Close Up on Murder – A Spirit Lake Mystery
$2.99 Kindle $12.52 Trade paper
Create Space 262 pages
As an amateur detective, Britt Johansson, a Pulitzer-Prize winning press photographer, is brash, aggressive, occasionally reckless and has the patience of a toddler with ADD. “Following the rules… didn’t always work for me,” she says.
When she stumbles on a gruesome murder in her small hometown of Spirit Lake, Minn., she’s off and running in an absorbing tale that has both unsettling and heart-breaking elements. The first murder scene—not the only one—is so vivid and shocking it puts you on edge. The story then segues into a mystery investigation that could lead to hate crimes or systematic terror. And possibly bad news for Johansson. “I…heard the unmistakable crack of a pump action shotgun behind me.” Author Townsdin provides murderous details sufficient to shock, without bloody, slasher-style prose. A good balance.
Her characters include some typical Scandinavians (this is Minnesota, after all) a batch of scary zealots and a mixed batch of writers encamped in Spirit Lake for a seminar. Johansson’s brother’s restaurant becomes her investigation headquarters and later, her fortress. “Every customer who entered the restaurant looked like a psychopath killer to me,” Johansson says.
Following Johansson as she searches for the killer, moves you not just at a swift pace, but in unusual and unexpected directions with unexpected consequences. The local sheriff takes appropriate precautions, but Britt Johannson wants to kick the investigation into high gear, and then some. In addition to being impulsive, she’s suspicious, a good trait for an investigator. As a journalist, she explains, “I generally looked at people with distrust. Most of them were in the news for a reason—bad behavior.”
As the second in the Spirit Lake series, this book expands on Johannson’s relationship with her sometimes boyfriend Ben, her brother, the local sheriff and other media and law enforcement folk. Johannson is almost as unpredictable as the killer or killers she’s stalking and the ending deals satisfyingly with the crimes but leaves Johannson’s personal and professional life in disarray–ready for the next installment.