By Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli 6/29/09
By Aaron Stander
Writers & Editors, LLC
It is deer season in Northern Michigan and the area is caught (as if in amber) under an unusual blanket of snow. The roads are dangerous. Things are hidden in the snow clues to attempted murder, then murder. Also hidden beneath the snow -- beneath the years in Cedar County, Michigan, beneath family facades -- are the old secrets and simmering hatreds about to explode during this hunting season.
In this new mystery from Traverse City writer, Aaron Stander, Sheriff Ray Elkins is recuperating from past injuries while confronting a group of suspects ranging from super-wealthy, international businessmen to your everyday saloon habitués; from barmaid and drunks to condescending lawyers.
Elkins has his work cut out for him: while returning from her morning yoga class, local anchorwoman Lynne Boyd is shot and wounded in front of her twin daughters and their French au pair.
There seem to be no suspects in the shooting other than Lynns husband, Dirk Lowther, an officer with the sheriffs department. Lowther is a disagreeable, uncaring, womanizing man, who had recently been served with divorce papers. But Dirk was deer hunting in the Upper Peninsula at the time of the shooting and has an alibi. For Elkins, this is no easy shooting by a drunken hunter, nor the culmination of a feud in a bar. This crime isnt going to go away. No one will come forth and rat on a friend.
Elkins has his work cut out for him when he is at his weakest. The loose way the sheriffs office was run in the past is gone. High school kids in trouble (who once were released to their parents with a slap on their wrists) have escalated to more serious crimes. There are no simple mailbox cherry-bombings now; the teens have involved themselves in shootings. In the bars of Cedar County, fights become more sinister any voice raised might be a call to murder. Gates at a wealthy enclave are locked and closely guarded by private police. A lock-down mentality has come to Cedar County.
From the beginning of the book, a lone deer hunter out on the first day of snow sets the scene for violence to come:
He shifted cautiously in his precarious perch, a tree stand strapped to the side of a large oak 15 feet off the ground. With his left hand he tossed the bottle at the trunk of a tree directly across from him. It bounced off the trunk without breaking and landed in the snow. Mendicott moved his bow to his left hand and reached into his jacket, a worn and grease-stained camouflage coat, and pulled a Glock from his shoulder holster. He tried to hold a bead on the neck of the bottle... A cold chill ran through him, and he started to shiver. The report of the pistol echoed through the woods, its recoil almost causing him to lose balance...
After the shooting of local TV personality Lynne Boyd, none of her friends can think of anyone whod want to hurt her. Shed been getting threatening letters at the station, but they didnt seem to tie to her life they were more like the random mailings of a madman. There is Dirk, but his alibi is solid.
As Elkins digs further, it seems that no one at the TV station even knew who Lynn really was. Rumors surface that the marriage had soured. Her husband was a vindictive man with a checkered past as a police officer, but Lynne wasnt one to spread her unhappiness to her friends, so not a single detail surfaces at first.
Little by little, things begin to unravel as murders, which seem disconnected, begin to occur and Elkins puts the pieces together.
Elkins, a man at home in the woods or in the city, has moments in the book when he is at ease with interesting friends. He quotes Shakespeare, reads the New Yorker and the New York Times. He is man of many sides, with tastes leaning toward Zingermanns care packages filled with a Pain de Montagne, a bottle of artisanal olive oil from Provence, Vermont cheddar, Stilton cheeses and fine wines. The characterization of Elkins extends wider than the backwoods bars and deer blinds he watches. He is an intelligent man who has no trouble breaking down reluctant witnesses, nor putting the overbearing rich in their place.
At the mansion belonging to Lynn Boyds parents, Elkins finally gets beyond the guarded gates only to be faced with the Boyds guarded attorney, who begins to describe the Boyds international business, which seems to have evolved into getting the rich any service they require.
What, he wonders, do the Boyds do that requires this level of protection? The answer becomes part of the mysterys solution.
The book launch for Aaron Standers Deer Season will be held at Brilliant Books, 305 St. Josephs Street, Suttons Bay on July 3, from 7-9 p.m. Elizabeth Kane Buzzellis new mystery, Dead Floating Lovers, is in bookstores now.