The Sisters of Blue Mountain: A Novel

The Sisters of Blue Mountain: A Novel

by Karen Katchur

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250066824
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 04/04/2017
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Karen Katchur holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from West Chester University and a Masters of Education degree from East Stroudsburg University. She lives in Eastern Pennsylvania with her husband and two children. She is the author of The Secrets of Lake Road.

Read an Excerpt

The Sisters of Blue Mountain


By Karen Katchur

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2017 Karen Katchur
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-06682-4


CHAPTER 1

Spring came early the year the birds fell from the sky.

Linnet was standing at the kitchen sink with a cup of coffee, looking out the garden window, when a bird dropped. She was so startled that she'd jumped, splashing hot coffee onto her hand and staining the sleeve of her white oxford shirt.

What in the world? She leaned over the sink, first looking up and then down, but she couldn't see where it had gone. It had to have been a snow goose. She clearly saw the white down, the black-tipped feathers of its wings.

They were everywhere, the light geese that migrated late winter and early spring, flying over Pennsylvania en route to Canada. Tourists traveled from as far away as Virginia to see the snow geese making their trip north, swimming in the dam, resting in the fields. Linnet's sister, Myna, had often compared the experience of watching the thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of migrating white birds to standing inside a snow globe after someone had given it a good shake. "And who wouldn't love that," Myna had said.

It was something to see, making the experience of the snow-globe effect Linnet's busiest time of year, filling all four rooms in The Snow Goose — the B&B she and Ian operated. But she'd never seen a goose drop to the ground as this one had, as though its wings were made of lead rather than feathers, its bones solid steel rather than hollow tubes.

She leaned farther over the sink, hoisting herself onto the counter's ledge, her feet dangling above the wooden floor.

"What are you doing?" Ian asked.

She lowered herself down, banging her knee on the bottom cabinet. He was buttoning the cuffs on his shirtsleeves. His tie was thrown over his shoulder so he wouldn't accidently dunk it into his coffee like he often did, holding the coffee she'd brought him earlier.

"I was looking out the window."

"I could tell. What's so interesting out there?"

Before she could answer, their twelve-year-old son, Hank, walked into the room.

"Let's go, Dad," Hank said. He'd eaten two bowls of cereal, and now he was dressed and ready for school, wearing his jacket and backpack. His hair was damp and parted to the side. She could still see where the comb separated the strands. In another hour his bangs would fall into his eyes, the white-blond wisps loose and shiny. He was a mini-version of Ian, fair and freckled, their eyelashes light and long to match their hair and eyebrows. When Hank had been a toddler, she'd had to explain to strangers on numerous occasions that no, she wasn't the babysitter, she was his mother. Yes, he looked like his father, obviously. Linnet's hair was as dark as night, and her eyes a deep brown.

She handed Hank his lunch and kissed his cheek. "Have a good day," she said.

"Yeah, I don't mind you kissing me at home, but can you not do it in front of my friends?" he asked.

He was referring to the day before when she'd picked him up from baseball practice. She'd leaned over and kissed his cheek when he'd gotten into the car. He'd pulled away from her, sinking into the passenger's seat, mumbling about his friends watching.

"Sorry," she said now, wondering when the heck he'd gotten so big, feeling as though it was just yesterday that she'd brought him home from the hospital, her baby boy swaddled in a blue blanket, his skin wrinkly, his face pink and puckered.

Ian picked up his briefcase and grabbed a granola bar. He taught tenth-grade math at the high school. He'd drop Hank off at the middle school on his way.

"Tell me later what you were doing in the window," Ian said, and kissed her softly on the lips. His breath smelled like coffee and toothpaste.

"Dad, let's go!" Hank called one more time as he headed for the door.

When they'd gone and the house was quiet, she looked out the window again. She decided it was odd the way the bird had dropped, unusual enough to warrant a better look.

