Book review: Charlotte Pass by Lee Christine

Sunday, January 26, 2020 Permalink

Lee Christine has written several romantic suspense novels before venturing into crime fiction (which she does a great job at, I need to add), but because I’m new to Christine’s work and hadn’t heard of the setting of this novel, I kept thinking it was written by Charlotte Pass. So if I’ve slipped below and quoted Pass’s writing, I apologise in advance.

Book review: Charlotte Pass by Lee ChristineCharlotte Pass
by Lee Christine
Published by Allen & Unwin AU
on 04/02/2020
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Crime Fiction, Romantic Suspense
ISBN: 9781760877293
Pages: 320

When ski patroller Vanessa Bell discovers human bones high on Mount Stilwell at Charlotte Pass ski resort, Detective Sergeant Pierce Ryder of the Sydney Homicide Squad is called in to lead the investigative team.

Arriving in the isolated, snowed-in village with Winterfest celebrations underway, Ryder soon determines that the bones are those of Celia Delaney, a young woman who disappeared from the ski resort in 1964 during the biggest winter storm in Australian alpine history.

When a second murder takes place, Ryder suspects that the deaths are related, and that the person responsible is still in the village. Amid the escalating tension, Ryder is desperate to make an arrest before the stakes rise even higher.

It’s not labelled as such but I’m hoping this is number one in a new series. After all Christine introduces us to some really likeable characters – DS Ryder his offsider DC Flowers as well as his old boss (retired Inspector) Roman Lewicki.

This book is set in Charlotte Pass (Mount Kosciusko National Park) though we also visit Queanbeyan (near Canberra) and (briefly) Newcastle. There’s a bit of the small town vs big town cop thing when Ryder and Flowers arrive in Queanbeyan (initially on the hunt for a murder suspect) but not enough to warrant any eyerolls or clichéd game-playing.

I’m not a very visual person but Christine obviously does a good job of selling readers the snowfields and the setting as the day after reading this book I saw a picture of a snowy village on social media. It felt a little deja-vuish and I had to stop for a moment to remember where I last saw something similar – before realising I’d READ it.

{Incidentally and sadly, the setting of this book has featured on the news here in Australia lately as an area greatly impacted by the bushfires ravaging our land.}

I also loved the insight into the lives of those working at the ski resort and living in staff quarters as well as the itinerant and seasonal nature of their work. My niece (a dancer/performer) has worked on cruise ships so I had a vague understanding of the insular lives they lead when locked up (not literally!) to work, eat and sleep (mostly not literally!) together.

The overly suspicious cynic in me assumed there was going to be some police malfeasance at play here, particularly given Lewicki’s involvement in the 1964 case but I liked that Pass didn’t go there. It was more of a straightforward whodunit mystery requiring good police work.

I really liked Vanessa and she was a realistic and engaging character. In her 30s she’s conscious of the fact she will ultimately have responsibilities but enjoying her transient life in the snowfields and the challenges she comes across in each job. Having said that, she’s far from a flighty party animal.

I felt Ryder was terribly unfair (to) and judgemental (of) young Flowers in the beginning. Not dismissive directly, but he’d kinda written him off as a turmeric latte drinking waste of space just biding time in homicide until something shinier came along… but it turns out he’s not like that at all. And I liked the way Christine portrayed Ryder’s changing perception.

This is an enjoyable read. There’s suspense and romance (hence the whole romantic suspense moniker of course) but I like that Pass doesn’t belabour the romance or the relationship that develops in the novel. There’s a great balance and the lack of game-playing – is again a bonus.

I know nothing about skiing and snowfields so very much enjoyed those elements and Christine dips into detail without getting we readers ‘bogged’ down in unnecessary specifics.

As I said, I’m hoping this becomes a series as I’d like to meet these characters again. Even an interlinked one like Fleur McDonald’s Dave Burrows books or Bronwyn Parry’s Goodabri series would be great.

Charlotte Pass by Lee Christine will be published by Allen & Unwin in early February 2020.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 


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