Fire in the Stars by Barbara Fradkin
I enjoy spending time in Newfoundland – even if only vicariously by reading a book. Barbara Fradkin’s mystery series featuring Amanda Doucette begins with a novel set in Newfoundland – on the Great Northern Peninsula, Fire in the Stars.
Amanda Doucette has recently returned to Canada from Africa, were she was an international aid worker. She is still traumatized after surviving the horrific murder of villagers in Nigeria where she was working. One of her fellow aid workers who has returned home to Newfoundland, also struggling from his experience in Nigeria, has asked Amanda to come to Newfoundland, to join him on a camping trip with his young son. Amanda sees this as an opportunity that will help her continue to heal, to become again the strong and adventurous woman she once was, and to reunite with both Phil and Tyler in a happier, and safer, time and place.
It is early fall, when Amanda drives her motorcycle, with dog and dog carrier, from Ontario, taking the ferry to Port Aux Basques, stopping at the first Irving on the TCH for a full breakfast. It is a long drive to Grand Falls, and the home of her friend, Phil, his wife Sheri, and their young son, Tyler. When Amanda arrives she discovers that Phil and Tyler have packed up and left without her, and that Sheri is distraught, worried about her husband and son.
Corporal Chris Tymko, RCMP, Deer Lake, also a friend of Phil, is contacted and suggests that it is most likely that Phil and Tyler have headed up the Great Northern Peninsula as planned. Why they left without Amanda, and without a cell phone, no one understands, and they are all worried about father and son.
And, so the search begins. Asking in cafes and bars if anyone has seen a father and son, Amanda discovers they have indeed headed north and eventually to Croque – a remote harbour. Chris and Tyler have been seen in the village but their whereabouts is now unknown – they are most likely someplace north or south along the coast in an area of true wilderness.
Amanda discovers a place of wild beauty, spotty cell phone reception, changeable weather conditions and communities of mostly friendly, welcoming people who notice everything that is going on in their small harbours. Places, as Chris Tymko observes, where “everyone who doesn’t have six generations of ancestors buried in the local cemetery is new to the island”.
Amanda, putting her fear aside heads up the shore looking for Phil and Tyler. She discovers a shoreline with few places to land a boat, but many dangerous shoals. Once on shore she is faced with seemingly impassable dense forest. Forging ahead she follows what she thinks is a trail, perhaps the one that her friend has taken. Making discoveries along the way that test her physical and emotional strength, Amanda persists in her quest to find Phil, and especially to find Tyler.