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To Hell in a Handbasket by Beth Groundwater
Review by Gayle Surrette
Five Star (ME) Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781594147593
Date: 15 May 2009 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Beth Groundwater's Blog / Show Official Info /

Claire Hanover, her husband Roger, and daughter Judy, are taking a family vacation to ski and get reacquainted now that Judy's back from Europe and before she returns to college. Judy, however, surprised them when she announced she'd be spending a lot of time with her new boyfriend, Nickolas Contino, and his sister, Stephanie. However, on their first day of skiing, Stephanie is killed in a skiing accident. Claire thinks it's murder. Judy is upset, and her boyfriend's family is devastated. Everyone is more upset when Claire's suspicion of murder is found to be correct.

Claire and her husband are patching up their marriage after some problems that were resolved in the last book. This vacation was supposed to be a chance to spend time with their daughter, Judy, who has been studying in Europe. Claire is disappointed that things aren't going the way she wants them to and is having to readjust her thinking about her daughter. It's time to let go and she's having difficulty with the concept.

After Stephanie's death (Chapter 1) everyone is upset. The consensus is that an out-of-control snowboarder caused Stephanie to crash into a tree, but Claire believes she saw signs of another skier in the area and thinks it may have been deliberate. Judy feels her mother is making everything worse when Stephanie's family is devastated enough by this accident. Claire can't let it alone and when the authorities finally check into her theory, the death is ruled murder.

Groundwater deftly handles the inter-family relationships and emotional baggage that comes from children moving into adulthood. The relationship between mother and daughter must change and the push-pull of these changes is evident in the story but doesn't overwhelm the main plot line.

Judy and Nickolas act as young adults do without considering many of the ramification of their actions. Claire continues to want to be the parent who protects her child from the dangers of the world. Something has to give when Nickolas's sister is the victim of murder. Just who is his family and why would anyone want to kill Stephanie? Claire believes that is key and she's frantic to save Judy from heartache and danger.

How it all plays out makes for an engrossing and entertaining mystery that keeps you reading until the final page. Tightly plotted and very current, the story manages to keep you on the edge of your seat. Even though the physical violence is off screen, the tension comes from the potential danger to the characters you've met and come to be concerned about.

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