Perfect for fans of Jenny Milchman, Linda Castillo, and Lisa Gardner—the first book in a suspenseful new crime thriller series featuring the tough but haunted police chief Lizzie Snow, a big-city cop with a mission, taking on a small town with a dark side.
Moving from Boston to remote Bearkill, Maine, isn’t homicide cop Lizzie Snow’s idea of a step up. But breaking away from tragedy and personal betrayal is at least a step in the right direction. Her dead sister’s fate still torments her, as does her long-missing niece’s disappearance. Lizzie hopes to find the mysteriously vanished child here, amid the coming ice and snow. But in the Great North Woods, something darker and more dangerous than punishing winter is also bound for Bearkill.
The town is a world apart in more than distance—full of people who see everything, say little, and know more than they’ll share with an outsider. The only exceptions are the handsome state cop who once badly broke Lizzie’s heart and desperately wants another chance—and Lizzie’s new boss, sheriff Cody Chevrier, who’s counting on her years of homicide experience to help him solve his most troubling case, before it’s too late.
A rash of freak accidents and suicides has left a string of dead men—all former local cops. Now the same cruel eyes that watched them die are on Lizzie—and so is the pressure to find out what sort of monster has his hooks in this town, what his ruthless game is, and just how brutally he’ll play to win. Whatever the truth is, its twisted roots lie in the desolate backwoods of Aroostook County: where the desperate disappear, the corrupt find shelter, and the innocent lose everything. It’s there that a cunning and utterly cold-blooded killer plans the fate of the helpless lives at his mercy—one of whom may be the lost child Lizzie will do anything to save. As a blizzard bears down, and Bearkill’s dark secrets claw their way to the surface, Lizzie gears up for a showdown that could leave the deep, driven snow stained blood red.
Praise for Winter at the Door
“Sarah Graves writes with grace and intelligence, and a love for her state shines through in this stylish debut of a new series set against Maine’s dark and foreboding forests. I’m hooked!”—Margaret Maron, New York Times bestselling author of Designated Daughters
“Fast and dangerous, an extraordinarily entertaining read, Winter at the Door grabbed me from the thrilling first page.”—Linda Castillo, New York Times bestselling author of The Dead Will Tell
“Readers who enjoy Linda Castillo and Lisa Gardner will welcome Lizzie, a strong, motivated woman making her way in the frozen north.”—Booklist
“Lizzie is edgy and independent. . . . Taking a page from Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, two hunky guys pursue Lizzie, each stumbling over the other as they try to protect a woman who really can protect herself. Readers can relax in Graves’s able hands as she spins a complex tale with twists and turns that feel earned, and a character who knows exactly who she is.”—The Boston Globe
“An entertaining story that proceeds to an explosive conclusion.”—Mystery Scene
“A superbly suspenseful mystery with likable tough cop Lizzie and a town full of character. It’s bound to appeal to readers who enjoy Jenny Milchman’s books.”—Library Journal (starred review)
About the Author
Sarah Graves lives with her husband in Eastport, Maine, one remote rural road away from the Allagash wilderness territory and the Great North Woods. She is currently working on her next novel in the Lizzie Snow series, The Girls She Left Behind.
Read an Excerpt
two weeks later
“This is not what I signed up for,” Lizzie Snow said. “And you know it.”
She gazed around in dismay at the small, dusty office whose plate-glass front window looked out at the remote northern town of Bearkill, Maine. The office walls were covered with fake wood paneling, the ceiling was stained 1960s-era acoustical tiles, and the ratty beige carpet was worn through to the backing in the traffic areas.
“You said I’d be . . .” The furnishings consisted of a beat-up metal desk, an office chair with one of its cheap plastic wheels missing, and a metal shelf rack of the kind used to store car parts in an auto supply store, plus one old phone book.
Not that sticking her in a better office would’ve helped. “. . . on patrol,” she finished, trying to control her temper.
Squinting out across Main Street, she told herself that the town, at least, wasn’t so bad. Two rows of small businesses and shops, a luncheonette, and a corner bar called Area 51 whose sign featured a big-eyed alien with a cocktail in its hand made up the downtown district. There was a laundromat, a flower shop, a supermarket, and an office supply place called The Paper Chase.
All were apparently doing business, though not exactly thriving; years ago in the post-WWII housing boom and for decades after, timber harvesting had supported this community and many others like it. But with the lumber industry sadly diminished, the area’s agriculture—potatoes, oats, broccoli—couldn’t take up the slack, and there wasn’t much else here to work at.
Or so she’d read. Bearkill was one of many Maine towns she’d Googled before coming here, but this was her first visit.
