Thursday, April 29, 2021

"Bitterroot Lake"

Alicia Beckman adored living in Seattle as a college student and young lawyer, but is happiest back home in her native Montana, where she lives with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their full-figured gray tuxedo cat. As Leslie Budewitz, she’s the bestselling author of the Seattle Spice Shop and Food Lovers’ Village mysteries. A three-time Agatha Award winner, for Best Short Story (2018), Best First Novel (2013), and Best Nonfiction (2011), she is a past president of Sisters in Crime and a current board member of Mystery Writers of America.

Beckman applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Bitterroot Lake, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Abby’s tiara sat on a shelf in her bedroom, not part of the ridiculously large wardrobe she’d taken to college. The image of that tiara, shining into the silence in the house in Seattle, tore at Sarah’s heart.

At this rate, she would have no heart left, the muscles and arteries ripped to shreds for the birds to pick.

Deep breaths, her therapist would say. She inhaled, heard how thin and ragged her breath was, how short the exhale. Focus. In, out, in, out.

As for the rest—well, Holly knew part and Jeremy had known part. But no one had known it all, not even her therapist. And she sure as hell wasn’t going to say anything now.

“Sarah? Sarah.” The sound of her name brought her back to the room, to Nic pressing a hand on her arm.

“It’s okay. I’m okay.” She shook Nic off, tried to shake off their concern. She was tired of everyone’s concern, at the same time that she craved it. What a mess she was.

“Okay,” Nic echoed, not sounding convinced. “The question is, what does the letter writer want? Or what did he want, if it was Lucas?”

“You don’t seriously think it wasn’t him?” Holly said.

Nic held out both hands. “I’m saying we’ll never get to the bottom of this if we don’t consider every possibility. We can’t start with a conclusion and get anywhere.”

Across the table, Janine closed her eyes. Though she was forty-seven, she looked like a teenager right now, younger than Abby, and scared as hell. Sarah ached to comfort her. But that wouldn’t help them get at the truth, would it?
Will this page give the reader an accurate sense of the book? When I first re-read the page, I thought the answer was “yes and no,” but the closer I looked, the stronger that “yes” became. Bitterroot Lake is the story of four women who reunite unexpectedly after twenty-five years and are forced by murder to reconsider the tragedy that tore them apart. It’s also a story of fractured friendships and family ties, of mothers, daughters, and sisters, and of the ways that a house or a place can influence us. It’s a story of the power of secrets, and how even close families sometimes keep them; no matter how good the intentions, the outcome, and the fact of the secret, can still be painful. This excerpt illustrates the relationship between the four and shows a bit of each woman’s character—a strength or a weakness. It hints at the bond between our main character, Sarah, and her daughter, and Sarah’s interior journey, shaped by grief and guilt, as she grapples with becoming a widow at only forty-seven and all the questions that raises.

The reference to Lucas and the letters brings us back to the present-day mystery. It’s clear that the letters are deeply distressing and that getting to the truth could be brutal. It’s also clear, I think, that the four will push forward to that truth, even as they know it could hurt them, even as they know it could bring them back together—or drive them further apart.

Not bad for one page out of 318, eh?
Visit Leslie Budewitz's & Alicia Beckman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue