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Monday, October 24, 2011

WOOF: Media Monday - Author, Louise Gaylord

WOOF is thrilled to welcome Louise Gaylord, an acclaimed national award-winning author who established herself with her very first book, a suspenseful murder mystery centering around a young, sharp female Assistant District Attorney. This was the cornerstone of what has become her popular Allie Armington mystery series, the idea for it sparked when Louise herself spent three months on a grand jury panel.

The series has grown to four novels, with stories ranging from the Southwest (Anacacho and Spa Deadly) to New York (Xs), to the most recent (Dark Lake) featuring her beloved Adirondacks. Her next Allie Armington mystery will be set on a cruise ship.

Her first Allie Armington Mystery, Anacacho, won the 2003 National Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Mystery/Suspense sponsored by Publisher’s Marketing Association in Los Angeles. The San Francisco Book Festival awarded Louise with best audio book in 2010 for Spa Deadly. And most recently Recipes from Camp Trillium won the Dan Poynter’s Global eBook Awards, in which Julia Fairchild and Spa Deadly were also finalists.

A world traveler, Louise divides her time between her homes in Houston; Santa Barbara, California; and Old Forge, New York in the Adirondacks.

Read an Excerpt of Dark Lake by Louise Gaylord:

Chapter 1

My heartbeat quickens as I turn off Route 12 onto Route 28 at Alder Creek and begin the familiar climb toward the Adirondack Park.

It’s been fifteen years since I last made the trip. Fifteen years since I was sent packing, head bowed in shame. Now, as my rental car careens around the bends of Route 28, I can’t help but feel a twinge of excitement in the pit of my stomach. But there’s something else, too. Something I can’t quite identify. Something that makes my hands shake a little as I grip the steering wheel. 

I brush it off. It’s just nerves, I tell myself. Nerves at being back here after so many years. What else could it be?

I force myself to take in the sights flying by outside the window. Despite a crunchy chill in the air, the birch leaves are full blown. White daisies nod their heads at the passing traffic. And occasional clumps of daylilies stand at attention.

I weave through the hamlets of White Lake and Otter Brook and then cross the bridge at the Moose River. After what seems like forever, Thendara and Old Forge, still much the same as I remember, pass quickly and the final part of my journey begins along the north edge of the Fulton Chain of Lakes.

My pulse is now on double time as I slow and turn right to pass between the tall stone columns bearing a small brass plate reading: HOTANAWA.

Meant to sound like a Mohawk Indian name, Hotanawa was cobbled together from the first two letters of four Chicago families’ last names: “Hoh” from Holden, “Tah” from Taylor, “Nay” from Napier, and “Wah” Walton.

The road, brightly dappled with late afternoon sunlight for a hundred or so feet, darkens beneath a thick canopy of tall pines and hemlocks as the descent toward Fourth Lake begins.

At the first plateau, I brake for a second, then drive slowly past the familiar landmarks of my teens. After all this time, I still feel that surge of excitement I first felt when our car traveled down the drive so many years ago. And yet this time, it’s not as light or innocent as it once was. Now there’s a darker edge.

To my right, the fountain comes into view, its faithful artesian well still pulsing water high into the air to arc gracefully and splash into the wide, shallow basin.
Thinking back, I remember the warm days when the gang wasn’t dockside, and how the fountain’s tumbling waters brought us welcome relief following fierce tennis competitions or a prolonged game of Olly Olly Oxen Free.

The fountain was where I got my first kiss. That kiss had been coming ever since Fin Holden finally “discovered” me on the deck overlooking the moonlit lake. I can still hear the boom box blasting that great 5th Dimension song, “Up, Up and Away,” and I can still picture couples, young and old, gyrating to its rhythms.

To my left is the tennis court. It’s empty now—not at all unusual this early in the season. And yet, for some reason, its emptiness seems strangely foreboding as I pass it by.

Though some families come up for weekends in June, the com¬pound will not be filled until just before the Fourth of July when everyone arrives to savor the joys of this magical place until the last sad goodbyes are exchanged on the Tuesday after Labor Day.

I make a sharp turn to the right.

