One of the stories in the new "Adirondack Mysteries" collection is called "Sortilege" a Latin term for divination by casting lots. Working through this collection is a little like rolling the dice; a few of the stories are well-conceived and told, while others stretch both reality and patience. On the balance, the book rolls out fast-reading tales, worth reading for a diverse taste of Adirondack suspense.
Several of the stories have nicely crafted arcs "Murder at Summer Place Lodge: an Angela J. Patterson MD Adventure," by Cheryl Ann Costa, has convincing character development and carefully paced storytelling. "Praying for Overtime" by Larry Weill is thoughtfully conceived, with a series of connected crimes, thoughtful detective work, and a thrilling, countdown clock conclusion.
There are a couple of nice, off-beat offerings, including a mystery solved by an Eastern European herb whiz in "Herbal Healing" by W.K. Pomeroy. "Perfection" is an unexpected Brigadoon about a legally blind woman coroner who solves a murder case in a miraculous, time-travelling village.
"May Days," the collection's final installment and one of its best, is a galloping tale with gem brokers, subterranean smuggler's caves, and the flavor of several characters borrowed from Flannery O'Connor's "The Violent Bear it Away."
Yet, some of the pieces are downright strange, including one that reveals extraterrestrial life concealed by the government under a top secret facility deep in the Adirondack woods. "The Right Thing to Do," about a bank robbery and its troubled investigator, and "Mystery of the Missing Logs" both read like crime reports.
Webster's compilation is quite disparate, united mainly by the stories' Adirondack setting. Several stories follow women in non-traditional careers - a blind coroner and a physician, both facing discrimination because of their gender. Webster includes too many tales that dip into the occult, time-travel, and inexplicable shamanistic forces. Though most of these are far-fetched, Woody Sins' story "Cold" is a nicely told myth about an isolated Irish settlement and its ghosts. With a simple set-up and punchy conclusion, "Cold" is one of the most concise and satisfying of the pieces.
For a historical and cultural tour of the park with a look at all walks of life, "Adirondack Mysteries: Volume II" is a quick read with a satisfying mountain profile. If you like suspenseful writing and a strong connection to the North Country, take a winter afternoon or two to appreciate these stories.
This review reflects the individual view of the reviewer, not the views of the Adirondack Center for Writing or the Enterprise.