Among the many good reads I have come across on my rather (but not completely) indiscriminate spree of downloading free ebooks from Amazon's kindle shop was "Color Tour" by Aaron Stander. (I'm itching to write "Colour Tour", but the title is really spelled "Color", as it is by an American writer.)
It is the 2nd of (so far) 8 mysteries featuring Ray Elkins, sheriff at a small community on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Ray comes across as level-headed and deeply caring about his home town and its people. He is single, middle-aged, and has a thing for great cheeses, oils and wines. There was a woman living with him, but their relationship gradually shifted to being good companions without the excitement of romance and love, and she has moved away to be closer to her new grandchildren, feeling her family now needs her more than Ray does.
A young couple is murdered on the beach, the woman having been a teacher at a nearby boarding school. Rays investigation leads him deep into the close-knit world of an elite private school where teachers, students and staff are together almost 24/7, with all the conflict and issues people can have with each other in such an environment. Throw in a load of teenagers with raging hormones, some teachers with alcohol problems, budget worries and internal politics, and you get an explosive mixture.
This wasn't an instant guess; for a long time, I did not know who the murderer was and how everything was connected. The only thing I found rather foreseeable was the development of a new romantic interest for Ray, but that wasn't overdone and not unrealistic.
The school and its surroundings, Ray's house, the victim's cottage, the lake - everything is described so well. That includes the people; one can almost hear their voices and see them move.
Links between the community - where most of the staff comes from - and the school itself with its rather elite approach, as well as the complex relationships between colleagues, friends and lovers are explored and form part of the puzzle.
There are a few typesetting errors, but not enough to dampen my reading pleasure. Stander's writing style is good, clear, not too long-winded but still poetic enough (where appropriate) to set the inner cinema in motion.
I didn't know the author at all but have found his website here.
From the "about" section, I learned that Aaron Stander has some things in common with several of his characters. He used to be a teacher, lives in the area he describes so well, and shares Ray Elkins' love for kayaking.
Not having read the first book in the series did not matter. But I am really interested in reading more.