I found Wendy Clinch on a publishing-industry blog called Books on the Nightstand. The sample Kindle chapter suggested that she’s an adept writer and that I would enjoy the skiing background of these “Ski Diva” mysteries. I did — but the plot of Double Black was awfully thin.
Stacey Curtis is a yuppie drop-out who has fled the rat race and her oafish fiancé to become a ski bum at Spruce Peak in Vermont. The book opens with Stacey discovering a dead body in the bed of an empty slopeside condo she was hoping to crash in for the night. The very premise shows the occasional creakiness of the structure here. Stacey hasn’t been able to find housing she can afford. Fortunately the discovery of an unclaimed ring of keys — some of them to the empty vacation homes in town — has allowed her to upgrade from the back of her car. Which would be fine, except for the dead body business. Next thing we know, she’s discovered that the affable town sheriff has a room to rent. Gosh, that puts Stacey right on the spot for overhearing various plot developments. You see what I mean? It’s a little bit contrived. There’s some business with a lost ring and other business with a malicious menacing loony. Meanwhile Stacey hangs out with a cute ski patroller who, like her, has turned his back on his parents’ upper-middle-class expectations. Chip is barely characterized beyond his ski-patrol jacket and his unruly hair.
Yet Clinch has a good eye for the social give-and-take of a ski town, the perpetual dance of dependence and resentment between the natives and the flatlanders. Better yet, she obviously loves the mountain setting and there’s a night-skiing segment that redeemed all the book’s flaws.
So what’s wrong with the plot? Cliché red herrings like the grasping mistress; loose ends; too-obvious signaling of the bad guy; an unsatisfying plot twist; a denouement that unravels way too fast and an ending so sudden that I kept clicking the “Next Page” button on my Kindle, sure that I couldn’t be finished. Yet I’ll probably read the next Clinch mystery because I find the setting and voice so appealing.