She stepped outside through the side door. Everything was wet from the thunderstorm the night before. The air was tinged with the scent of worms and bird dirt, the aroma unpleasant to some but not to her — to her it smelled like home. She walked around to the back of their three-story colonial. The daffodils were showing signs of life. The tulips that their groundskeeper, Al, had planted were starting to open. The maple and oak trees were sprouting shiny new leaves. The cherry blossoms were not quite in full bloom.

She could just about glimpse the dam between the branches. She made a mental note to talk with Al about trimming the trees to thin out the view. She charged more money for the rooms that had a view of the water, and she'd better make sure her guests got what they paid for.

When she reached the far side of the house by the kitchen's garden window, she spotted the goose on the ground. Slowly, she walked to where it lay, thinking it might be injured. It didn't move or try to get away as she approached. It still didn't move when she stood over it and then crouched for a closer look.

Dead, she thought. This snow goose dropped from the sky, dead.

She looked up to the sound of honking overhead. The geese had arrived during the late winter months and then had moved on. But fortunately, more geese were coming, although the flocks had thinned. There had to be a couple hundred of them on the dam at this very minute. At least, that was how many had been there yesterday. The numbers could change as soon as overnight from hundreds to thousands of snow geese, the sound of their wings, their cries, deafening. And just as fast as they'd arrive, they'd disappear, leaving only the screaming silence in their wake.

She touched her neck where the skin peeked through the collar of her oxford. She was dressed in khakis and loafers, expecting the first guests of the weekend to arrive late that afternoon. She couldn't have a dead goose in the yard, especially not when the guests she was expecting were coming specifically for the birds.

She stood and headed back toward the house to grab a pair of latex gloves. Pop had taught her never to touch a dead bird, or any dead animal for that matter, without first putting on gloves. Birds carried diseases. Pop was an expert on all things birds, a professor of ornithology at the university over the mountain, although he was retired now and spent most of his time locked in his study or sitting in his rowboat on the dam, a pair of binoculars in his hands.

She was about to pull open the side door to reenter the house when she heard the cracking of branches and the whoosh of something falling through the trees. She rushed around back again, jogging across the lawn to the entrance to the path that led through the woods and to the water. On the ground not far from where she stopped was another goose. This one was dead, too. Fear was building inside her chest. It felt a little like panic. But Linnet wasn't an alarmist, not by nature anyway.

She hurried back to the house and thought about showing Pop the birds. He'd have some rational explanation for why these two geese had fallen from the sky. He was getting up there in age at seventy-three, and his mind wasn't what it once was. But she had to believe he could make some sense of this. She wanted him to put her mind at ease.

She grabbed latex gloves and a large garbage bag, then went back outside and picked up the two birds, placing them inside the plastic bag with care. She was struck with a memory of her sister, Myna, when they'd been kids and their mother had been running the B&B. One of the guests, an elderly man who'd walked with a cane, had inadvertently struck one of the geese with his car when he'd pulled into their driveway.

Pop had been at the university teaching classes, and it had been left to their mother to handle it. He'd been absent more and more during that time. His research had often kept him away from home. Although Linnet hadn't known the specifics of his ventures, whenever he'd come bursting through the door with news about some man named Grant, their mother would retreat farther and farther inside herself, the distance palpable. It hadn't been until Linnet was older that she'd understood Grant hadn't been a person at all, but the monies Pop had received for his never-ending projects.

Their mother had stepped outside with gloves and a garbage bag to dispose of the dead goose like Linnet had done now.

"I didn't see it there," the elderly man had said, clearly shaken.

Myna had cried, hanging on to their mother's arm, begging her to let them bury it, to give it a proper funeral.

"You're being ridiculous," their mother had said. "It's one bird. There are thousands more where this one came from."

"No." Myna had stood her ground, crying hysterically, blocking their mother from picking it up, pleading with her to leave it alone.

Linnet could do nothing but join her sister. "She's right. Let us bury it. Let us give it a proper good-bye," she'd said.

