The Shouts of Joy Skiing Fast Through the Woods*

SkiingDo you enjoy skiing? For people who do, there’s nothing like the feeling of almost flying as you go along. It’s good physical activity and it can be a lot of fun. But is it really healthy? Not if you read crime fiction. If you think about it, a ski lodge and ski slopes are terrific contexts for mysteries. You have a disparate group of people and lots of opportunity on the ski lift or slopes for a murder to occur. So it’s little wonder we see skiing pop up in crime fiction as much as we do. Here are just a few examples.

In Patricia Moyes’ Dead Men Don’t Ski, we are introduced to Scotland Yard’s Henry Tibbett and his wife Emma. In the novel, they take a skiing trip to Santa Chiara, in the Italian Alps. While they’re there, they’ll be staying at the Bella Vista Hotel. Shortly after their arrival, one of the other hotel guests, Austrian-born businessman Fritz Hauser, is shot and his body found on one of the ski lifts. Local police Capitano Spezzi and his team arrive to investigate. When they learn that Tibbett is with Scotland Yard, he is included in the team. Tibbett thinks he’s settled on the right suspect when there’s another murder. And this murder calls into question Tibbett’s entire theory. Once he re-thinks matters, he’s able to work out who the murderer is. And I think I can say without spoiling the story that there are several impressive ski scenes in the novel.

There’s also some memorable skiing in the ‘Emma Lathen’ writing duo’s Going For the Gold. The 1980 Winter Olympic Games are set to start in Lake Placid, New York. The Sloan Guaranty Trust has won the bid to provide banking services to the athletes and their coaching staff, as well as to those there to see the competitions. John Putnam Thatcher has been sent to Lake Placid to oversee the setup of the three Lake Placid branches of the Sloan and ensure that all goes smoothly during the games. Shortly after the games begin, French ski jumper Yves Bisson is shot by a sniper as he’s making his jump. Then, one of the Sloan’s branch managers, Roger Hathaway, reports that the Sloan has lost half a million dollars in a counterfeit scheme. A counterfeit traveler’s check signed by Bisson is an important clue that those two events are related. It’s not long before Thatcher discovers that Bisson was quite possibly part of a major swindling ring. Then, another competitor, Tilly Lowengard, is disqualified when it’s discovered she was under the influence of drugs during one of her runs. She says that she’s innocent, and it’s not long before it’s clear that she’s also been a victim of the killer. Then a blizzard strikes, trapping everyone in Olympic Village. Thatcher will have to work fast to catch the killer before there’s another murder.

In Beth Groundwater’s To Hell in a Handbasket, gift basket designer Claire Hanover travels to Breckenridge, Colorado, for a ski trip with her family. One day, the group is out on the slopes when Claire hears her daughter Judy shriek. She finds Judy distraught and her brother’s girlfriend Stephanie dead of what looks like a terrible accident. The police investigate, and it’s not long before they begin to suspect that Stephanie was murdered. Since Judy was with her at the time, she becomes a ‘person of interest.’ She claims that she’s innocent and Claire is determined to prove that she is. Soon enough, Claire finds herself and her family the targets of some very ruthless people.

Skiing is also popular of course in Canada. But it’s no safer there. Just ask the Wyatt-Yarmouth family, whom we meet in Vicki Delany’s Winter of Secrets. Wendy Wyatt-Yarmouth, her brother Jason and four friends take a ski trip to Trafalgar, British Columbia. Tragedy strikes when the SUV the group rented goes off an icy road and into the Upper Kootenay River. Inside are Jason and his friend Ewan Williams. Constable Moonlight ‘Molly’ Smith and her boss Sergeant John Winter investigate and soon find something very strange. Jason was killed as a result of the accident. But Ewan, as it turns out, was dead for some hours before the SUV went off the road. Now it looks as though Ewan might have been murdered, and Smith and Winters look into the deaths more closely. I can say without spoiling this story that Smith is a very accomplished skiier, and we get to see her on the slopes in a very memorable couple of scenes.

And then there’s Jo NesbΓΈ’s The Leopard (Could I really do a post about skiing without including Scandinavia?). At the beginning of this novel, Harry Hole is in self-imposed exile in Hong Kong. His plan is not to go back to Oslo, but then two women are found dead, killed in similar ways. It looks like the kind of case that Hary is especially good at solving, and so far, the police haven’t got any good leads. So police detective Kaja Solness is sent to Hong Kong to escort Hole to Oslo. He is, to put it mildly, reluctant. But in the end he goes with Solness when she tells him his father is severely ill. Still, he’s not eager to get involved in the investigation. Then, there’s another murder, this time of a female MP. Although it doesn’t seem so on the surface, Hole believes the cases are connected, and so they are. One of the links in the case is that all three women enjoyed skiing and went to the same ski lodge.

You see? Skiing can be an exhilarating pastime. But you do need to be careful. Which ski mysteries have you enjoyed?

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Rush’s Afterimage.


