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Beneath the Ashes:: An Alaska Mystery
Synopses & Reviews
Chapter OneOn an early evening in mid-March, Jessie Arnold was sitting on the floor by her huge sofa, surrounded by a gang of half-grown pups from two different litters that she had brought into the house so they could become accustomed to handling and interaction with a human, as well as to the other dogs. The seven pups tumbled happily on and around her, staging mock battles, chewing each other's tails and ears, crawling onto her lap for rations of the affection she was happy to give them. They were stil cute and babyish at this age, falling over the big feet they were quickly growing into, curious about everything, full of life, and beginning to display individual characteristics that she was assessing closely, looking for traits that would make them good working sled dogs later on.Her racing lead dog, Tank, the long-suffering father of four of them, had been trying to take a nap near the wood-burning stove, but he found it impossible, as some of the pups that couldn't crowd onto Jessie's lap turned their focus on him. Jeep and his smaller sister, Daisy, were being especially attentive to their dad. When they had run around and over him several times, faking attacks to encourage him to join their exuberant games, he finally grew tired of their nonsense and growled a warning in Jeep's direction. Jeep stopped in his tracks and growled back, which amused and interested Jessie. The young dog was showing independence and assertiveness, qualities that could indicate a possible leader in the making for a future racing team.Socialization with humans early in the life of sled dogs was important. It established relationships while the pups were still imprintable and became a positive, normalpart of their lives, making training easier and helping them develop skills for working with people and other dogs. She sincerely hoped Jeep had inherited the attitudes and abilities that made Tank the best leader she had ever had.Jessie had been trying to read an article she had found in the latest "Mushing Magazine on summer training for sled dogs. She tossed it onto the sofa when the adolescent gang of pups made it impossible to concentrate. Now, over their yips and immature growls, she glanced at the magazine longingly, then suddenly hesitated, looked toward the window across the room, and held her breath for a few seconds to listen intently. It had grown very quiet outside. The faint repetitious murmur of rain that had been a background for the last two days had stopped.Shoving two pups from her lap in order to get up, she walked across to the window that overlooked her dog yard."Snow. It was finally snowing again. Big white feathery flakes were falling thickly through the air, melting as they hit the wet ground. But here and there they were beginning to stick. The roof and hood of Jessie's pickup truck were already turning white. It would be wet, heavy snow, but at least it was not the unseasonable rain that had been turning the trails she used for training to slush.Glancing at the large thermometer mounted outside facing the window, she saw the temperature had dropped from well above freezing to twenty-eight degrees. As she watched, it moved to twenty-seven. Still falling. No wonder the rain had turned to snow, and how welcome. Since it had started this late in the day, she thought it would probably continue into the night, replacing some of the old snow the rain had melted and,possibly, allowing her to take out a team or two tomorrow.Finished with the Yukon Quest, the last race she would run this season, she and Billy Steward, the young musher who helped her at the kennel, had been working hard with mixed teams, one- and two-year-old dogs harnessed together with experienced ones. The days of rain had put a halt to that. Jessie, pleased with the progress they were making, was frustrated at being housebound. Running sled dogs in the rain was a miserable business that she and other mushers avoided when they could. It took all her attention to train inexperienced dogs without adding bad weather to the equation. Untangling the snarls they managed to get themselves into several times a day was work enough. It was fun to play inside with the pups who were not yet close to real training age, but it was more challenging to be out on the trails. Two of the pups had quietly followed her to the window, and she almost tripped over them as she turned back into the room but managed to step wide, missing both. Crossing to the phone on her desk, she dialed Billy's number. The pups trotted along behind her, not giving up their attempt to reclaim her attention, but they were quickly sidetracked by a patchwork pillow that had fallen from the sofa. With a long reach she snatched it away, knowing how soon its feathers would be floating around the room like the snowflakes outside if she left it to their sharp teeth. "Have you looked out?" she asked Billy. "The snow's coming down like crazy. if it keeps up we can run tomorrow. Right — about seven. Yes. Okay."Dropping the phone back in its cradle, she returned to the window to watch the falling flakes with satisfaction, unwilling tosit back down. She wished she could go out now but knew there wouldn't be enough new snow until morning, and the plastic runners on her sled would grind themselves to tatters on the rocks and bare ground the rain had uncovered.Flopping down on the sofa, she ignored the pups for a minute and picked up the magazine again. When she realized she had reread a page for the third time and had no idea what it contained, she tossed it to the opposite end of the large sofa...
At the start of an Alaskan spring, famed "musher" Jessie Arnold discovers the remains of a local pub, destroyed by a suspicious blaze that took an innocent life. The lull between racing seasons is meant for grueling training, but it instead becomes a time of fear as Jessie's next race becomes one for survival.
In a breathtaking land of ice and cold, death has come...by fire.
In the lingering chill of the early Alaskan spring, famed "musher" Jessie Arnold confronts the charred remains of a favorite local pub, destroyed by a suspicious blaze that claimed an innocent, unsuspecting life. This lull between racing seasons is meant to be a time of grueling training and conditioning for Jessie and her dogsled team-but instead it has become a time of fear. Because the burning has only begun, and its flames will scar and blister Jessie's world in ways she can barely imagine. And in the wake of more death, her next race will be one for survival — as she struggles to determine whether a desperate friend is a terrified victim...or a killer.
About the Author
Sue Henry, whose award-winning Alaska mysteries have received the highest praise from readers and critics alike, has lived in Alaska for almost thirty years, and brings history, Alaskan lore, and the majestic beauty of the vast landscape to her mysteries. Based in Anchorage, she is currently at work on the next book in this series.
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