scene of the climb
Photo by Bill Automata Flickr.com

When you think of a traditional mystery (also known as a “cozy”) you might picture a sweet grandmother who lives in the English countryside where she spends her afternoons knitting, sipping tea and meddling into the local murder investigation. The genre, made popular by the prolific Agatha Christie, has evolved over the last few decades and features amateur sleuths who do everything from running coffeehouses to restoring ancient books while they go about piecing together clues.

The broad appeal of mysteries is understandable. Mysteries are escapism at its best. They take readers on a quest to figure out whodunit, with plenty of page-turning twists and a dash of romance. They also serve as travelogues, offering readers a glimpse into a quaint village, a charming small town and the idyllic life of an amateur sleuth.

Meet the modern mystery!

scene of the climbHere in the Pacific Northwest we do everything a bit differently, including the mystery. And can you blame us? There’s no better backdrop for the modern mystery than the wild forests, rugged trails and stunning vistas of the Pacific Northwest.

And speaking of modern, can we talk about beer?

Forget protagonists who curl up with a dainty pot of tea. In the Northwest, our protagonists hit the trail and then they hit the pub for a well-deserved pint of our famed microbrew.

When I decided to pen my first mystery, I knew I wanted to write about the great outdoors. My family and I spend our weekends hiking to hidden waterfalls and exploring paths that lead deep into the woods. There’s something magical and slightly creepy about a trail that seems to switchback forever, or hiking for hours without running into another soul.

One weekend we laced up our boots, filled our Camelbacks and headed to Angel’s Rest in the Columbia River Gorge for a quick day hike. Angel’s Rest is one of my all-time favorite hikes. It’s a relatively easy climb to the 2,000 foot summit, and the payoff at the top is worth any amount of sweat. The rocky summit boasts staggeringly beautiful views of the Columbia River and Washington hillsides. It’s also dangerous, and the setting for my new mystery Scene of the Climb.

Meet Meg Reed.

scene of the climb
Photo by Bill Automata Flickr.com

She’s twenty-three, fresh out of journalism school and couch surfing in Portland, Oregon. When she has a chance encounter with the editor of Northwest Extreme magazine, she bills an intrepid adventurer in order to land a gig writing for the outdoor publication. The only problem is that Meg’s idea of sport is climbing onto the couch without spilling her latte.

The magazine sends her to Angel’s Rest to cover a reality TV adventure race filming in town. She claws her way to the top of a cliff only to witness a body falling off the summit. From there things just get worse for Meg.

scene of the climbThe Pacific Northwest becomes its own character in the book as Meg treks to familiar outdoor locations like Multnomah Falls and Beacon Rock and to more challenging climbs like Table Mountain. Although her athletic prowess needs some improvement, Meg rediscovers her connection with nature while she’s out on assignment.

It’s a universal theme for those of us lucky enough to reside in this corner of the world, and one that I’m so glad has found its way into the modern mystery.

Hit the trail with Meg, and be sure to kickback with a pint of your favorite IPA as you puzzle through the clues with her. And if you get hooked on murder in the great outdoors, there are plenty of other regions and exotic places to explore. Check out some of these titles and series below:

Twist Phelan’s Pinnacle Peak Mystery Series: http://www.twistphelan.com/

Mark Steven’s Allison Coil Mysteries set in the Colorado Mountains: http://www.writermarkstevens.com/

Shannon Baker’s Nora Abbott Native American Mysteries: http://shannonbaker.wordpress.com/

Christine Goff’s Birdwatcher Mystery Series: http://www.christinegoff.com/

Lisa De Nikolits’ Witchdoctor’s Bones filled with South African history and folklore: http://www.lisadenikolitswriter.com/

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