When professional organizer Maggie McDonald finds a body in a snowdrift outside her friend's ski cabin, she must plow through the clues to find a cold-blooded killer . . .
Lake Tahoe in February is beautiful, but Maggie can't see a thing as she drives through a blinding blizzard with her friend Tess Olmos and their dogs, golden retriever Belle and German shepherd Mozart.Maggie has offered her professional decluttering skills to help Tess tidy up her late husband's cabin in preparation to sell. She also plans to get in some skiing when her husband Max and their boys join them later in the week.
What she doesn't plan on is finding a boot in a snowdrift attached to a corpse. The frozen stiff turns out to be Tess's neighbor, Dev Bailey, who disappeared two months ago. His widow Leslie expresses grief, but Maggie can't help but wonder if it's a snow job. As more suspects start to pile up, things go downhill fast, and Maggie must keep her cool to solve the murder before the killer takes a powder . . .
Read an Excerpt:
The scene was like every description of a near-death experience I’d ever heard.
I drove through the darkness toward a white light on California’s Interstate 80, east over the Donner Pass toward Lake Tahoe.
Banks of plowed snow towered above the freeway, obliterating what would have been gorgeous mountain vistas if there had been any visibility. What the newscasters had calmly predicted as “winter storm conditions” howled around us, buffeting the car and overpowering my headlights, defroster, and windshield wipers.
For miles, I’d searched for a rest area where I could unclench my hands from the steering wheel, clear ice from the windshield, and take care of more basic human needs. But snow obscured the exit signs and wind erased tire tracks as soon as they formed. My golden retriever, Belle, huffed warm wet breath in my ear. Her pal Mozart panted beside her. My friend Tess Olmos dozed in the passenger seat.
I didn’t dare pull over, in case what I took for a safe shoulder turned into a thousand-foot descent into oblivion. In weather like this, we’d plummet to the ground and wouldn’t be found until spring.
“Turn here,” Tess said.
“Where?” My view out the front windscreen was no different than it had been for the last three hours—remarkably similar to the static on midcentury televisions.
“Here. Stop. The exit.”
I pulled the car slowly to the right, squinting to distinguish something— anything—that would tell me we’d reached the turnoff for Highway 89 in Truckee, the gateway to North Lake Tahoe’s world-class ski resorts. The swirling whiteness took on a salmon-colored tinge as I drove beneath sodium vapor lights marking the main road that led toward Tess’s family ski cabin.
“Turn. Right. Right. Right. No, not so much.”
The rhythmic thump of my tire chains slowed as I crept forward. “Do you want to drive, Tess? You know these roads.”
“You’re doing great. Besides, the shoulders aren’t plowed. If we pull into a parking lot we’re apt to get stuck.” I wasn’t convinced. Tess’s voice sounded strained, as though she spoke through clenched teeth. “It’s only a few more miles.”
“Which should take a mere two or three hours at this rate.” My fingers ached from tightly gripping the wheel. What would normally have been a four-hour drive from Orchard View and the San Francisco Bay Area had taken nearly twice that long thanks to the heavy rain turned blizzard that had blown through hours earlier than anyone expected.
We weren’t stupid, Tess and I. We’d been watching the weather report for days and left early to beat the weather. The storm had other plans.
My eyes burned, my knotted shoulders felt like hardened concrete, and my nerves frayed. I took a deep breath and tried to relax. The good news was there was little traffic. The bad news was that there were no tire tracks to follow. Snow plows worked overtime to keep the main arteries open, but secondary roads hadn’t seen removal equipment for hours. It was only Tess’s familiarity with the route that kept my tires on the pavement instead of spinning off the road. I inched from one reflective snow stake to the next.
“Okay, there on the left,” Tess said. “Leave the car on the road in front of the garage for tonight.”
I looked out at a blank canvas. “I’d be happy to do that if I could see the garage.”
“It’s right there.” Tess pointed into the nothingness. “Wait.” She scrambled in her purse, pulled out a garage door opener, and pointed it past me. I heard a muffled grinding and thought I detected a slight lessening of the whitewashed darkness. The garage door was practically on the street. Less driveway to shovel.
“Rats,” said Tess. “The door is caked with ice and snow. It can’t clear the doorframe.” She pushed the button on the clicker again. The grinding stopped.
“We can’t just leave the car in the road. What if a snowplow comes along?” My voice broke from exhaustion and I struggled to keep from taking out my frustration on my best friend.
“Inch forward,” she said, as though I had a choice in the matter. “We’ll park at the end of the road. It’s not strictly legal, but we’ll move it as soon as we can. There’s a turnaround circle. You should see the lights over the mail center and bear boxes.”
“Bear-proof dumpsters. Here. Stop.”
I couldn’t distinguish any landmarks in the static whiteness.
“The rest of the hill has some drainage issues. It gets icy all the way to the bottom. The lights are out, but you’re good here. Pull to the right as far as you can. There are drifts of plowed snow between the road and the rocks.”
“Comforting,” I said, not meaning it. I pressed gently on the brake. The car slewed to the right as though it had heard and obeyed Tess’s instructions.
“Good enough. We’ll take the dogs and leave everything else. I’ll give you a toothbrush and something to sleep in. It’s going to be hard enough to trudge back uphill to the house in this wind without loading ourselves up with stuff.” She grabbed two leashes and handed me one. I stashed a bottle of wine in my jacket.
“Mozart knows where the house is,” Tess said, rubbing the ears of her German shepherd, a bomb-sniffing special forces marine reassigned to life as a devoted family pet. She hugged the dog and whispered in his ear. “I’m not sure whether I’m leashing you so I don’t lose you or so you don’t leave me behind. We’ll need your help to find our way back to the house.” Mozart wagged his tail.
Belle woofed politely to remind me she was waiting. Then she woofed again in either impatience or encouragement. Or both. I clipped the leash to her collar.
“Ready?” Tess asked.
“Do I have a choice?”
“Not if you want heat, a hot toddy, and a bathroom.”
I straightened my shoulders, zipped my parka, and pulled my knitted pink hat down over my ears. Snow or ice pellets pricked my cheeks like needles. If Tess said anything more, her words were lost in the howling wind.