After nine months on the road, Maxie McNabb is ready for some R&R, Alaska-style, with her miniature dachshund, Stretch. But no sooner has the sixty-something RVer parked the Mini-Winnie than a pleading phone call sends her flying to Hawaii. Because Karen Bailey, hobbled by an accident, needs Maxie’s help packing up her house.But within hours of Maxie’s arrival, a prowler tries to break in and someone sabotages the plumbing. And when she hears Karen whispering into the phone-don’t call here…I’ll call you when it’s safe, when she’s…-Maxie suspects that Karen is hiding something. Far from home and no longer behind the wheel, Maxie feels as though the ice is melting around her.
I initially discovered Sue Henry during the winter of 2011 when I picked up one of her Jessie Arnold mysteries. Jessie Arnold is a dog sled musher who lives in Alaska; plan to hear more about this series in December when I am on an Alaska kick! The Refuge is an adventure involving Henry’s other heroine, Maxie, whom I first met while reading the Jessie Arnold mystery, Dead North. I was initially hesitant to jump into a Maxie and Stretch adventure because Maxie, a woman in her sixties who travels the country in an RV, is quite different from Jessie. But, I was in the mood for a book based in Hawaii and The Refuge seemed to fit the bill. I wasn’t disappointed, though I have to admit that this is not Henry’s best work.
The first half of the story find Maxie stuck on the Big Island helping an acquaintance pack up her home in Hawaii to make the move back to Alaska. The beginning is rather tedious, as Maxie, and myself, can barely stand Karen. The pages were filled with packing, as Susan berates Maxie while acting like a complete air-head. I was surprised that Maxie even took the trip to Hawaii to help a woman she barely tolerated, and I was relieved when Karen was finally forced out of the story via a airplane bound for Alaska. I have a difficult time with needy characters, and admit that I might have dropped The Refuge if I hadn’t been listening to an audio version.
I am glad I kept going because the action showed up in the second half of the novel. Maxie, and her teenage runaway friend, travel the Big Island in a rented camper. Forget the hints of intrigue in the first half, because now Maxie is plagued with a series of attacks, break-ins, and dangerous activity. Yet, Maxie and her young companion continue to travel the island despite the continuous threats. It never really feels like there is a mystery to solve, and honestly, The Refuge is actually a travel thriller.
The Refuge may not be Henry’s best piece, but it was still enjoyable. It is definitely worth the read if you are looking for something light and summery. Henry’s writing is engaging and her words took me back to my own travels around the Big Island. I also enjoy Maxie’s relaxed personality, non-nonsense nature, and love of both books and culture. It was fun driving the roads of Hawaii with her while stuck in rush hour traffic.
Check out all the books in Sue Henry’s two series and let me know what you think!