Filed under Beth Groundwater, Emma Lathen, Jo NesbΓΈ, Patricia Moyes, Vicki Delany

34 responses to “The Shouts of Joy Skiing Fast Through the Woods*

  1. I don’t ski… thankfully. πŸ™‚

  2. Ha! And to think that I just went skiing today – for the first time this winter! I’m glad I didn’t get to read your post beforehand, or I might have had second thoughts. I love skiing and any book with a skiing background has me interested – and there’s a couple of books you mention above that are new to me. I’ll investigate further, thank you…

  3. How on earth did you get that title?! πŸ™‚ I’m awful at skiing, and we don’t get enough skiing days in Scotland for me to do it much now – enjoy skating, though!

    • I like skating, too, Crimeworm :-). And trust me, you get more skiing days where you live than I do where I live… And as for the song? I can’t help it; there’s always a song going round in my mind.

  4. I tried to ski once, but my husband said reclining on my back at the bottom of a tiny bump in the snow was not correct form.

    Beth Groundwater, on the other hand, loves outdoor activities like skiing and lives in Colorado ski country. When she writes an adventure about the outdoors, she’s writing from personal experience of those sports.

    • Pat – Oh, I feel for you! I do! I’m in awe of people like Beth, who are athletic. And she brings that energy and experience very nicely into her stories I think.

  5. Clarissa Draper

    I’m Canadian but I don’t ski worth beans. However, I remember an amazing story that featured a scene on ski hill. Does that count? It’s from a book by David Morrell called The Brotherhood of the Rose. The most amazing scene in a ski shed.

  6. Not much skiing happening her Margot πŸ™‚

  7. I was waiting with bated breath to see which Agatha Christie book you would come up with for this one… πŸ˜‰

  8. Kathy D.

    I haven’t come across skiing in a mystery plot. However, as far as me skiing, I ask, “do Jewish families ski?” My mother would first worry about her children a) going somewhere without the rest of the family; 2) going across state lines; 3) going outside in the snow further than a few blocks from home; 4) engaging in a sport where equipment (other than skates) has to be purchased; and 5) engaging in a sport where one could get hurt — or worse.
    A few cases in point: When trying to cross-country ski in New Hampshire, my adult sister crashed into a tree (she was OK, but that was the last time she tried this), and my father, in his 50s, went skiing in a city park in the Bronx, and came home that day with a cast and crutches, having suffered a broken ankle. So, no, I don’t ski.

    • Kathy – Yes, there is definitely that worry factor, isn’t there? And crime fiction aside, it can be dangerous. I’m sorry to hear that both your sister and your father were hurt (thank goodness not critically!). Maybe that cultural tendency to worry isn’t such a bad thing when it comes to skiing…

  9. My children ski, but I don’t. πŸ™‚ My motto is: clumsy people shouldn’t get on skis. So I haven’t!

    • Elizabeth – You should see how many times I’ve bumped into things, dropped things, etc… And it’s funny how our children do things that we don’t. When my daughter was in middle school, she went zip lining one summer – whitewater rafting, too. Both are things I have decided I’m perfectly happy not doing. πŸ™‚

  10. I remember enjoying Margaret Yorke’s Silent Witness. A body in a chair-lift, a resort cut off by avalanche, skis that have been tampered with. Great stuff.
    Skis do play a part in one Agatha Christie mystery, I seem to recall . . .

    • Christine – They do indeed! πŸ™‚ – And thanks for mentioning the Yorke. I think she wrote some fabulous stories and doesn’t get the attention her work merits.

  11. I love the way we are none of us mentioning which Christie book that is! All such polite non-spoiler people. Ellis Peters has a (pre-Cadfael) book called the Will and the Deed where a group of people are trapped in a ski village after a forced landing in their plane. I think at the time she wrote it she would assume most of her readers had NOT skied, so it’s all very much of its time and exotic.

    • That’s us, Moira – polite and non-spoilish :-). That’s one thing I really do appreciate about all of you folks, and I try my best not to do myself. At any rate, thanks for mentioning the Peters. She is so well-known for her Cadfael mysteries (must spotlight one of them at some point!) that it’s nice to be reminded that she did lots of other novels as well.

  12. Kathy D.

    My sister was OK. My father eventually recovered from the broken ankle. And I have broken my leg and my ankle just in my own apartment building, so, no, I don’t ski. But my city friends don’t ski either. They go on vacations to get sun, swim, drink pina coladas, eat good food.
    I haven’t encountered skiing in crime fiction. I cannot see Commissaire Adamsberg or Commissario Brunetti skiing, certainly not Salvo Montalbano. And Nero Wolfe wouldn’t even allow skis or skiers in his brownstone.
    Perhaps the Scandinavian detectives ski. Probably many do.
    I really must get out of the big metropolitan areas readingwise!

    • Kathy – I’d well imagine that your friends prefer surf, sun, sand and piΓ±a coladas, especially right now. And you’re right; there are plenty of sleuths who wouldn’t ever go skiing (I really can’t imagine Nero Wolfe hitting the slopes!).

  13. I used too enjoy ski-ing but it’s an expensive hobby and I have seized up a bit. But I always like reading about anything set in a cold climate.

  14. Kathy D.

    But can you even picture Nero Wolfe sizing up skis in his house? He’d look at them like they were contraptions from Mars and yell, “Archie, get that confangled contraption out of my office!”

  15. Col

    I went skiing once and felt like I needed a holiday afterwards – never again!

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