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COLD WINTER NIGHTS, BY ANNE WHITE

Cold Winter
Nights
A Lake George Mystery

by Anne White

ISBN #1-59133-298-2
ISBN #978-1-59133-298-5

Kindle edition available
ASIN: B005BSQR0S

SECRETS DARK AND DEEP

Secrets Dark
and Deep
A Lake George Mystery

by Anne White

ISBN # 1-59133-197-8HC
ISBN # 1-59133-198-6TP

Kindle Edition Available
ASIN: B005A7RNXA


BEST LAID PLANS

Best Laid Plans
A Lake George Mystery

by Anne White

ISBN #1-59133-169-2 Hardcover
ISBN #1-59133-170-6 Paperback

Kindle Edition Available
ASIN: B005A76MLO

BENEATH THE SURFACE

Beneath the
Surface
A Lake George Mystery

by Anne White

ISBN #
1- 59133- 123- 4HC
ISBN #
1- 59133- 124- 2TP

Kindle edition available
ASIN: B005A76PRA

 

SECRETS BENEATH THE SURFACE
By Anne White

Reprinted From Mystery Readers Journal, Fall 2005


Mysteries which involve books or libraries are fascinating, especially to those of us who’ve spent our working lives and a good share of our off-work hours with the printed word.

In Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, a young apprentice sees a library as a “place of long, centuries-old murmuring” where books speak of other books, as if they spoke among themselves in “an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another.”

A perfect description.

When we leave the library’s busy reference and reading sections for a foray into the stacks, we may hear that murmuring, experience that quiet, other-worldly quality, which sometimes, if we are so inclined, turns our minds to thoughts of mystery and murder. Who, we wonder, is that strange figure skulking among the medical books, that shadowy form taking the elevator down to the lower levels, that frightening apparition looming up suddenly by the next carrel?

So many authors have created exciting, authentic mysteries about libraries with so much success, a novice mystery writer, even one whose second language is the Dewey Decimal System, may hesitate to try her hand at that particular setting. Think—Agatha Christie’s The Body in the Library; Joann Dobson’s Cold and Pure and Very Dead, Lawrence Block’s The Burglar in the Library and Robert Barnard’s much-too-scary-to-think-about Death of a Mystery Writer.

Other writers have looked beyond the library to a similar setting—the mystery book store—and given us classics like John Dunning’s Booked to Die, Joan Hess’s Strangled Prose, Carolyn Hart’s Yankee Doodle Dead and Bartholomew Gill’s The Death of an Ardent Bibliophile.

So, even after all my years in the stacks, I approached the idea of a biblio-mystery slowly, circled it carefully and settled on starting with a modest library scene. I sent my protagonist, Loren Graham, mayor of the sleepy little Lake George town of Emerald Point, to my own hometown of Glens Falls, NY and our community’s wonderful Crandall Library. Her task seems easy enough—break a simple code used by a young murder victim whose body Loren herself has discovered.

Loren’s involvement in the case begins innocently during a morning run along the beautiful Lake George shoreline. A quarter mile past the parking area where she’s left her car, she encounters sixteen-year-old Todd Lewis, who’s suffered an accident with his mountain bike. Todd, wet and disoriented, gestures toward a wheel which has come off his bike and rolled down an embankment to the edge of the lake twenty feet below.

As Loren slides down the slope to retrieve it, Todd follows her and points out a car submerged in the lake. He’s swum out to check the car, he says, but found no one in it. Loren, far more trusting now than she would have been during her years in New York City, hands him her cell phone and tells him to call the sheriff’s department and report the find.

She is moving along the bank, carrying the wheel, searching for an easier way to climb back to the top, when she makes a startling discovery—a decomposing corpse. To her horror, Loren has stumbled on the body of beautiful, promiscuous Tammy Stevenson, a local high school student who’s been missing for a year.

The discovery of the body rocks the peaceful little town, especially when an autopsy reveals Tammy has been murdered. Although the girl was linked to a number of older men in the community, the sheriff’s department finds no evidence which connects any of them with her death.

Todd Lewis, fearful of being suspected of the murder, leaves town after sending Loren Tammy’s notebook with entries written in code. Loren turns the notebook over to the sheriff’s department, but keeps a copy of the entries.

Loren’s efforts to translate Tammy’s coded notations take her to the library. She knows from her young friend Josie Donohue that writing in code is popular with the local high school girls and she hopes by deciphering Tammy’s notes to discover what happened to her.

At the library Loren finds books listed under the subject heading, Codes and Ciphers, and learns some of the basics of cryptography.

Cryptography, she discovers, is the art of writing and deciphering coded messages; a cryptographer, the person who creates or breaks a code or cipher. Codes have a long and fascinating history. Julius Caesar, Galileo, Thomas Jefferson, Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allan Poe were among the many famous people interested in encoded writing. Code breaking has always been associated with espionage and more recently with electronic banking and the Internet. The popularity of the 2003 blockbuster, The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, awakened new interest in how information can be obscured and then brought to light.

As she reads, Loren learns more about two basic ways messages can be concealed. In codes, each word is represented by another word. For example, the writer might use the word blue to mean tomorrow and the word cloud to mean meeting. The message cloud-blue would tell his fellow spies the meeting is to take place the next day.

Ciphers involve the substitution or transposition of letters or numbers. The cipher Tammy used appears simple enough. Guided by what Josie has told her, Loren prints out the alphabet; then puts a second alphabet on a separate sheet of paper and slides it along under the first. After several false starts, she finds the letters on the first page in the notebook form the words Deke Dolley. Deke and his wife Ramona, a friend of Loren’s, own a small log cabin motel and his name, like the others in the notebook, is followed by a set of figures.

As Loren continues deciphering, she discovers all the men listed are owners of hotels and motels in Emerald Point. At some point Tammy worked at most of these places, and Loren suspects these are the names of men Tammy seduced and blackmailed. The figures, she thinks, may indicate the amount of money she was paid for her silence

But there is more hidden beneath the surface in Emerald Point than the blackmail scheme which may have cost Tammy her life. As Loren unravels the ties which linked the girl to some of the area’s leading businessmen, she discovers a secret consortium with its own agenda for the town and the determination to kill anyone who stands in its way, including Loren herself.

Beneath The Surface, the second in Anne White’s Lake George Mystery Series, published by Hilliard and Harris in Frederick, MD, is now available. An Affinity For Murder, the first in the series, was a Malice Domestic Best First Mystery Nominee in 2002.

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