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Mark Lavine
Mark Lavine, author
Following the tragic death of his young wife, Sam Thibeau and his eight-year-old son Harry move from California to a co-housing community deep in the Vermont woods, where they hope to leave behind their painful memories and start over in an unfamiliar land of snow and maple syrup. Just as they are starting to settle in, Sam comes across a series of strange clues and messages which appear to be meant just for him. The clues lead to what at first appears to be a financial windfall, but before long he finds himself caught in the middle of a skirmish between a Mexican cartel and a drug-running syndicate based in nearby Montreal. Left with no other choice, he enlists the aid of Cindy Yates, a local police detective, who not only helps him begin the healing of old wounds, but also has an idea for a way out of his predicament. Together, they attempt a daring scheme to turn the tables on the cartel and free Sam and his son from its deadly reach.
Lavine’s fast-paced debut finds Sam and his young son Harry vying for a fresh start in a secluded commune in Vermont’s wilderness, getting caught up in a clash with international drug dealers, and maybe, if they can survive, managing to heal. When his wife dies in a horrible car accident, Sam escapes to Windekind—a seemingly peaceful community composed of eight families living on shared land. Living worlds away from their hometown of San Diego, Sam and Harry soon discover that all is not as it seems in their quiet surroundings: on a trip to the local town library, Sam’s led to a treasure map with the aid of a mysterious stranger, jumpstarting a crash course of surprising events that change their lives forever.

Lavine reveals the story’s exciting twists carefully, and the multiple dueling plot lines, combined with well-developed characters, nicely tie the story together. Sam, who’s strapped for income and looking for ways to make ends meet, makes it his mission to find the treasure and turn a profit, but when he hits pay dirt he realizes he was only being used as a pawn in a more sinister plot. Readers will enjoy the mystery—and find themselves rooting for Sam and the sharply drawn side characters who get caught up in the same web of secrets and lies. When the mess becomes too sticky, and his son (and community) are threatened, Sam opts to work with the local authorities to extricate himself, a welcome and realistic move that creates its own set of complications.

Lavine utilizes multiple locales, a child phenomenon, and the threat of a cartel to build to the epic climax and satisfying conclusion, all executed with a polish and inventiveness that will please fans of brisk whodunits. Moments of romance are expertly blended into the high stakes criminal activity. Readers who can stomach the occasionally shocking violence will root for Sam to safely outsmart the antagonists.

Takeaway: A page-turning thriller full of mystery, twists, and cartel danger at the Canadian border.

Great for fans of: Ted Wood, Jon Redfern’s The Boy Must Die.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A