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Murder At Spirit Falls

(with Dorothy Olson)

Perhaps they had tempted fate by calling themselves No Ordinary Women, as if the five of them were a fleet of Superwomen, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Arriving at the cabin, their expectations were simple: camaraderie, laughter and good food–requirements for any slumber party–and because of their shared love of books, they came prepared to talk about what they’d been reading.

The almost century-old hunting lodge sat on 150 acres of lush Wisconsin woodland, half a mile in from a gravel road, and remote enough for them to shed the restraints of city living, hike in the woods, take moonlight walks and ditch their bathing suits to sit under the waterfall.  For their last three retreats they’d chosen a thematic book–A Walk in the Woods, Woodswoman, and In the Lake of the Woods.  This year Foxy tried to sneak in a grisly murder mystery, Appalachian-style, but the rest of them–Robin, Cate, Grace and Louise–vetoed it and declared a yearlong moratorium on mysteries.

That’s what gave it such irony, because by Monday morning they had a pretty good inkling they were up to their bifocals in a mystery, when they discover a body just below Spirit Falls, a local landmark that is reputed to be haunted.  When it looks like this Jane Doe’s death will be dismissed as an accidental drowning, they start poking about for another explanation.

Robin has endured a traumatic childhood and faced breast cancer fearlessly, but is afraid of the dark, even though, as a nature photographer, she has her own darkroom.  Catherine Running Wolf credits her Cherokee heritage for her unusual intuition and an ability to see what others can not.  Together, the five women–Robin, Catherine, Foxy, Grace and Louise–seek to solve the crime before the killer finds out what they’re up to.

Downloadable book club discussion questions

Besides some wonderful reviews on Amazon and B&N, here are some comments and reviews for Murder at Spirit Falls:

Murder at Spirit Falls is a wonderfully well written novel filled with quirky memorable characters and a plot that twists and turns like the falls for which it was named.  Hang on for a wild ride.~Lois Greiman, award-winning author of Unzipped

Where to begin? There are so many books worth reading.   I recommend a debut mystery from a pair of Minnesota authors. Murder at Spirit Falls, by Barbara Deese and Dorothy Olson, is set partly in the Twin Cities and partly in Wisconsin. The intrigue begins when the ‘No Ordinary Women’ book club travels to a rural Wisconsin cabin for their annual weekend retreat. The characters seem like people we’ve all met, and real life intertwines with the well-crafted mystery element. Well done!” ~ review by Booklady in St. Paul Pioneer Press

In this extremely accomplished debut novel, Barbara Deese and Dorothy Olson construct an intricate and compelling whodunit within a context of sisterly allegiance. Murder at Spirit Falls presents a constellation of worthy suspects (the sleazy procurer, the amorous bureaucrat, the backwoods Peeping Tom) in the death of a young ingénue. And then, just when you feel the dragnet closing, the story spirals into fresh intrigue and mortal peril for its central protagonist, Robin Bentley. The complexity of the plotting and the resonance of these characters demonstrate both the skill and the latitude to build a franchise around The No Ordinary Women Book Club.  ~Monty Mickelson, author of Purgatory, screenwriter and winner of Bush Foundation Artist Fellowship

Murder at Spirit Falls is much more than just a compelling, page-turning  murder mystery.  It is, at heart, the story of a group of friends – members of the No Ordinary Women book club – who share a heartwarming closeness and buoy each other up through the very human sorrows, disappointments and joys of daily life.  When the murder of a beautiful young woman shatters their idyllic gathering at a cabin in the Wisconsin woods, Robin, Cate and the other members of the club set about untangling the mystery of her death.  It is a story told with wit, compassion, intelligence and an uncanny eye for the human condition.  This is No Ordinary Mystery story.~Walter J. Roers, author of The Pact and Pathos Rising

Murder at Spirit Falls is murder mystery fun. Full of surprises and intrigue, this novel also has characters with a depth and humanity no one would expect to find in a murder mystery. Robin, Cate and their long-time “No Ordinary Women” book group meet at Robin’s isolated cabin near Spirit Falls to support each other and bond over middle-age, menopause, and mood swings, but soon find themselves caught up in murder. A gripping mystery with real heart and emotion.~Karen Beltz, author of A Year on Spirit Mountain

For those familiar with the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, MURDER AT SPIRIT FALLS incorporates many famous spots around the city. This whodunit fairly jumps off the page, with the women’s’ expertise in investigation providing the focal point for the plot. The lifestyle of the Cities shines through, and each character adds to the spirit of the tale.~Shelley Glodowski, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review