Title: Valley of the Lost
Author: Vicki Delany
Publisher:Blackstone Audiobooks 
ISBN: n/a (digital download via audible.com)
Length: 9hours 34 minutes
Narrator: Carrington MacDuffie
In the small town of Trafalgar in the hinterland of British Columbia, Canada, ageing hippie Lucky Smith finds the body of a young woman in the woods near the women’s support centre where she works. Lying by the body is a crying baby boy. The police, including Lucky’s daughter Molly who is a probationary constable, soon realise that the dead woman has hidden her past well and they struggle to piece together what might have happened to the young mother. Some are quick to write the death off to the relapse of a heroin junkie but Sergeant John Winters wonders if there’s more to it. As the investigation proceeds Lucky looks after the baby, fighting off a determined social services officer in the process.
Although the mystery itself unfurls relatively slowly it doesn’t matter as there’s lots going on and I was quickly drawn into the world the author had created here. As is the way with small towns, many of the people know each other and the author does a great job of introducing the various characters and making the reader care about them by showing snippets of their day-to-day lives. Alongside the Smith family and the engaging lead investigator there are a host of other people who play roles that may not have anything to do with the mystery but are still people you want to know more about. If you’d suggested to me before I read this book that someone could make me even vaguely interested in a character who was an ex-super model I’d have laughed at you but Eliza, John Winters’ wife, is a delight as she wrestles with her own career crisis while supporting her husband in his demanding job.
The book is a combination whodunit and police procedural and offers the best of both. Winters doggedly interviews and re-interviews people who he thinks might know something about the dead girl’s past. In this way the various potential suspects are slowly fleshed-out and the pool narrowed down. The resolution is ultimately quite complex but credible within the context of the story and very easy to follow.
I’m also thrilled to point out that Delany has succeeded in incorporating the political/social commentary into the story via character traits or story threads as authors are supposed to do. Unlike this book and this one, both recent reads, I didn’t feel like I was being lectured to like a naughty (or stupid) schoolgirl and so was far more willing to contemplate the important themes being raised in the story.
This was a thoroughly entertaining book with a whole host of great characters and a multi-faceted plot and I’ll be looking for more books by Vicky Delany.
Audio-book specific comments: The narration is excellent with MacDuffie managing to make it clear which of the many characters is speaking with only minor differences in her tone or inflection. Normally I listen to audio books while doing something else but with this one I sat in my reading chair and listened to the last hour or so just to enjoy being read to.
My rating 4/5
Reviewed by Lesa at Lesa’s Book Critiques
Reviewed by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise (whose review prompted me to seek this book out)
This is the second book in Delany’s series featuring John Winters and Molly Smith and she has also written some standalone novels. As well as having her own website Delany is one of the authors who publish the group blog Type M for Murder (one of the group blogs I didn’t feature in last Sunday’s post about this phenomenon)