Page One: Whiteout
by Nancy Barr

Arbutus Press, 2009. ISBN 978-1-933926-17-9.
Reviewed by Sharon Lippincott
Posted on 11/29/2009

Fiction: Mystery

Perhaps it's the unusual location in Escanaba, a small town on Michigan's Upper Peninsula, a seemingly mysterious part of the country few people in the rest of the country know much about, that sets this story apart. Perhaps it's the tender toughness of Robin Hamilton, a young reporter swept up a bloody series of events as she seeks resolution following the still unsolved murder nine months earlier in Crescent, Illinois of her police officer fiancÚ, Mitch Montgomery, that caught my interest and sticks in my mind. For sure, the non-stop thrilling action kept my eyes glued to the pages of the latest Robin Hamilton mystery. The delicately swelling buds of romance with Nick Granati, Mitch's close friend who shows up on Robin's doorstep with new information, add extra interest.

The story starts a bit slowly as author Nancy Barr flies through groundwork covered in the previous two stories in this series, but it doesn't take long for the first body to appear. From there on, pages fly by as Robin and her cohort of Nick Granati, her finance's best friend, his cousin Tony, and her friend Charlie Baker, a local policeman, find themselves in one perilous situation after another. Several sinister scenarios unfold, involving forces that could span the globe. It seems unimaginable that such dealings could be going on in quiet little Escanaba. As the story develops, several seeming coincidences in Robin's life the previous few months begin assembling into a larger picture, leading to a stunning conclusion.

A supporting cast of secondary characters, including Robin's dog Belle, flows through the story to lend color and atmosphere. They range from Robin's eccentric professor aunt who is into auras and ESP to Nick's mob-connected uncle and various drug users in the Escanaba area. Nancy Barr portrays each character so deftly that, for example, whether she mentioned it or not, I see a dimple in Nick's chin, the gleam of his smile and a twinkle in his eye. I feel Shasta's steely resolve, Tony's tender compassion, and the occasional stabbing intensity of Robin's freshly renewed grief.

She adeptly describes the area around Escanaba in such a way I feel I could get around without a map. But the real thrill is the sense of having ridden along with Robin as she survived an Upper Peninsula whiteout blizzard and came out victorious. She is right up there with Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhone or Susan Albert's China Bayles as someone I want to stay in touch with over the years, as the volumes continue to emerge.

If you love a masterfully-crafted mystery with plenty of gripping action, this is one you won't want to miss.

Nancy Barr was an award-winning journalist for more than ten years. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America and lives in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Her previous books in the Robin Hamilton series are Page One: Hit and Run, and Page One: Vanished. Visit her website.

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