The second Lane Winslow mystery takes us to a hot springs resort in the mountains of British Columbia, where a Russian man is found murdered. Lane and her friend Angela happen to be enjoying the springs for themselves, and due to Lane’s childhood in Latvia and history as a British intelligence officer, she is fluent in Russian, and can speak to the dead man’s distraught friend. Inspector Darling and Constable Ames of the Nelson police happen to be the closest law enforcement to the area, and are called in to investigate.
This mystery has a bit more of an international espionage feel than the first, which is probably why I enjoyed the first one a bit more. The investigation delves a bit into the man’s past in Russia, and potential reasons that he may be on the run from Stalin’s government. Personally, I was more interested in learning about the Doukhobors, who appear to be Russian immigrants who are religious pacifists. I wasn’t at all aware of this part of Canadian history, and I found it fascinating to learn how they farmed in the mountains, and clashed with the Canadian government that wanted to take the land they’d lived on for decades.
There’s also a subplot involving an inheritance from Lane’s father. I loved these additional glimpses into Lane’s family, and particularly the dynamic between Lane and her more beautiful and confident sister. I also liked seeing Lane grapple with her father’s legacy, in that he was a spy just like she was, but he was also cold and dismissive towards his family, in part due to his job, and part of the reason Lane wanted out of the business is that she didn’t want to turn out as cruel as he was.
There was also a bit of a minor subplot involving an irritating potential suitor who barrels past Lane’s boundaries. Fortunately, it shifted to a different direction before getting as bad as the unwelcome suitor in the first book, but I hope this doesn’t turn into a pattern for all the succeeding books. Or at least, that Lane gets better at setting firm boundaries with men in succeeding books. She’s a bit too kind-hearted with men who want her time, and I just want to tell her to just say no from the get-go.
That being said, I love how the romance between Lane and Inspector Darling developed in this volume! Darling’s really sweet and respectful, and I like how he’s finally starting to acknowledge his feelings for Lane. I like how they work as a detective team, and how well they bounce ideas of each other. I especially love Ames’ role in this dynamic, and how he says things that Darling and Lane are perhaps a bit too shy to say themselves. I also enjoyed the glimpses into Ames’ various romances, and into his childhood friendships, and I very much look forward to seeing a lot more about Ames’ personal life in future books!
The first book struck me because of its depiction of Lane’s feminism amidst the sexism of her era, and I like how the second book took that theme forward. At one point, Darling comes to her and a friend’s aid, and Lane mentions that she hopes Darling doesn’t think he actually rescued them, as they did most of the work towards their rescue themselves, and would actually have been fine even if Darling wasn’t around. The statement may perhaps be a bit much in a contemporary novel, but given the patronizing attitude another man took regarding rescue in the first book, Lane’s comment here is completely understandable. Darling, of course, understood full well the incidental nature of his role in their rescue, which is yet another reason he’s such a perfect love interest in this series.
I personally enjoyed the mystery more in Book 1, but I loved the deeper glimpses into Lane, Darling, and Ames’ personal lives that Book 2 provides. I’m excited to see how the series continues to develop in future mysteries, and how much more it reveals about Canadian history.
Thank you to TouchWood Editions for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.