The Falls
Karen Harper
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The Falls
Karen Harper
394 pages
June 2003
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Claire and Keith Malvern had left behind fast-track, well-paying jobs in Seattle to pursue the dream of opening a bed-and-breakfast in a rustic lodge above the scenic Bloodroot Falls. But one night, at the height of the salmon fishing season, Claire wakes up to find that her husband has mysteriously disappeared, and there’s not a trace to be found of him anywhere. She’s very certain than something terrible has happened to Keith, but without any evidence to back up her suspicions, the police, in the form of local sheriff Nick Braden, are politely disbelieving. Then an anonymous caller reports that he saw a man jump from the bridge across the Bloodroot Falls. When Keith’s drowned body is recovered soon after, Claire is left devastated.

But something doesn’t quite add up, and Claire won’t give up searching for the truth. Soon the recently widowed Nick with his hero complex gets involved in helping her despite his continued skepticism. Together they find a solace in each other but are reluctant to take it any further. In the meantime, someone is watching Claire and getting antsy at their growing closeness. Events escalate from mere warnings to bodily threats. There are many viable suspects – the art-store owner who wants to sell Claire’s paintings, the enigmatic Sammamish Native American who claims ancient ownership of her land, the cranberry-farm owner who’s in financial difficulties, Keith’s former employers and more. But will they discover the truth in time?

Karen Harper creates an atmosphere of suspense from page one and the tension only escalates as the story progresses. Claire’s character is so convincing as the distraught widow that at first the reader is tempted to believe that she’s making up conspiracies. In this way, the author keeps creating situations which raise more and more questions. Each new development adds one more layer to the mystery until it seems well nigh impossible to solve. The atmospheric and realistic descriptions of the falls, small-town living, salmon fishing, cranberry farming and Native American land disputes makes the story come alive in front of the reader's eyes. A breathtaking finale adds the final finishing touch to this riveting murder mystery.

© 2003 by Rashmi Srinivas for Curled Up With a Good Book

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