The Girl in the Moss
Loreth Anne White’s two Angie Pallorino novels, The Drowned Girls and The Lullaby Girl received high praise here at AAR. The third and final book in the trilogy releases this month, and Maggie Boyd and Dabney Grinnan – both fans of the author’s work – read The Girl in the Moss and are here to share their thoughts.
It’s meant to be a normal, relaxing getaway but Angie Pallorino doesn’t do normal. While away with partner James Maddox on a fishing trip, Angie comes upon an old grave. The evening Maddox had planned for them with wine, hot tub and romance is replaced by a night spent listening to the wolves’ howl, guarding the crime scene. The morning brings the RCMP and a chance to return to routine, only that’s not so ordinary for Angie any more, either. Her recent termination from the police force means she’s spending her days trying to establish herself as a PI. That’s proving to be more of a struggle than she anticipated until she receives a phone call regarding the body she had discovered. Turns out the remains belong to Jasmine Gulati, granddaughter of a former judge, a woman with wealth and influence who is determined to learn just how her grandchild became a skeleton in the woods.
This cold-case should be just what Angie needs to build up her new career. But things never go as they should for Angie and what was expected to be a quiet investigation into an accidental death exposes dark and dangerous secrets, exploding through the lives of many people – and very possibly costing Angie her own.
Maggie: What attracted me to this story was the opportunity to read a cold case crime. I love the idea of justice catching up with someone who thinks they got away with something and since I had heard a lot of good things about the author, I was excited to pick this one up. What attracted you to this story?
Dabney: Honestly, I’ll read anything by Loreth Anne White. She’s one of my favorite suspense writers. I’ve read the first two books in this series and have been dying to read the end of Angie’s arc.
Maggie: Something I really liked about this tale was the overturning of the idea that bad people deserve bad things. Jasmine was not a well-liked person, perhaps for good reason. However, no-one should suffer what she had to endure and the attitude of many people toward her seemed overly cruel. What did you think about Jasmine and the way some folks seemed to feel she “got what she deserved”?
Dabney: Well, my sense of retribution is far less than my hope for rehabilitation when it comes to those who do wrong. And we are living in a time when a single error by someone can go viral and become what defines them – for many, the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. That seems true of Jasmine. I wouldn’t want to be her friend, but I don’t think she deserved what happened to her.
Maggie: Something else I really liked here was the way male vigilante justice and female law and order (in the form of Angie and the women who helped her) were juxtaposed. What Angie dealt in seemed calm, rational and fair while many of the men in the tale seemed to be concerned with maintaining privilege and respect for them and theirs. This is simplistic of course: some of the men such as Maddox and Kjel Holgerson stand for law and order, and some of the women were complicit in the crimes committed but the overall thrust of the story seemed to divide along these lines. Did you see that also or am I imagining things?
Dabney: In all of Loreth’s books, men commit unspeakable evil against women and do so using the disguise of their privilege. And while many of the women in her books are complex – there’s not a Pollyanna or a MarySue amongst them – they are often on the side of thoughtful good. So, no, I don’t think you’re imagining a thing.
Maggie: I lived in a small town in Minnesota six miles south of Canada for several years and have to say that I could picture almost everything in terms of the hunting lodge, and surrounding area. What I especially appreciated was how the author captured the feeling of a small, cliquish community. So often in novels, little towns are filled with friendly, quirky individuals but my experience with small town living (which I have done on and off for much of my life) is much more like what Ms. White writes; people who know each other’s secrets and live in uneasy peace with each other and the world. What did you think of Port Ferris and how it was captured here?
Dabney: Well, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live there. Too small for me. But, yes, I agree White does a fabulous job with context. I could totally see the main street and sense all that damp.
Maggie: Yeah, I wouldn’t want to live there either! I found the story had great ambiance, especially the sections in Port Ferris. The scene where Angie is talking to some witnesses at the dock was especially chilling. What did you think of the tone of the story and the overall atmosphere of the book?
Dabney: White’s books always chill me. She shows how the most seemingly normal of people -mostly men – can be capable of such horror. The scene at the dock is super creepy as is the scene in the hunting camp.
Maggie: I found at least three of the women quite chilling. Their casual complicity in hiding monsters was . . . disturbing. The back blurb of the book lets the reader know there are two mysteries which come together for an explosive ending. I had no trouble solving the first crime – I’m not sure why but I was certain that person had a part in what happened with Jasmine. I struggled with the second, more surprising aspect of the tale. I found aspects of it a bit more farfetched and fantastical. What were your thoughts on the mystery?
Dabney: Well, okay, I’d have to agree with you there. BUT, I was so swept up in the story that it didn’t derail my enjoyment.
Maggie: The story isn’t overly romantic but gives nice closure to a romance that was built up in the previous two novels. I thought the author achieved a perfect balance of bringing that arc to a close while delivering a tale that focused primarily on Angie’s new career. What did you think – was the romance just right or did you long for more?
Dabney: I could have used just a little more Maddox. But that said, I think the balance in this series between romance and suspense is really well done. I could easily recommend this book to a non-romance reader, but it still qualifies as sexy romantic suspense.
Maggie: My overall grade for the story is a B. The writing in terms of prose, setting, characters and tone was all great, but the second part of the mystery pulled the grade down for me a bit. How about you?
Dabney: I’d go with a B+ with the caveat that grade is, in part, for the whole series.