but for Milo they just fit. Emma and Milo have grown into that comfy couple. They respect each other but at times one of them wants to strangle the other. When you talk about characters evolving over the life of a series Emma and Milo are excellent examples. Now Vida is the one I want to strangle. She needs to take off one of those huge hats and hit her grandson Roger with it! That kid needs to grow up and get on with his life and she needs to stop coddling him. She is an absolute treasure to Alpine. Who else who keep all these friends, foes and relatives straight? but she is not helping that boy a bit. My heart aches for Mitch and Brenda and their family. Dealing with a son in prison has to be tough especially when he keeps escaping.  Emma’s family takes a smaller role in this installment but Milo’s ex-wife and daughter are right on the scene. After 24 stories there are several characters the make minor appearances in these stories but Daheim does her best to keep us in the loop with as many families as possible. Each book is like a mini vacation to Alpine, Washington. Mary Daheim writes intelligent and complex mysteries full of humor, intrigue and a bit of romance. In a previous review I called her a beacon on the cozy mystery horizon. She has created two longing running series and keeps them engaging and fresh.  I look forward to each and every one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As library culls out fast and doesnt order every one frankly i dropped because her r c brother and son priests and church stuff just seems odd padding and lacks the humor of first books. Burn out was expected and occured much earliar and chapter sample confirms this is alsotrue of her other series buska
1928OD More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed it with delight, as I have been doing with all of the series. Even went back to review the past adventures. Also hope Emma's Alpine Advocate does not end with a ZEE.
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mysterybook_nerd98 More than 1 year ago
This is the 24th book in the Emma Lord series and the 2nd one I've read. I liked the fact that the book tackled social issues without being heavy handed. The rapport between Emma and the Sheriff was also enjoyable. I enjoyed the sassy one liners. A very enjoyable mystery. I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.