Too bad it’s not my last . . .
She supposed she should’ve liked the little town’s air of brave defiance, stuck way out here in the woods with not even a movie theater or a Whole Foods, much less a museum or jazz club.
But, dear God, there wasn’t even a Starbucks, the only hair salon was called The Cut-n-Run, and if you could buy any makeup but Maybelline in this town, she’d eat her hat.
“Yeah, I know the job’s not like I described,” Aroostook County sheriff Cody Chevrier admitted.
Six-two and one-eighty or so with close-clipped silver hair and the perma-tanned skin of a guy who spent a lot of his time outdoors, summer and winter, Chevrier was in his late fifties but still trimly athletic-looking in his tan uniform.
“Since you and I talked last, though, there’ve been a few developments.”
“Yeah? Like what, a crime wave?” she asked skeptically. On the sixty-mile drive north up Route 1 from the Aroostook County seat of Houlton this morning, she’d seen little evidence of that.
Farms, forest land, widely spaced homes and small roadside businesses were the norm here, she’d seen after filling out the stacks of pre-employment paperwork Chevrier had put before her. Around the courthouse and the sheriff’s office, men and women in business garb carried briefcases and drove late-model sedans, but once she’d left Houlton it was good old boys in gimme caps and women in pastel sweatshirts all the way. Nobody looked as if they had a whole lot to steal, or the inclination to steal anything, either.
“You might be surprised at what goes on in this area,” said Chevrier.
“Uh-huh.” She eyed him sideways. “Maybe.”
And moonbeams might fly out of her ass the next time she passed gas, too. But she’d been a cop for a dozen years now, and she wasn’t betting on it; crime-wise—and otherwise, she thought bleakly—this place was deader than Elvis.
“You said I’d be on the road,” she reminded Chevrier again. “First with a partner and then . . .”
According to the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department’s website, there were 2,500 miles of public roadway in “the County” (locals always used the capital C), which spread across half of northern Maine. Eight thousand miles more of privately maintained roads belonged to major landowners, primarily lumber companies. In area the County was larger than Rhode Island and Connecticut combined; its 71,000-plus residents generated approximately 600 criminal complaints and 400 traffic incidents each quarter.
In addition, the sheriff’s department served court orders and warrants, moved prisoners and psych patients, worked with the Maine DEA, the warden service, Border Patrol, and Homeland Security, and staffed a seventy-two-bed county jail; the transport detail alone logged 160,000 miles per year.
And none of it could afford to get screwed up just because she was a new deputy. She’d need an experienced partner for a while before working a patrol assignment on her own; that much she’d understood.
Eventually, though, she’d be out there solo: keeping her eyes and ears open, asking polite questions and maybe a few not-so-polite ones. Searching—
And sooner or later finding. If, that is, it turned out that there was really anything—anyone—up here to find . . .
Out of the blue, Chevrier asked the question she’d seen on his face when he’d first met her in person the day before.
“So, you will pass the physical, right?”
The Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department’s mandatory pre-employment fitness test, he meant. Sit-ups, push-ups, a mile-and-a-half run . . . all required in order to finalize her hiring.
“Yeah,” she replied, controlling her impatience. Back in Boston, where she’d been a homicide detective until a few weeks ago—dear God, was it only that long?—she’d done those things religiously at the police academy gym on Williams Avenue. Six days a week, sometimes seven . . .
Usually seven. It was among the joys of being a woman cop: to the dirtbags—and to some of your coworkers, too, though they’d deny it—you were a pushover until proven otherwise. So there was no sense allowing for even the slightest chance of it being true; on a good day, she bench-pressed 220. She just didn’t look like she could, or at any rate not at first glance.
Short, spiky black hair expertly cut, blood-red nails matching her lipstick, and smoky-dark eye makeup meticulously applied took care of that, as did her scent, which was Guerlain’s Rose Barbare, and her high-heeled black boots rising to the tops of her tightly muscled calves, snug as a second skin.
She had no uniforms here yet, so today she wore black jeans, a white silk T-shirt and navy hoodie, and a butter-soft leather jacket. The look wasn’t fancy, but perhaps partly as a result of all those gym hours it was effective; exiting Chevrier’s vehicle, she’d attracted second glances from several of Bearkill’s passing citizens, some even approving.
Some not so much. Hey, screw them. “I’ll do just fine,” she repeated evenly, “on the fitness tests.”
“Okay,” Chevrier replied. If you say so, his face added, but not as doubtfully this time; whether it was the confidence in her voice, a closer appraisal of her gym-toned form, or a combination of the two that convinced him, she didn’t know.
Or care. “In that case, you’re the new community liaison officer here in Bearkill,” he said. “First one we’ve ever had.”
Gesturing at the dingy room, he added, “I’ll set you up with account numbers for furniture and supplies, and we’ve got people on contract to get the place cleaned and painted for you.”
On the way here, he’d explained that her assignment had changed because a federal grant he’d been expecting to lose had come through after all. So he had funding for this new position.
But he hadn’t described her duties, an omission she thought odd. Could it be he believed that being from a big city meant she already knew the usual activities and objectives of such a job? Or . . . was she supposed to invent them herself?
Her hiring had been fast-tracked, too: a mere two weeks between the time he’d learned that she was in the coastal Maine town of Eastport—her first stop after leaving Boston—and this morning’s paperwork.
It was another thing she felt curious about: why he’d been so interested in her, and in her homicide experience especially. She made a mental note to ask him about all of it if he didn’t volunteer the information soon, just as a husky teenager on an old balloon-tired Schwinn bike pedaled by the big front window.
Sporting a nose stud and a silvery lip ring and with his pale hair twisted into utterly improbable-looking dreadlocks, the kid wore faded jeans and a drab T-shirt and was tattooed on all visible parts of his body except his face.
Really? she thought in surprise. So apparently not every young male in Aroostook County was a good old boy; she wondered if Tattoo Kid here was a skilled fighter, or if he survived looking the way he did by trading something other than punches.
“. . . department credit card for gas, but we do repairs back at the house,” Chevrier was saying, meaning that vehicles were taken care of in Houlton, she thought, likely through a local car dealer’s service department.
Which as news was not earthshaking, nor was the rest of the procedural stuff he was reciting. Lizzie slipped a hand into her jacket pocket and withdrew a creased photograph of a little girl who was about nine years old.
The child had straight, shoulder-length blond hair and blue eyes, and wore a red, white, and blue striped cape of some shiny material; she held a small banner that read happy 4th of july!
I’m coming, honey, Lizzie thought at the photograph, worn from frequent handling. I’ll find you. And when I do . . .
She tucked the picture away again. It was why she had left Boston, why she was here in Maine at all: an anonymous tip, her first hint in years that she had living family after all. But she still didn’t know the end of that last sentence.
When I do . . . then what?
“. . . get yourself a PO box right away so we can send you your paychecks,” Chevrier was saying.
She wasn’t even sure that the child in the photograph was the one she sought. Her younger sister Cecily’s infant daughter, Nicolette, had gone missing from Eastport eight years earlier, right after Cecily’s own mysterious death.
If she wasn’t a sad little pile of bones in an unmarked grave somewhere, Nicki was Lizzie’s only living kin, and after a long time of believing the child was dead there’d been other hints recently, too, that instead she was somewhere in northern Maine.
But Lizzie wasn’t sure of that, either, and anyway, northern Maine was a big place. There was, she realized for the thousandth time, so much she didn’t know.
I should have done more, started sooner.
I shouldn’t have just let it go.
But she had; for one thing, she’d needed to earn a living, and there was no undoing any of it now. Tattoo Kid pedaled by the front windows a second time, his eyes meeting hers briefly and then looking quickly away again as Chevrier went on:
“I’ll get a requisition going for your computer stuff, have a carpet crew come up from Bangor . . .”
She turned to him. “No.”
His brow furrowed. “So . . . what, you mean you’ve decided that you don’t want the spot?”
For a moment she was tempted; she’d have loved telling him to take his job and stick it. After all, who offered somebody one position, then waited until they showed up before informing them that it had turned into something entirely different? But . . .
“Oh, I’m taking it.” She crossed to the desk, grabbed the phone book, and threw it into a corner. Who used a phone book anymore, either? “But only on two conditions. First . . .”
She aimed a finger at the front window. “You want me to build friendly relationships with the people here in Bearkill? I mean, that’s what a liaison officer does, right?”
She had the funniest feeling that Chevrier might not know quite what one of those did himself. But never mind:
“There’s only one way I can quick-start relationships with these folks—”
At the far end of the downtown block, the office supply store was somehow still alive, while at the other end a run-down gas station survived, as did the tiny convenience store attached.
“—and that’s for me to buy stuff from them.”
Which was also true in Boston, and anywhere else there were cops: coffee and a lottery ticket at the bodega, an apple at the fruit stand, sandwiches at the luncheonette—you bought a little of this or that anywhere you thought you might get the chance to talk to people, hear things.
“Supplies, cleaning, painting, new tires for the squad car whether it needs ’em or not,” she went on. “All of it has to get done locally. And as for computer equipment?”
She turned to face him. “Look, Sheriff, I’ve got my own reasons for wanting the job you’re trying to foist on me, okay? So I’m not walking away even though you know damned well you absolutely deserve it.”
He shrugged again, acknowledging this. “But,” she went on, “as far as computers and printer paper and everything else this place needs?”
She waved a hand around the bleak little storefront. “Either that office supply joint down the street is about to hit a big payday, and my car gets serviced here in town, or you can forget you met me.”
She expected pushback about the car, at least; regulations, routine. But instead he kept nodding at her demands, which among other things gave her an even stronger sense of how very much he wanted her here.
Curiouser and curiouser. “Okay,” he said. “That makes sense. Do it however you want. You’ll need purchase orders, but . . .”
“Not so fast. You haven’t heard the other condition.”
Chevrier looked wary—“What’s that?”—as the tattooed kid on the bike rolled by yet a third time.
Briskly she zipped her jacket, settled her black leather satchel on her shoulder, and pulled the creaky front door open, waving him out ahead of her.
“Come on,” she told him.
The kid with the piercings, body art, and blond dreadlocks was now halfway down the street, looking back at them. She yanked the balky door shut, then jiggled the key in the lock until the tumblers fell sluggishly.
“I’m hungry. We’ll talk over lunch. You’re buying.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Winter at the Door was an interesting start to a new series. I really liked Lizzie Snow from the beginning, and I thought the storyline was intriguing. The last half of the book seemed very busy, with so much going on, and with several plot lines tying in together. It kept my interest, but was almost too much during this part. There were things about Lizzie's past that I would have liked more information on, but I hope to find out more in the next book. There were some good secondary characters in the series also, and some that weren't so likable. I look forward to seeing what happens to all of them next.
In Winter at the Door author Sarah Graves has once again created a collection of vivid and realistic characters in a captivating setting. Lizzie Snow is a woman to watch and Bearkill, Maine is the place in which to do it. As a first in a series book it has all of the hooks to pull the reader along for an exhilarating and well plotted ride. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a strong female protagonist and a finely crafted story.
This is a great start of another series set in the wild Maine featuring a female detective from a metropolitan police department transferring into a small town force. The characters are well developed and have many possibilities for interactions and growth . The story held my interest and was resolved well . Am looking forward to the next book .
Winter at the Door: A Novel (Lizzie Snow Book 1) by Sarah Graves is a well-written suspense novel. Lizzie Snow was a Boston PD Homicide Detective. She has worked hard to get her current position; however, there is a lead on the whereabouts of her missing niece. Lizzie takes a position with the Aroostook County Sheriff’s office to track down the lead. Lizzie thought she would be out on the roads doing patrol, but the Sheriff gives her the position as the County Liaison officer for Bearkill, Maine. Sheriff Cody Chevrier has his own reasons for wanting a homicide detective on the force. Lizzie adjusts to her new life and job in a small town, two suitors, looking for her niece, and helping the Sheriff with a string of “suicides”. I really enjoyed Winter at the Door. It is an easy book to read, and I was hooked right from the beginning of the book. I do not read suspense novels that often, but I will definitely be reading this series. Happy Reading! I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Winter at the door was a great book. I liked Lizzie Snow from the moments she was introduced into the book, short black hair, red lipstick and red fingernails. Small but strong, a really tough cop! She has moved from big city Boston to little Bearkill (great name for a town) with ulterior motives; to find her niece that went missing. But soon she is caught up in the suspicious deaths of the ex-cops and then a child disappears... I liked the characters; her ex boyfriend Dylan Hudson who is trying to make amends for how their relationship ended and Trey Washburn the local vet who isn’t her type but still a very nice man and excellent cook. And of course Sheriff Cody Chevrier, who reminds me of Sheriff Longmire from Craig Johnson’s books and when I think about it; Lizzie Snow reminds me of Vic Moretti. No wonder I like this book. The plot was good, it was never boring and Sarah Graves tied everything good together in the end. There are some things still not resolved, but I didn’t expect everything to be explained in the end. This is the first book in a series. I’m looking forward to read the next book!
I liked this book. I had read Ms. Graves' Home Repair Is Homicide mysteries and enjoyed them so I thought I'd try this book. While it was a little on the short side, I enjoyed the writing and the characters. I could kind of see where parts of it were heading, but there were enough pieces to keep me guessing. I thought they were woven together well and well thought out. I hope she writes a follow-up book because I want to know what happens to them all.
