Title: Winter Takes All
Author: ML Erdahl
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Crystal Rainey is aghast when she realizes her new year's resolutions haven't changed one whit from the previous year. Wanting to escape a future as dreary as a Pacific Northwest winter, she walks out on her dead-end office job, despite her tenuous savings account.
Stumbling across a job opening posted by a wilderness guide outfit, an intrigued Crystal bluffs her way into the position. With handsome fellow guide, the stalwart Conner Oakes, she leads a corporate retreat on a snowshoe hike to a majestic alpine chalet.
But when the company's detestable owner turns up dead in the snow, she fears her new life and budding romance slipping away. She finally has something worth fighting for and is determined to solve the murder and grab her chance at happiness before it's too late.
The front door burst open and voices echoed in the spacious room from the doorstep. Crystal and Bree both stepped over to look down the stairs to the entrance.
Conner stood outside the door, ushering Justin, Gary, and Madeleine inside. It reminded Crystal of a sheepdog herding a flock of sheep into the barn. Snowshoes and poles lay scattered and Crystal rushed downstairs to help.
The three members of the tour group passed her as they hurried up the steps from the entryway, sloughing off more snow as they struggled out of their winter coats.
“I’ll put away the gear. Come inside,” Crystal urged Conner.
“Thanks, Crystal.” He followed the others as Crystal stashed the gear in the shed.
After she secured the shed door, she retreated back into the warmth of the chalet and headed upstairs to find Conner and the other three seated at the table with Ryan and Alice. Bree was pouring a cup of coffee from the pot and placed it in front of Justin, who was rubbing his hands and blowing on them. Justin smiled up at Bree, which she returned with interest.
Conner spotted Crystal as she approached the table, “I was explaining to everyone, we weren’t able to locate Philip. It looks like he did take the snowmobile.”
“Do you think he’ll be ok?” Bree asked. The poor girl blanched when she spotted an anxious Madeleine staring at her.
“I hope so,” Conner answered. “Madeleine said he’s used snowmobiles in the past. He should know how to safely operate one. As long as he doesn’t get lost in the dark, there’s a lodge near the parking lot. They’ll put him up for the rest of the night.”
“Well, I for one am going to get a few hours of sleep,” Justin announced as he stood from the table. “Philip has ruined enough of my night. I’m sure he’s raiding the mini fridge at whatever passes for the presidential suite in the lodge right now, and laughing to himself for getting such a good reaction out of us.”
As if that were a general announcement, everyone got out of their chairs, filed from the dining room, and down the hall to the guest suites. They entered their respective rooms, but Conner and Crystal exchanged a wry glance as Madeleine popped back out long enough to grab an undamaged bottle of wine.
“I’m going to notify Sam at Search and Rescue,” Conner stood as well, making his way back to his pack and extracting the radio.
Crystal listened to Sam being brought up to speed as she fetched Conner a cup of decaf.
Not the most auspicious start to my guiding career, Crystal admitted to herself.
Conner sat back down, took a grateful swig of the coffee and sighed. “This could have gone better,” he said stating the obvious.
“What happens next?” Crystal asked.
“We wait until dawn, see if he turns up, and escort everyone out of here. Hopefully, Philip is waiting for us at the lodge, and we can drive this whole miserable lot back to the city a day early. In the meantime, I suggest we follow everyone’s lead and try and get a little shuteye.”
Conner’s radio crackled with Sam’s voice, “We’ve found the missing man from your group, Conner. He’s at the bottom of a cliff. I’m sorry to say this search and rescue operation has become a search and recover.”
Conner paled at the news.
“What does ‘search and recover’ mean?” Crystal asked.
“It means he’s dead.”
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Why is your featured book a must-read?
Dive into this multi-award-winning cozy mystery and escape with wilderness guide Crystal Rainey into the winter wonderland of the Pacific Northwest mountains. Snowshoe through the forest to an alpine chalet, where you can sit back with a glass of wine or mug of hot cocoa by the crackling fire and help the heroine solve the murder that threatens her new dream job and budding romance with fellow guide Conner Oakes.
Enter to win an e-book bundle of all 42 books featured in the Cozy Mystery Bookish Event:
Runs October 13 – 19, 2020.
Winner will be drawn on October 23, 2020.
Award-winning author ML Erdahl lives amidst the trees of the Pacific Northwest, where he pens humorous cozy mystery novels set in the wilderness he has spent his lifetime exploring. The only thing slowing him down is when his adorable rescue dogs, Skip and Daisy, demand to be petted and cuddled on his lap while he types. When he's not wandering the mountains, you can find him gardening, reading, or searching for the best coffee in Seattle with his wife, Emily.
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