Winter at the Door: A Novel (Lizzie Snow) - Sarah Graves

This is the first in a new series by the author of the long running "Home repair is homicide" books, also set in Maine. I haven't read any of those but from perusing the reviews, I'm guessing this one is a little grittier. 

Lizzie Snow was a homicide detective in Boston before she upped stakes for a position with the Aroostook County Sheriff Dept. in Bearkill, Maine. It's not exactly what she expected. Turns out her new boss Sheriff Cody Chevrier had an ulterior motive for offering her the job. That's ok. She has an ulterior motive for accepting. 

Cody's a little uneasy about the recent deaths of several ex-cops but he's the only one who is suspicious. A big city homicide cop is just what he needs & his buddy Maine State Police Det. Dylan Hudson recommended Lizzie.

Eight years ago Lizzie's sister was killed & her infant daughter Nicolette disappeared. Searching for clues to Nicki's whereabouts has been a part time job for Lizzie ever since. So when her ex-lover (and cheating rat bastard...uh...sorry) Dylan Hudson contacts her with news that Nicki may be in the Bearkill area, suddenly that job looks pretty good. 

Besides, there should be lots of time to investigate. How much crime can there be in a one stoplight town? Actually, you'd be surprised. In addition to the dead lawmen, there's a task force searching for a meth lab & Dylan's looking into the murders of 2 young women. And that's before her house gets vandalized, there's a kidnapping, a few more bodies are added to the pile & she inherits one very smelly dog. 


What I enjoyed: this is a fast paced read with plenty of action & a wide range of characters. The author does a good job of bringing a rural small town to life. There's natural suspicion of a newcomer & everyone knows everyone else's business. Cops here have a bit more latitude than in Boston & Lizzie has to quickly adapt to a more personal approach. 

Descriptions of the rugged landscape & frigid weather are evocative. You can almost feel the cold & isolation in passages where characters are out in thick forests during a snow storm. The residents of Bearkill are well established from a pierced & tattoo covered rebellious teen to a middle aged woman slowly succumbing to dementia.


What I didn't like: initially, Lizzie is a tough, prickly character who faces any bad guy with a calm demeanour & spine of steel. Except when Dylan is around. She ended things with him a year ago when she discovered he forgot to mention an important detail about his personal life. But every time she sees him that spine somehow turns to silly putty.

This is exacerbated by the author's habit of interjecting her internal monologue into the middle of dialogue. Conversations on the page are interrupted by long italicized sections of Lizzie's inner thoughts which swing from fretting about Nicki to lusting after Dylan. This improves as the book progresses but is distracting for the first half.

As stated above, there are multiple story lines & when everything is neatly tied up at the end some suspension of disbelief will be required.


Still, Lizzie grew on me as she slowly relaxed & became more attuned to small town life & I really liked the setting. As this is the first book, the author had to establish the characters & their relationships as well as plant the seeds for what comes next. A couple of those angles look promising so I'll be picking up the next instalment to see where Lizzie ends up.