Valley of the Lost
by Vicki Delany

Poisened Pen Press, 2009. ISBN 978-1-59058-595-5.
Reviewed by Janet Caplan
Posted on 02/17/2009

Fiction: Mystery

Valley of the Lost is the second in Vicki Delany's mystery series set in the beautiful Kootenay mountain region of British Columbia, in the fictitious town of Trafalgar. Many of the characters from the first book in the series, In the Shadow of the Glacier, have made it through to this volume. Chief among those are Probationary Constable Molly Smith, a rookie on the Trafalgar Police Department and Sergeant John Winters, a veteran detective who has found his way to the small community after many years with the Vancouver Police Department.

This second volume centers on the death of a young woman, Ashley, whose body is discovered by Constable Smith's mother, Lucky. She has also found, alongside Ashley's body, her healthy three-month-old baby boy, Miller, whom Lucky takes in until family can be located. The cause of Ashley's death is determined to be an accidental heroin overdose. But further investigation indicates the appearance of restraint marks on the girl's wrists and ankles, suggesting not an accident but a murder. No one in town can tell the police much about Ashley, other than that she occasionally appeared at the Trafalgar Women's Support Center, where Lucky happens to work. The police, led by Smith and assisted by Molly, must discover who Ashley was, where she came from and whom she may have left behind in search of her. That too, will determine Miller's life.

At the same time, the tension in Trafalgar is still high over a resort that has been proposed by a group of developers. Many in Trafalgar's population are still true to their hippie roots in their opposition to any kind of development for the town. Introduction of this sub-plot also opens the door to meeting an assortment of characters and allows the reader to conjure up various twists and turns to the overall story line.

I liked this book, as I did Delany's first in the mystery series. Valley of the Lost can definitely stand alone: that is, it certainly isn't necessary to have read the first. But it's interesting to see how Delany is developing her characters. Both Molly and Winters are gaining strength after earlier difficulties in their lives, and have greater rapport and confidence with each other. Delany is creating more back story for the main players, which grants the reader a clearer picture of just who these people are. And the plot is fairly solid: things make sense and tie together well. The writing is clean and fast paced and is well-suited to a traditional mystery such as this.

Valley of the Lost is a good, quick read. Nothing too heavy here but attention grabbing nonetheless. I hope that Ms. Delany plans to expand this series: very enjoyable.

Vicki Delany, born in Winnipeg, worked as a systems analyst in the Canadian banking industry. She is now retired and living in rural Ontario, "watching the grass grow" and writing mystery stories. Visit her website.

Check out our interview with the author of Valley of the Lost.

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