Their mother's shoulders had slumped as she looked them over. Something sad had moved across her face, a kind of hopelessness. The light in her eyes had all but faded. She hadn't always been this way when Linnet and Myna had been very young. And there had been one time in their mother's short life that she'd been happy, ridiculously so. But Linnet had promised herself she'd never think about that time ever again.

"Fine," their mother had said. She'd dropped the garbage bag and gloves to the ground by her feet. "Bury it somewhere by the trees at the edge of the yard. And make sure you dig deep enough so some other animal doesn't come along and drag its carcass out on the lawn."

Linnet hadn't thought to ask her to join them in the burial. Myna must not have thought of it either because neither one had asked. Linnet had done most of the digging. She had been the older of the two and considered stronger. Myna had been in charge of the ceremony, lighting the candles for each of them to hold, reciting a poem she'd made up about birds and ashes and flying in heaven.


* * *

"Pop," Linnet called, and stepped into his study. After her mother had died, he'd moved into the guesthouse permanently. It was located about thirty yards from the main house. He'd spent more hours in what he'd considered his study, more time there than any time he'd ever spent in the main house. He had set up a small laboratory for his work so he wouldn't have to stay at the university sometimes until all hours of the night. He'd never liked driving over the mountain in the dark. He'd said it was dangerous enough in daylight, the road narrow and windy and isolated. Who knew what could happen to a person when it was black as pitch? Besides, his happiest days were spent in his study or on the dam, always, even when Linnet and Myna had been young, even when their mother had been alive.

"Pop," she called again, and set the garbage bag with the dead geese on the floor inside the door. She was here just yesterday and already the place was littered with coffee cups, some empty, some half full, the coffee long cold. She'd picked up the few mugs she passed and placed them in the kitchen sink to wash later. Then she straightened a pile of papers on the countertop, information about the geese and their latest migration patterns. Next, she bent over and retrieved the slippers he'd left in the middle of the floor, knowing that when he would dress for bed later that evening, he'd call and ask where they were, and she'd have to come and find them for him.

"Pop." She pushed open the bedroom door. He wasn't there. Tentatively, she crossed the room and stopped outside the master bathroom door, knocking lightly. "Are you in there?" When she didn't get an answer, she pushed the door open and found it empty. She exhaled, not realizing she'd been holding her breath, afraid of what she might find, the state he'd be in.

She laid the slippers on the floor on the left side of the bed so they'd be right where he could find them. The bed itself was in shambles. The blankets were in a pile on the floor, the sheets twisted and knotted as though he'd had another rough night's sleep.

She quickly made up the bed, positioned his slippers back in place after kicking one of them when she'd reached across the mattress for the sheets. Satisfied with straightening up, she returned to the worrying she'd found herself in earlier. It was too early for him to be out on the rowboat, bird watching. More and more lately he'd rise in the late morning, and it wouldn't be until early afternoon that he'd make his way to the dam.

Panic rose in her chest again, the same kind of anxiousness she'd felt when the second bird had dropped. She raced out of the guesthouse calling, "Pop!"

She ran through the yard and rushed down the path that led to the dock. She knew where every rock was located, where every root jutted from the ground, where the uneven terrain turned ankles. She could run on the path in the dark if she had to, but this morning the sun was rising over the mountain, lighting the way, drying the puddles from the earlier thunderstorm. It had been a fierce storm, the force of which had bent the branches of trees, rattled the shutters, wakened her in the middle of the night.

Heart racing, she broke free of the trees and stopped short when she saw him wading in the water up to his knees. But it wasn't the sight of her father in the dam that had stopped her cold. Something like a gasp escaped from her lips.

There were dead geese everywhere, hundreds of them in the water and more dotting the shoreline. Hundreds more soared in the blue sky above, a cacophony of honking she just now heard, was so accustomed to the sounds after living here all her life.

"Pop," she hollered, and rushed into the water, not caring if her shoes and pants got wet. "What are you doing?" she asked. "You need to come out of the water." She slipped her hand under his arm. He turned to her, his face contorted. His spectacles were perched on the tip of his nose. In his gloved hand he held a dead goose by its feet.

"I know," she said about the geese. "I know. Come on, let's get you out of the water. You're freezing. Look at you. Your lips are blue."

She helped him to the shore and guided him to one of the benches near the dock. His khakis were rolled to his knees, and his feet were bare. He wore the usual button-down sweater over a collared shirt, the same clothes he'd always worn when he'd been teaching classes. She'd always thought of his khakis, sweaters, and loafers as his professor's uniform. Of course now his loafers and socks were left on the dock, and his rolled-up pants were wet and caked with mud.

"Put that down for now," she said about the goose. At least he'd remembered to put on gloves before he'd foolishly gone into the water and scooped it up.

Her phone went off. She reached into her back pocket. Ian. "Hey," she said.

"Have you been to the dam? Have you seen them?" he asked, but he didn't wait for her to respond before he continued in a rush to tell her everything he knew. "I saw a couple of them dead in the road, but I just figured a truck or something ran them over in the night." He took a breath. "Everyone is talking about it. Does Pop know? What does he think happened to them?"

"I'm sitting with him right now on the bench," she said. Ian would know the exact spot she was talking about. He'd proposed to her on this bench. How many nights had they sat here together, how many years? It had to be at least fifteen or more. She couldn't remember and not because she forgot important dates like their anniversary, but more because she couldn't stop staring at the water, at the birds, their wings spread wide, their heads submerged with no chance of coming up for air. She couldn't process anymore than what she was seeing in front of her, the horror of it.

"Well, what does he think happened?" Ian asked.

"I don't know." She looked at Pop. He didn't seem capable of processing the scene either.

"Let me dry him off and get him warm. I'll call you back when I find something out."

"What do you mean dry him off? What's going on?"

"I found him in the dam picking up one of the birds," she said. Although by definition it wasn't a dam at all, but a lake created by several unnamed tributaries. The name "the dam" was just one of the peculiarities of the town of Mountain Springs. "But he's okay. He'll be okay." She patted Pop's leg to reassure him, to reassure her.

Ian didn't say anything right away. "Let me know when you find out what happened." He was being careful with her, knowing she wouldn't want to push her father into answering the questions they both had about what might've caused this phenomenon.

"I'll call you as soon as I know something." She hung up the phone and turned toward Pop. "Why don't we go back to the house? I'll fix you a cup of coffee and get you some dry clothes."

"Am I having another nightmare?" he asked. He looked so frightened all of a sudden, like a scared child, and not a grown man with a Ph.D.