Almost there, almost there.

It’s my childhood voice chanting as I trembled then with excru¬ciating excitement, and tremble even now. And then another voice, older sounding, whispers words of caution that are lost on the wind.

I gun the motor to urge my rental up the steep hill and the cottage perched above the lake.

Holden Cottage is the only one in the compound that is set apart. The parcel of land along the north shore of Fourth Lake had been pur¬chased by the Holden family in the late eighteen hundreds, and they exercised their right to take first option: the high bank overlooking the lake.

The other three cottages are situated on a flat shelf of land halfway from the highway to the boathouse.

Though the cottages are all within a few yards of one another, well-matured stands of birch and blue spruce offer each of the three families complete privacy.

I pull into the parking space next to a silver 1988 Toyota Land Cruiser. Even after fifteen years, seeing that car triggers a grim reminder the accident.

A shudder begins at the top of my spine as I remember the day Uncle Aiden drove my sister Angela and me to Utica and then west on the New York Thruway to the Syracuse airport where we were depos¬ited curbside in disgrace.

Apparently fifteen years hasn’t been long enough. Although Arlene’s original invitation had been for the end of June, my cousin called in late March and asked me to push my visit to mid-June, saying she had a big surprise and couldn’t wait to tell me about it.

The date change was fine by me. For as long as I could remember Aunt Sallie always opened Holden Cottage the week before Memorial Day, and then spent the month of June enjoying the solitude of her aerie perched above Fourth Lake. For as long as I can remember, Uncle Aiden spent June in Wilmette. Why should this summer be any different?

I shift gears into park and stare at the Land Cruiser for a moment. As I do, an eerie feeling starts somewhere in my gut. I can’t shake the nagging feeling that something isn’t right. But nothing seems to be amiss. I shrug off the feeling, pop the trunk, and drag out my roller-bag.

I cross the road and struggle down the steep stone steps to the wooden deck. There is a handrail but it still wobbles. That handrail has been at the top of Uncle Aiden’s summer project list since forever.   

I walk to the kitchen door, a sliding glass door that my dad and his brother installed the first summer we visited. It gave the dark kitchen added light and a pleasant cross-breeze on the rare warm days.


No answer.

The kitchen, usually filled with the welcoming clang of cooking utensils and ever-enticing aromas, is eerily silent. I choke down my worry, assuring myself that I’m just being silly; that nothing is wrong.

I slide open the screen, step into the darkened room, and stop.

When the small voice at the side of my mind whispers, “Things aren’t right,” I call out: “Arlene?”

“Aunt Sallie?”


I stanch my rising panic, take a long breath, and tell myself that the women are probably at the Big M stocking up on groceries for the weekend. But that can’t be. The Toyota is in the parking lot. But then I remind myself that Arlene must have a car. 

I make the quick trip through the kitchen to the back hallway, drop my roller-bag on the bottom stair step, and return to open the refrigerator door to see Aunt Sallie’s signature pitcher of lemonade crammed with lemon and orange slices sitting on the bottom shelf. I’ve been dreaming about that pitcher of lemonade ever since I boarded the plane in Houston and that welcoming “gift” suddenly makes everything all right. 

I pour a glass, take a swig, and make my way outside to the deck.

It’s an unusually warm day for this time of year, and a gentle breeze stirs the budding trees. I flash back to summer afternoons spent with Aunt Sallie long ago, the way she would always ask about, and then praise, my achievements of the past year. She always encouraged me to study harder, play better golf, or pursue any goals I mentioned. I loved her for caring because my mother never bothered to ask me about anything. My mother has never cared enough to bother.  

I move to the railing, recalling how often I had leaned against the warm wood to inhale the sweet air rising from the lake. Then my gaze wanders to the narrow sand beach.

Bitter bile lunges to my throat as black spots spire before my eyes and my treasured glass of lemonade drops from my hand to shatter on the moss-covered outcropping below.

Overcome with horror I push away, take a few deep breaths, and then force myself to look a second time.

Thirty feet below, the upper part of her body face down in the frigid waters of Fourth Lake, lies my beloved Aunt Sallie. 

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