Valley of the Lost Hardcover – Feb 1 2009
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Quill & Quire
The small town of Trafalgar, B.C., seems far more suited to quiet vacations than murder, but the detective duo of Constable Molly Smith and Sergeant John Winters know better. Their debut, In the Shadow of the Glacier (2007), unearthed deadly tensions surrounding the town’s ceremonial garden for Vietnam War draft dodgers, and Valley of the Lost allows them to dig up even darker doings. At first, Ashley’s death looks to be a routine heroin overdose, the baby lying near her the only jarring note. But it turns out that Ashley isn’t really Ashley – and the baby isn’t really hers. Smith and Winters try to figure out who the baby really belongs to, and what prompted someone to kill a girl who “had no past, almost no present ... and certainly no future. Except for this tiny, screaming thing.” In the process, other conflicts bubble up to Trafalgar’s surface. A new resort development promises greater tourism (and career opportunities for Winters’ wife, Eliza) but also greater strife for townsfolk worried about newcomers. The three-month-old baby, without any family members to take her, ends up in the care of Smith’s mother, Lucky, bringing with it visions of grandchildren yet to be born. And a burgeoning romance with RCMP Constable Adam Tkocek adds further complications to Smith’s life. Delany has a lot of plot and atmospheric elements to balance, but she does so with relative ease. The focus doesn’t waver from the main investigation, and the built-in suspense of Ashley’s true identity increases the story’s momentum. In this second novel, the dynamic between Smith and Winters has the appeal of shoes that have just been broken in. The fun will be to experience the growing comfort level in future volumes.
"This second Molly Smith mystery, following In the Shadow of the Glacier (2007), again contrasts the beautiful British Columbia wilderness, vividly described by Delany, with the sober realities of contemporary crime, in this case, murder and drug use. Molly, a dedicated cop determined to succeed in what is primarily a man’s profession, makes an engaging lead character." -- Booklist of Valley of the LostSee all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
When the body of a troubled woman is found in the bushes behind the home of "Lucky" Smith, a counsellor for inexperienced and abused mothers, the deceased's three-month-old son Miller is given a place near the hearth in Lucky's kitchen. However, Lucky's good intentions unwittingly pave the road to discord in her own family. Baby Miller will not stop crying!
Lucky's daughter, Constable Molly "Moonlight" Smith, could use a good night's sleep. The howling infant, his dead mother and Molly's own traumatic memories conspire to keep her awake.
It soon becomes clear that `sleep' will remain an unsatisfied craving in the Smith household so long as Miller's true identity remains a mystery.
Battling an unknown perpetrator with no apparent motive, an unsympathetic social worker, an overly-ambitious journalist and the darker side of BC's own drug culture, John Winters and Molly Smith set out to uncover Miller's past and catch his mother's killer.
A memorable read - perfect for a sunny Saturday afternoon at the cottage!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The setting is a small town called Trafalgar, British Columbia. There's a lot going on here. A development company wants to build a high-concept resort in the mountains right outside of town. There are a number of semi-homeless and single mothers and other young people who seem to be floating through town as well. Light drug use appears to be relatively common, probably due to an enlightened and relaxed view by the authorities of things like single parent-hood and individual pot use. Law enforcement efforts to control things, keep a lid on, rather than reactionary and unenforceable prohibitions. But as the book opens there are concerns about a possible rise in heroin use.
Moonlight Smith, daughter of a pair of aging American west coast hippies has changed her name. She's now Molly Smith and has become a probationary constable in the Trafalgar police force. However, she still lives at home, and her burgeoning career doesn't always sit well with her mother, largely unregenerate in her attitudes toward any legally constituted authorities, including those who have hired her daughter.
A young woman is found dead of an apparent drug overdose. Her baby is deposited with Molly Smith's mother, who works at the town's alternative social service center for young mothers. Finding the dead woman's parents and the baby's father is an obvious first priority, as is learning how and why the woman died. Seems pretty straight forward, but things bend immediately into surprising facts that raise a host of questions. Readers will immediately recognize they are in the hands of a skilled narrator. Author Delany has a fine and subtle understanding of how to handle the measured delivery of information to the reader. It happens in both casual and formal circumstances, but always wrapped in the narrative of the moment. Readers will be advised to treat this book with all due attention. I look forward to reading more by this fine writer.
Molly’s mother, Lucky, finds a dead woman and a live baby in the woods behind the Women’s Support Centre, where she works. Molly and Winters set about trying to track down the identity of the mysterious dead woman, known only as “Ashley”. Then they need to find out why she was murdered and by whom. Meanwhile Lucky takes charge of the squalling infant until his real family can be found. It’s yet another strain in the difficult relationship between mother and daughter.
Valley of the Lost is beautifully written. The characters are rich and complex. The descriptions of the Kootenay region of British Columbia are so vivid you can practically smell the pine needles and feel the cool shade of the trees. Anyone who has ever spent time in a small community will appreciate Delany’s depiction of the complicated small town dynamics.
Delany avoids sensational action, but holds the reader’s interest with the tense relationships between her characters and the detailed if sometimes plodding process of a realistic police investigation. The story gradually builds momentum and comes to a rollicking conclusion. My only criticisms are that the dialogue sometimes becomes a bit expository and there are a few more typos than I would expect in a commercially published work.