Local mystery writer reads at World Eye today, 5-6 p.m.
“Danger in the Air” by Dusty J. Miller (White River Press, 345 pages, $21)
Local author Dusty Miller has created an engaging sleuth — and a page-turning mystery — in her first novel. A former psychotherapist and the author of books and articles about the impact of childhood trauma on survivors, Miller has applied her love of fiction and her passion for justice to “Danger in the Air.”
Miller will sign copies of “Danger in the Air” and talk about the art of writing a mystery at World Eye Bookshop in Greenfield on Thursday, July 11, from 5 to 6 p.m.
The “air” in the title is the stuff Americans breathe and this mystery is based on a real situation. Miller’s heroine, Alice Ott, is an elderly social activist and Internet whiz. Alice discovers through online research that microbiologists from around the nation have been dying in an improbable number of accidents.
She connects these deaths to the nationwide anthrax scare after the terrorist attacks of 2001 — and to the Army medical-research laboratory at Fort Detrick in Maryland.
Alice brings together an intriguing band of sleuths, most of them senior citizens, to figure out who is threatening the nation. This heroine and her friends are gentle in person but fierce in their determination to make sure that justice is done. They do battle with serious foes, trained killers working for a shadowy government agency that answers to no one.
Alice walks with a cane and relies on an oxygen tank. Nevertheless, she and her cohorts travel up and down the East Coast as they find clues on computers and in the real world, trap bad guys and eat delicious treats.
Miller does an excellent job of ratcheting up suspense. First novelists often have trouble creating distinctive characters, but this writer uses tiny details to make each character memorable.
She cuts back and forth between subplots in a fast paced, almost cinematic manner. Even readers who know little about biological weaponry will become involved in the story and root for Alice and her friends.
Local readers will be particularly tickled by familiar landmarks mentioned in the novel. The tiny New England town in which Alice lives is unnamed, but it is near Shelburne Falls, where she does a lot of shopping. Moreover, several dramatic scenes are set in a candle factory cum shopping mall that is clearly based on Yankee Candle.
Like Miller herself, Alice is a member of the Raging Grannies, an international group of senior activists with heart. One hopes that Alice and her friends will come back soon to rage, love, and outwit bad guys.
“Danger in the Air” is available at the World Eye Bookshop.
Tinky Weisblat is the author of The Pudding Hollow Cookbook (www.merrylion.com) and the new Pulling Taffy (www.pullingtaffy.com). She is always looking for new books from Franklin County authors to review for this paper. If you have a book suggestion, email her at Tinky@merrylion.com.