Silence flows down the mountain behind our home, pausing over rabbit tracks etched in snow. Coyotes howl and yip to shatter a quiet night. Meadowlarks warble and chickadees sing dee-dee-dee in the spring. We remember summer when the yellow flowers of arrowleaf balsamroot burst forth, and lupines waft a delicate scent. The snow brings the aroma of steel and cold while sage and blossoms lie dormant. All year, my husband Gerry photographs our Wood River Valley, and I imagine stories and mysteries at Last Chance Ranch, in the Sawtooth Mountains, and along the Craters of the Moon. The din of the world brushes against us like the caws of the ubiquitous black, white, and blue magpies, but sometimes, we can ignore the noise.

Lazy snowflakes drift from a white sky—not serious yet about blanketing our meadow, the sage tree, the bare aspen, the evergreen bristlecone pine. Outside, it is cold, and the flakes are small. If the temperature warms, the snow will gather heft and shape, become the six-sided crystals we used to cut from paper and glue to windows. When I was small and lived in north Idaho, the snow fell and fell and laid a powdered mantle over everything—the maples in the yard, the miners’ cars in the parking lots, the grass where we played steal sticks in the summer, the steps to the hospital next door, the roofs and chimneys all through town. I wonder if the snow still falls that way in the north.

A bald eagle perched on a fence post not far from our house, perhaps the largest one we have ever seen. A couple days later, snow fell in heaps and mantled everything. The wind blew it into three and four foot drifts around our house. Ah, we thought. Winter has really arrived! Undaunted, the rabbits continued to track our meadow, a coyote passed by, and the chickadees sang.

A fire in the fireplace, my calico cat on the top of the couch behind me, a cup of hot tea on the table next to me—time to read. Check out all these books from your local, independent bookstores or libraries. Google can tell you in what order the series were written.


Louise Penny and her Inspector Gamache and the town of Three Pines in Quebec. When Gerry and I found her first book, Still Life, we gobbled the whole series in a month and a half.

Jaqueline Winspear and Maisie Dobbs. Maisie has grown from a young woman to a thoughtful, mindful woman, first dealing with the wounds of WWI and progressing into the beating of war drums for WWII.

Anne Hillerman’s books set in Navajo land of New Mexico. Anne continues the Jim Chee, Bernadette Manuelito and Joe Leaphorn characters in a tribute to her father’s series with the same characters. She does him proud and has made the characters her own.

Ann Parker and Inez Stannert. This historical fiction Silver Rush Series began in Leadville, Colorado and has now moved to San Francisco. Inez is a saloon owner, music aficionado, brave and intelligent sleuth and solves mysteries in the 1890s in both places. A fine series. The first book is Leaden Skies.

James Benn and Billy Boyle. This series, too, is set in WWII and features Billy Boyle, a Boston cop who is an investigator for General Eisenhower. An intriguing series that includes lots of historical information as well.

Eliot Pattison and Inspector Shan. This contemporary series explores Tibet and features a Han Chinese former prosecutor who befriends Buddhist priests and Tibetan people while solving crimes, mostly related to the Chinese overlords. Fascinating and thoughtful.

Carol Crigger and Hometown Homicide. This is the beginning, I hope, of a series featuring an Iraqi veteran in an area around where I grew up: Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and Spokane, Washington. An excellent first. Carol also writes the China Bohannon series.

David Downing and WWII and also the Russian Revolution. Downing wrote the excellent Station series set in Berlin before and during WWII. He then turned to the Russian Revolution with his spy Jack McColl, a series of four books. Filled with slippery characters and excellent descriptions and historical facts.

Marvin Walker and Chief Bruno. Recommended by a friend, I found this series, set in France near the Dordogne Valley, to be great reads and full of wonderful cooking. Try them; you’ll like them!

Craig Johnson and Sheriff Longmire. No explanation needed. Warning: The most recent, The Depth of Winter, is pretty gory.

Other mysterious offerings:

Jon Talton’s series set in contemporary Phoenix, Arizona. I enjoy Jon’s books immensely.

AJ Banner’s domestic thrillers, including The Good Neighbor and After Nightfall.

R. Galbraith aka JK Rowling.

Other recent books I’ve loved:

The Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris – another Silk Road adventure

Becoming by Michelle Obama – a wonderful memoir of a strong, intelligent, ambitious, kind woman. The first half resonated with me regarding my own law career.

Destination Casablanca by Meredith Hindly. The lead up to and during the African campaign.

Magdalena Mountain by Robert Michael Pyle – a lovely book of nature and adventure.

Leadership by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Her name says all.

Here is the photograph that will probably appear on the cover of my new book, MOONSCAPE, due out in June, 2019!    


Here is an article from our local newspaper. There is even a photo, which makes me look quite scholarly, posing with my Nellie camera.

HAPPY NEW  YEAR! I wish for you lots of good books, mysteries or otherwise, and time to read. If you have favorite mysteries, please post them in a comment (click on the cartoon cloud at the top of this blog) for me and others to learn about! Thank you!

Here is what we do when we aren’t reading, writing and photographing! 



    • Thank you, Mary. The Longmire series is so entertaining! Glad you are beginning at the first book, as the books do work into each other as far as story line.

  1. Julie, as always, beautifully written about our place of peace and quiet surrounded by the wonders of nature.
    I’m reading Ann Cleeves—-she is the inspiration for the Shetland series on Netflix. Not great lit but entertaining although I like DI Perez better on Netflix than I do in the book.

  2. Breathtaking. Your beautiful essay, Gerry’s photos of your house in the snow, the mountains, and your recommendations of mystery novels. Love it all.

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