"No," she said, and wiped her eye. "I'm afraid this one is real."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Sisters of Blue Mountain by Karen Katchur. Copyright © 2017 Karen Katchur. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Sisters of Blue Mountain 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous 8 days ago
It was like reading the book version of a super cheesy Lifetime movie. It was so sappy and cringe-inducing, I didn’t want to keep reading. I read until the end to figure out “who did it” even though I had it figured out by the middle of the book. The writing and editing are terrible. A mistake or two is understandable and could be a typo. But when the same mistake is made at least four times, that should have been caught. I will not read a Karen Katchur book again.
Suze-Lavender More than 1 year ago
Linnet and Myna haven’t seen each other in years. The sisters were really close when they were children, but something in their past changed their relationship and now they hardly speak. Linnet is still living in their hometown Mountain Springs, where she’s running a bed and breakfast. She's crazy about her husband and son and is looking after Pop, her increasingly forgetful father. Myna has left and never wants to live in the small town again. She hasn’t visited in years, but an incident makes her come back home for a short while. How will the sisters take seeing each other again? The bed and breakfast is near a dam and each year the dam attracts large flocks of geese, which is a popular attraction that fills Linette’s rooms. Pop used to be an ornithology professor, but his failing mind forced him to stop working at the university he loved so much. When dead geese are being found by the dam, Mountain Springs is hot news all of a sudden. Why did the birds die? A professor is there to research the case and a journalist shows more than just a regular interest in the sisters. A murder destroys the balance even more. Especially since Pop seems to be the only one who knows what happened. When the truth is coming to light Linnet and Myna need each other more than ever, will they be able to set their differences aside? The Sisters of Blue Mountain is a gripping story about family, deceased birds, a terrible death and secrets of the past. I was immediately intrigued by everything that’s happening in and around Linnet’s bed and breakfast. I loved how Karen Katchur makes the past and present come together. There’s a lot going on in the lives of Linnet and Myna and spending time with each other for the first time in years, doesn’t make it easier for the sisters to overcome their problems. There’s a lot of pain and there are plenty of unresolved issues that they have to deal with, while also trying to find a way out of their present situation. The dead birds are bad for business, they gather a lot of unwanted media attention and the situation gets out of hand completely when the area close to the dam becomes a crime scene. I loved this amazing chaos, especially since Karen Katchur is in complete control all the time. She’s written a story that kept me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. Karen Katchur has a fabulous descriptive writing style that completely captivated me. She knows how to work with suspense and the result is a fantastic thrilling story with many surprising twists and turns. I enjoyed reading about Mountain Springs and the beauty nature has to offer. Unfortunately sometimes gorgeousness can turn into ugliness and that is an excellent basis for a story. The combination of a natural process that has somehow failed, together with a suspicious death and plenty of tension in one family makes the experience complete. I absolutely loved The Sisters of Blue Mountain, it’s a terrific compelling story.
Boundlessbookreviews More than 1 year ago
Birds fall from the sky and the small town of Mountain Springs is left in confusion. Linnet, the owner of The Snow Goose B&B, is shocked when first the birds fall and then later a professor is found dead on her property. Dealing with her family, canceling B&B guests, an ailing father, and the return of her distant sister, Linnet is in a very stressed state. As secrets unravel the town and the sisters may never be the same.  I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I liked this book, but it started off a bit slow. It did pick up quickly and was filled with mystery. A mysterious death of the birds, a mysterious death of a man, and so many other aspects of this book make this a very interesting read. I really loved the storyline of Jake, as he is on the hunt to answer questions of his father's death. It lends a bit of a chilling aspect to the book. The story has a lot of secrets and sister bonding that also makes this book quite interesting. The secrets that bind the sisters together really provide intrigue.  Overall this book was written very well and was an intriguing read with likable characters and mystery around every corner.
brf1948 More than 1 year ago
I received a free electronic copy of this novel from Netgalley, Karen Katchur, and St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review. Thank you all, for sharing your work with me. This is a very interesting novel, a fast read with subplots that include elder care and dementia, the world of Canadian Snow Geese, life in Pennsylvania's Pocono mountains, and the tendency of oldest sisters to micromanage everything, especially younger sisters. I am the oldest sister of four.... I understand that part very well. The mystery here is quite interesting but not necessarily the focus of the story. I loved the way the personalities were portrayed, flaws and all. This is a book I thoroughly enjoyed, and will watch for more from Karen Katchur.
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this book about a family who owns a B&B that is now being run and lived in by the oldest sister and her family as the mother is deceased and the father is too old. It's the time of year when the geese migrate which attracts a lot of tourists, good business for the B&B. However, something is killing the geese and they are dropping dead out of the sky with hundreds everywhere. Not good for business, what's going on? Dad is starting to deal with dementia and a younger professor has taken his place at the university who just happens to end up dead in the backyard of the B&B. Did Dad do it? The younger sister comes back home to help deal with things and a reporter comes to town dredging up a long ago secret that the sisters want to keep hidden. Lots of suspense and mystery kept me glued to the pages and trying to figure out what this secret could be and just who killed the professor? Everybody's trying to hide a little something from everybody and they each hold a little piece of the puzzle. Getting those pieces together and seeing the big picture make this story very entertaining, enjoyable and an interesting read. Thanks to St. Martin for approving my request and to Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.