FIRST TRACKS by Catherine O’Connell (Severn House, £20.99 or Kindle $A28.62)
I really wanted to enjoy this Aspen based crime novel, but its uneven pacing made it hard to get into.
The story opens promisingly with experienced ski patroller Greta Westerlind being caught in an avalanche whilst in a restricted area near Aspen village. It nearly kills her and when she awakes in hospital, she is devastated to learn that her close friend and fellow skier, Warren McGovern, perished in the slide. With no memory of the incident, Greta is at a loss to explain why the two of them were skiing in such lethal terrain in the first place. As she struggles to unlock her memories as to what really happened that day, a series of strange and menacing incidents convinces Greta that someone means to harm her. Then when a young girl goes missing things take a more sinister twist.
The book has a lot of good ingredients, but O’Connell struggles to pull them all together. The descriptions of life in Aspen for those who work there, and their interactions with the rich tourists, are good and interesting and Greta is an engaging and complex character. There is some suspense, but it is undermined by the uneven pace and the string of coincidences that allow Greta to unravel the plot against her. The skiing detail is fascinating and those enjoy skiing will love the detailed and knowledgeable descriptions. The ending is surprising, and a bit tense, but the last-minute confession by the killer whilst holding a gun on Greta, is cliched and not convincing. Actually a lot of the plot relies on old familiar mystery devices, such as memory loss, and easily identified red herrings.
There is a lot of detail on Greta’s love life and the combination of mystery and ‘chick-lit’ might appeal more to other readers.
Unfortunately, I struggled with this one, especially the over-reliance on mind-stretching coincidences!
Three and a half stars!
First Tracks is available in the United Kingdom in hardback and on the Kindle, but in Australia it seems to be only available on Kindle, or from your local library.
Thanks to NetGalley and Severn House for an advanced copy of the book.