Winner: Mystery Writers of America McCloy Award. National finalist: Women’s Fiction Writers Association “Rising Star” contest.
Cassandra Patton Conover is about to become an outlaw. Searching for her wayward dog in Maine’s dense woods, she finds her best friend Shannon crushed under a tree. Then she finds tracks larger than any animal she knows and a mystery only wild animals can help her solve.
Before she can absorb the loss of her friend, Patton is hired to guide a surly reporter who suspects extinct wolves have returned to Maine, but the forest has too many agendas. A billionaire hopes wolves will become a save-the-forest strategy. A timber company plans to exterminate the pack. A game warden loyal to his Penobscot tribe, his attraction to Patton, and his law enforcement life, has too many tough choices, and a black ops mercenary rips open Patton’s wounded life so he can aim her at the wolves.
When gold wolf eyes issue a challenge at her tent door, Patton is drawn deeper into Shannon’s mysterious murder and the wolves’ fate. To find her friend’s killer, she must find and trust the pack. To save her dog, the wolves, and her own life, she must step outside the law, sacrifice her career, and embrace a wild world.
I wasn’t really breaking the law. Maine’s a practical state. My ancestors knew they couldn’t slap a deed on something that slithers through fingers, so they made rivers and trout public property and left it vague how we’d get to them.
Last week my biologist boss thumped his coffee-stained map and complained about a billionaire buying up lands he used to fish on. I leaned over his shoulder, memorized Carla Monson’s streams, and, on my day off, drove north.
I parked next to a pile of naked logs that dwarfed my car and stared at Monson’s gate. Behind the wire she’d grown a green oasis where “No Harvesting” and “No Trespassing” signs swarmed the fence: signs that exclude people from large chunks of wild terrain are special invitations to me. I was a trespasser as soon as I could crawl away from my house toward woods and waters the wealthy used a few weeks a year. Behind Carla Monson’s gate, spawning trout had to be flinging themselves upstream under fall leaves as orange as their cold, swollen bellies. They were my kind of invitation.
Pock jumped out the window and crawled under the gate where his nose vacuumed the ground, and his wagging tail telegraphed urgent discovery. I slid my bike, pack, and fly rod under the gate, lay on my back, and skidded below nasty razor wire. Up on my knees, I rubbed my lumpy fingers, aware that arthritis was punishment for living past fifty, but strangely cheered that cold streams were my choice of painkiller. I saw serrated ATV tire tracks and muddy prints that didn’t fit my dog. Maybe a coyote—a large coyote. I groaned, stood, and yelled Pock’s favorite ice-cream invitation. “Let’s go, baby. Yip, yip. Zip, zip.”
No dog. I whistled and yelled again, annoyed I’d have to retrieve a Labrador retriever. When a rising breeze rained pine needles onto my shoulders and blew Pock’s frantic howls at me, I shoved loose hairs into my ponytail, shouldered my pack, and pedaled up Monson’s rutted road. Navigating an unfamiliar track I didn’t want to travel after dark, I crushed late-blooming goldenrod and bent low as the old road tunneled through birches twisted low by last winter’s heavy ice.
Behind a cedar swamp, Pock’s yowling rose to a frantic pitch, and he sounded squeezed for space. What could corner a ninety-pound dog? Officially, we’d killed off cougars and wolves years ago, but that hadn’t stopped rumors of them roaming the woods. I didn’t want to arrive home with a half-chewed dog—or not arrive home at all.
I dropped my bike and waded into the swamp. Muck oozed down my boots and glued my toes together before I found him, belly down in the dirt, ears flattened toward his back. Between howls he pushed his nose under a fallen white pine, its roots limp and naked over a dirty hole. Ancient mold stung my nose and eyes as I picked my way through amputated branches and pulled my dog away from the body.
Shannon Angeles lay under the massive tree. I knew her shocking red hair, her Flash Fire nail polish, even the smiling moon sticker on her left hiking boot. She wore the same pitch-stained clothes she’d worn days ago when she returned my battery charger and played tug-of-war with Pock. I saw only one collapsed cheek, but I knew my best friend was dead.
About the Author
I’ve been chased by moose, river otters, and mad mother partridges. And that’s recent. My seriously unsupervised childhood exploring clam flats, deep forests, and secret streams grew into my mystery/thriller,”Deadly Trespass.”
“Deadly Trespass” has received the national Mystery Writers of America McCloy award, was named a national finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association “Rising Star” contest, a finalist in the international Mslexia novel competition, and in Maine, received Honorable Mention in the Joy of the Pen competition.
The novel is infused with the drama and laughter of various outdoor careers, the sadness of loss, and close encounters with dogs and wildlife. I’ve been a whitewater river outfitter, licensed Maine Guide, co-founder of a coalition to protect the Penobscot River from a dam, and I am the author/editor of “Valuing the Nature of Maine,” and ‘Watching Out for Maine’s Wildlife” (reports that document nature’s economic value).
My ValueNature blog shares research and documentation useful to those who want to prove that the natural world has impressive economic might.
I live on Moosehead Lake with my husband and Labradors and would rather be fly fishing, skiing, paddling, or just generally “out there”–unless I’m writing new stories that guide people to a disappearing world.
I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl