The Alpine Zen: An Emma Lord Mystery – Mary Daheim

(Reviewed by Melanie Hamilton)

The Alpine Zen is the last of the alphabet series by Mary Daheim. For me, though, it is the first; and I am looking forward to starting from the beginning. In this Emma Lord Mystery, we find Emma at her Alpine Advocate desk writing her editorial. Not much breaking news in the small Sykomish County town of Alpine, Washington. Not until Sheriff Milo Dodge gets a call about a body in the dump.

Meanwhile, a phone call to the Advocate office from Kassia Arthur unearths even more small time secrets as she searches for a mother she never knew. The search touches almost every one in town. Not hard for a place as small as Alpine. As usual, though, unearthed secrets are uncovered. As uncovered as the body in the dump.

As the last book in the series we get a loving farewell glimpse into the lives of the residents and the town itself. We see Vida Runkel, long-time Advocate Home and Garden editor and her parade of very strange hats. We also say farewell to Emma’s staff– Amanda Hanson, waiting for the due-any-minute baby; Mitch Laskey, formerly of Detroit; Kip McDuff, the back-shop manager; and Leo Walsh, the ad manager.

Oh, and did I mention that Emma is married to the Sheriff? Yup. Finally.

I love the story, the town, the people. It read like a collection of overheard conversations at the Burger Barn or in line at the Grocery Basket. To call the characters quirky doesn’t quite cut it. There is a lot of sincerity and loyalty accompanying the bad casseroles and loving snipes.

If you haven’t discovered Daheim’s Alpine series yet, look for it. And look for the town history of the real Alpine, home of some of Daheim’s relatives. You can find historic photos on Alpine’s Facebook page.


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