Travel Books

A mystery, a memory and a guide to northern Minnesota – Twin Cities

Today we have one great funeral dog mystery, another one that sees a British veteran returning to a place where he was stationed during World War II, and an informative guide for your next trip to northern Minnesota.

“The guardians” by Jeffrey B. Burton (Minotaur Books, $ 26.99)

One of the most intriguing mystery series launched last year was St. Paulite Jeffrey Burton’s “The Finder,” starring Chicago-based Mason “Mace” Reid, a reserved guy whose corpse dogs are trained to find corpses. Reid’s pack, which he considers his “children”, includes Elvira – Vira – a golden retriever with unusual powers. “The Finders” received high praise, including star ratings from Booklist and Library Journal.

Now Reid is back in “The Keepers,” which begins with Reid and his dogs being called into a park at 3am to look for a body. What Reid hears during this search puts him in the middle of the deadly corruption of politics and gangsters, aided by a cold-blooded murderer who collects idioms. So big is this interesting character that Reid calls him “a film noir version of Paul Bunyan”. Also returned is Kippy, a cop who should be a detective because she is smart and accomplished, but her promotion is blocked by a jealous male detective.

Reid, still grieving over his divorce, is drawn to Kippy and she reciprocates the emotions. They agreed to the “friends only” route, but Reid doesn’t think he can ignore his feelings for the handsome officer for long. Both love Reid’s dogs, including Sue, a dignified German Shepherd who is recovering from an attack in the previous book; two farm collie sisters; a silly puppy who has not yet started exercising and who spends his days rolling around in smelly things; and Vira, whose skills go beyond sniffing. She seems to be able to smell evil in a person’s DNA, even though Reid hasn’t figured out how to do it.

When Reid and Kippy fall into the traps of the bad guys, they have to flee to a cabin in the woods. But the corrupt police superintendent tells his huge enforcer: “… it’s time for you to get the dog man.” (This is not a spoiler. We know early on who wants Reid and his dogs dead.)

Jeffrey Burton lives in St. Paul with his wife and two dogs. “The black Pomeranian is called Luicy and the happy galoot of a beagle is Milo.” (Courtesy Cindy Archer-Burton)

In the heartbreaking conclusion, Reid’s “children” unite to show their savage courage and loyalty in defending their master at the risk of their own lives.

Burton grew up in St. Paul and earned a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. The novels in his mystery series “Agent Drew Cady” include “The Chessman” and “The Eulogist”.

In the crowded mystery area, Burton has created a special place where brave dogs, a personable protagonist who tries to avoid trouble, and loads of action are linked together. Anyone who has loved a dog will hope this series continues. Will Reid and Kippy get together? Will Reid’s “children” continue to spy on the bad guys? And will Vira’s sinister powers continue to amaze everyone?

“The sting of love” by Janet Graber (Wise Ink, $ 18)

At the end of his life, James Alexander Drummond asks his daughter Georgina to accompany him to Trieste, Italy, where he was stationed as a British captain during World War II. Georgina, who loves her father, agrees because she has problems in her marriage.

The story moves between James and his daughter’s present-day experiences and his time in Trieste during the war when he met a woman who changed his life. Who, asks Georgina, is the little boy in the picture that her father is carrying with him? And why is he hiding the reason for his future trip? When James is admitted to the hospital during the trip, Georgina has to solve her father’s secrets on her own.

Graber, winner of a McKnight Artist Fellowship in children’s literature, makes her adult debut in “The Sting of Love”. Her research took her to Italy and Slovenia, and she manages to recreate that part of the world during the war and today. While this novel is involved and the author writes point-by-point dialogue, her book is 346 pages long and there are times when the reader wishes she could push the plot a little faster. A subplot about secrets in Georgina’s life and her relationships with her daughters distracts focus from her father’s story.

“100 Things to Do in Minnesota Northwoods Before You Die” by Julie Jo Larson (Reedy Press, $ 17)

COVID restrictions are being relaxed and everyone is ready to go – well, somewhere. If you can’t afford to get on a plane to Mexico or Europe, Julie Larson shows you all the places to visit when flying north.

The author admits a deep wanderlust and leaves her home in rural Brainerd to explore with her “colorful crew of women” called MsStorians who “cross the Minnesota Northwoods in search of history, fun and spicy drinks.”

This handy paperback is organized by subject – food and drink, music and entertainment, sport and recreation, culture and history, and shopping and fashion. There are suggestions for routes and activities according to the season.

Did you know about the jams and jellies at Butkiewicz Family Farm near the Kettle River? Everyone knows Betty’s Pies in Two Harbors, but did you know there are wineries in Lutsen, Alexandria, Laporte and Brainerd? Would you like to spot falcons at the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth? How about a wild rice demonstration at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum?

Larson has phone numbers and web addresses for all of the venues so you can check what’s open in these days of changing COVID restrictions.

There are plenty of travel guides for Minnesota, but if you’re heading to I-35 for a weekend getaway, you must have this easy-to-navigate little gem.

Take this “Up North” quiz

To whet your appetite for “the North,” try answering these five questions from Larson.

  1. What is Minnesota’s Most-Visited Historic Mansion?
  2. What are the “lost 40” of Minnesota’s 17.4 million acres of woodland?
  3. Which city was listed as one of the best places to live and smartest cities in 2018 by Outdoor Magazine?
  4. When dining at the Palmer House Hotel & Restaurant in Sauk Center, which famous author’s street is just a few meters from your table?
  5. Name the longest ship on the Great Lakes.

Reply: 1: Glensheen in Duluth; 2: A survey error from 1882 is attributed to the Lost 40 Scientific and Natural Area near Northome, which now has a loop trail that takes visitors past white and red pines over 230 years old; 3: Crosby, Minnesota; 4: Main Street from Sinclair Lewis; 5: The Paul R. Tregurtha, at 3,013.5 feet, can often be seen from the outside deck of the Lake Superior Marine Museum in Duluth. Visitors can listen to their “conversation” with the Aerial Lift Bridge.

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