Title: Charlotte Pass
Author: Lee Christine
Published: February 1st 2020
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Fiction, Crime, Mystery
Rating: 4.5 stars
When ski patroller Vanessa Bell discovers human bones high on Mount Stillwell at Charlotte Pass ski resort, Detective Sergeant Pierce Ryder of the Sydney Homicide Squad is called in to lead the investigative team.
Arriving in the isolated, snowed-in village with Winterfest celebrations underway, Ryder soon determines that the bones are those of Celia Delaney, a young woman who disappeared from the ski resort in 1964 during the biggest winter storm in Australian alpine history.
When a second murder takes place, Ryder suspects that the deaths are related, and that the person responsible is still in the village. Amid the escalating tension, Ryder is desperate to make an arrest before the stakes rise even higher.
Set within the stunning Snowy Mountains, this intriguing mystery uncovers deadly, long-buried secrets in the valleys and mountains of this iconic area.
With six romantic suspense novels to her name, Lee Christine has branched further afield by releasing her first crime novel. Charlotte Pass is the first in a series of planned rural suspense novels set in the picturesque, but also deadly backdrop of the Australian Snowy Mountains region. Christine’s new novel offers a steady flow of suspense, intrigue and romance. Charlotte Pass commanded my full attention from the hooking first chapter, through to final paragraph. It will regale all mystery fans.
Charlotte Pass is set in the rugged, beautiful and dangerous Snowy Mountains region. A killer stalked the area over forty years ago, leaving a family broken and a secret that has managed to stay buried for decades. However, this secret and the bones that go with it are uncovered in the present day by a local ski patroller. Detective Pierce Ryder, from the Sydney Homicide department is called in to investigate the ski patroller’s grim discovery. Ryder’s investigative team believe the bones may be that of a young woman who disappeared in strange circumstances in the mid-1960s. This woman, Celia Delaney, has never been found and her disappearance coincided with a destructive snow storm in the area. As the team begins to put the pieces of this cold case together, a shocking murder occurs, rocking the idyllic alpine village. With no crime present in this area since Celia’s disappearance, Ryder infers that both these cases are somehow linked. The pressure is on to finally close Celia’s cold case and apprehend the culprit of the most recent murder at Charlotte Pass.
After a hot and humid week here in the west, I really appreciated the cool breeze setting of Charlotte Pass. An explosive opening chapter reels the reader right in to this one. I was devoted to Charlotte Pass from the close of the opening chapter, it was fully charged. Christine does a great job of setting the scene early on.
Vanessa is our lead and guide for the duration of this story. I really clicked with Vanessa. She was a strong, brave and independent spirit. I admired many of her actions during the novel. What I also loved about Vanessa was her career choice. As a ski patroller, a profession I know next to little about, we learn a great deal about the ski industry as a whole. We are also privy to the harsh working conditions, the bitter cold and the constant threat of danger due to the elements. Vanessa’s journey was both engaging and enjoyable.
Supporting Vanessa are a solid set of secondary characters. From the Sydney based detective assigned to lead the central case and the second murder, Pierce Ryder, through to police personnel such as Lewicki , the ski resort staff and more, Charlotte Pass is defined by a strong cast list. The book also backtracks to the past, where we learn the fate of Celia, the woman at the centre of the cold case. In addition, Christine examines the key suspects, as well as the integral figures to this perplexing story. Lee Christine’s storytelling is offset by solid characterisation.
As I touched on a little above, I really lapped up this setting. I am completely green to this area of Australia. The Snowy Mountains region is far removed from my coastal West Australian home, where snowfall would be unheard of! Christine captures the allure and beauty of this part of Australia extremely well, her descriptions are on par. Christine also makes us aware of the hazards and dangers that surround this stunning, but potentially deadly locale. This aspect of the novel impressed me.
Another area that performs well in this novel is the romance. It doesn’t overpower the mystery and crime side of the novel, which I valued greatly. As a romantic suspense author of half a dozen books, Lee Christine has drawn on her expertise to inject a perfect blend of romance within her story. With undercurrents of suspense and the echoes of the past marking a place in Charlotte Pass, the reader is kept completely engaged in this story.
The core mystery is shrouded in long held secrets, tightly held truths and a sense of self-preservation on behalf of the suspect pool. Christine is deliberate in her plotting and she presents her reader with a good selection of red herrings and plot twists. This is supported by credible police ground work and the dogged determination of Detective Pierce Ryder, among others. The final reveal was satisfying and plausible. Catching up with the characters three months after the explosive finale was a great move by Christine. It concluded the novel perfectly.
Charlotte Pass is a book that ricochets with suspense, mystery, tension and hidden truths. With dynamic character set, that I hope to be reacquainted with in the not too distant future, I throw my full recommendation behind Charlotte Pass.
Charlotte Pass by Lee Christine was published on 1st February 2020 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Charlotte Pass, Lee Christine, visit here.
*Thanks extended to Allen & Unwin for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
Charlotte Pass is book #16 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge