Sue Henry has two series. One is about Iditarod participant Jessie Arnold. The other is about Maxie McNabb, a widow who travels during Alaska’s coldest season and sometimes at other times also, usually in her Winnebago, and usually in the company of her miniature dachshund, Stretch. As she makes her way around the USA, the reader picks up all sorts of minutiae about the culture, history, flora and fauna of various places in the United States. For those of us who are curious yet sedentary, it’s an added benefit to reading the story, and she works her discoveries in as a natural part of what her character learns, so it doesn’t have the false, abrupt quality of (my pet peeve among cozy mysteries) dropping recipes into stories. *Shudder!* The Refuge, which I obtained free of cost at the local library to lighten up an otherwise heavy-duty reading load, is a Maxie and Stretch book, the third in the series.
I was disappointed to see that Stretch was left out of this book, except for a brief bit at the end. Maxie goes to Hawaii to assist a friend-of-a-friend who is attempting to move herself and her belongings back to Alaska, her original home, from Hawaii. She is laid up with injuries and has two weeks to get out of her rented home. Since Maxie didn’t especially want to go to Hawaii, it seemed odd she would do this for someone that wasn’t a close friend, but she does so, and then finds herself stalked by a strange man, who becomes more menacing as time goes by.
The good thing about this story is that the tone is congenial and the pacing is about right for bedtime. It is interesting yet not so heart-stopping, as some thrillers are, as to affect one’s dreams or ability to go to sleep once the book is set aside.
Once her obligation to this irritating, helpless-behaving woman is dispatched, Maxie has a few days remaining before she can return to Alaska. (Once again, one cannot help wondering, since she yearns to return to her own home and hound, why she doesn’t simply go to the airport and inquire about an earlier flight, but whatever.) She decides to rent a camper and see more of the Big Island, and her sight-seeing adventures include a place known as The Refuge. Historically this was a place built behind a wall of “lava rock” and was considered a sacred place which, if a criminal guilty of a capital crime could reach it without being apprehended, he was considered safe and permitted to live out his days. So it was rather a clever place to have the criminals follow Maxie and her travel guide and companion, and for the showdown to unfold.
As you can probably tell, I would not pay full price for one of these books, and I won’t read the other series after having tried it once and been bored in the extreme by Iditarod details. (If you think this might be interesting try the books, but I have to say that I read one with the same notion and came away glazed.)
Nevertheless, when a low key interlude is needed, Maxie and Stretch (when he is included) fit the bill, at least for me.
Recommended for cozy mystery fans that are ready to buy the premise in return for a soothing bedtime story.