It has taken more than two decades, but the members of the Leiston School Winter Adventure Group of 1990 are finally reunited near their old school.
The intimate gathering opens with the renewal of old friendships at a private Lake Michigan estate. But the alcohol-fueled camaraderie soon melts away as old rivalries begin to surface, as do old secrets — one old secret in particular. Twenty-five years ago, this group headed into an Upper Peninsula wilderness for a winter camping
adventure. They ended up stranded and cut off for days by a huge winter storm. When they were finally rescued, hungry and frostbitten, their chaperone was missing and so were the facts.
Now, as the group assembles for a late morning brunch, someone else is missing. A search leads to the discovery of a body, and Ray Elkins, the local sheriff, is called in to investigate. But just like the first time, what happens at Leiston stays at Leiston, and Sheriff Elkins is greeted with hostility and a pact of silence.
“Murder in the Merlot” by Aaron Stander (Writers and Editors, $15.95) is the eighth paperback book in his popular series set in northern Michigan starring Sheriff Ray Elkins. He’s called to a crime scene when a woman’s body is found along a road near the terraces of a vineyard of Merlot grapes. International wine expert Gillian Mouton had scheduled an event at a local winery and was doing research on a story. Elkins and his crew face a real challenge as they try to track down her murderer. There are numerous suspects, including an estranged brother, a former lover and other associates. Various clues point in different directions, but there are many hidden secrets and a devious killer. The author has created a strong cast of characters and uses an intriguing secondary plot to make them even more believable.
This is a fast-paced, entertaining, well-researched police procedural that should be a strong candidate for the Michigan Notable Book Awards.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.