I like cozy mysteries. Character development is more thorough than in mysteries that are more action packed. That said, there was a lot of action in this cozy mystery. There were a couple of places that as an editor I might have asked the author to think about a little more. When the dog got cleaned up he was not sleepy from the anesthesia that the vets here would have used to put him under so that his uncared for teeth could be cleaned. Seems to me the dog could have been left at the vet’s until the next day for the big job that to be done. It just didn’t ring true somehow. There was more than one other part that seemed to be to slick. But I enjoyed it and will try at least one other of her books. I would have given it a 3 and 1/2 stars if I could have figured out how to do that. Maggie
Enjoyed the story
I couldn't put it down. Mystery and Maine. A great mix.
This book could not be any more boring . Total waste of money to read about a simpering, weak-willed heroine in a slow, predictable plot. As I read, frustration and boredom mounted til I just wanted it to be over. Won't buy another by this horrific excuse of an author. Stephanie Clanahan
Copy provided by Netgalley for an unbiased review. The first book in a series can sometimes be a bit messy, and this one is no exception. I liked the protagonist, Lizzie Snow. The storyline was good, if a bit convoluted, and I liked most of the other characters, even though some didn’t feel terribly authentic. I did feel that the writing could’ve been a little tighter, certain points were brought up over and over. But the descriptions of north Maine are excellent, and there’s what appears to be an overarching mystery that will continue through the series, at least for a while. I’m giving this one the benefit of the doubt and reading the next one - it’s promising enough to give it another try.
I really enjoyed this book and look forward to other books in the series.
An interesting story of a former police detective from Boston winds up in Maine's North Country as she's received hints that her dead sister's daughter has been seen there. What she finds is suspense, murder and drugs. A former boyfriend plays a role in this story as well. I would recommend this book to mystery readers and those interested in police stories.
Lizzie Snow is supposedly a tough Boston cop, but in every encounter with her old ex, she moons over him to the point of it being nauseating. I thought it would not be as prominent a distractor to this book as it was in the segue novel, but it's still hard to take. Yes, as a woman she can certainly want a guy, but it came across as weak and simpering. I really enjoyed the Jacobia Tiptree strongminded character. Lizzie Snow' s new series is leaving me flat. I don't put most books down without struggling through to the end, but tonight I can leave this one without a care and move on to a better book . I do regret spending the money. That's the problem with e-books - you can't return them if they're a dud.
Can hardly get past the ex-boyfriend, jerk making himself at home in her new life...she seems very weak
This is my first exposure to this author. I loved her main character. Lizzie is bright, independent and fiesty. I know this is a recent release, but I'm hoping its the first in a series!
Such a good read
Loved it cant wait for the next one
This book had a little bit of everything in it but not a lot of fire under any of it to keep me going. There was a romance between Lizza and Dylan, her old boyfriend from Boston who showed up at her doorstep one day and then there’s Trey, the veterinarian who lived in Bearkill, Maine where she is now settled. Bearkill, yeah….. that sounds like a great mystery setting and the book had the plot to back it up but the wording and the pace just fell short for me. Lizza, a homicide copy, is hired as a deputy because the sheriff is suspicious about a string of deaths with ex-cops in the area. It’s a coincidence that Lizza has finally decided to search for her missing niece who was last seen in this remote part of Maine. There were some great funny moments as Lizza adapts to her small surrounding as she’s not used to the wildlife, the crimes, small-town living and this is a huge adjustment for her. Paddling a kayak, encountering a moose that spews vegetation across her truck and having everyone know her business are a few of the things that Lizza, the city girl, is not used to dealing with. The novel continues as other storylines get thrown into the mix and the story of her niece gets cast aside for a while. There seems to be too many pieces, too little emotion and not enough zeal in the characters for anyone to care what occurs. It wasn’t until the end when Missy started with her outbursts that the book started to erupt, thank you Missy. Her explosions saved the book, as the rest of the characters fizzled out.
The language and characters of this story lends itself to much better than a two star book. Unfortunately, the story’s conclusion just won’t allow me to go any higher. I enjoyed reading 95% of this book. The plot line was well thought out. The depth of the characters was such that they started to take on their own lives. This was a book I was really connecting with. Right up until the end. I don’t want to post spoilers but I will say this. Instead of the usual endings of mystery books, i.e. the bad guy spills all before dying or the detective solves it making us all feel stupid, this story ends with a few paragraphs tying everything in a nice little package. It seems rushed and does not at all flow with the rest of the story. I felt cheated and I felt like Lizzie was cheated of the chance to figure everything out. Perhaps I’ll try the next Lizzie Snow book when it comes out, and maybe she’ll get a chance this time.