Book review: ‘Sierra Nevada: Trail of Murder’

Author Jennifer Quashnick is a South Lake Tahoe resident.
Courtesy photo |

Jennifer Quashnick, of South Lake Tahoe, offers a provocative winter read with the publication of “Sierra Nevada: Trail of Murder,” the first of the “Mountain Girl Mysteries” series.

In the book Rachel and her dog Bella are featured in the fictional stories, and, from the start, they are tangled up in uninvited danger and up to their necks in trouble. Quashnick is not only a novelist, she is also an environmental scientist. “Trail of Murder” reflects her savvy on the subject, especially as it pertains to Lake Tahoe and its preservation. Protagonist Rachel bears the same title. The drama begins in South Lake Tahoe, but Colorado and points beyond are on the map.

The story opens with the unfortunate discovery of a dead body and gains traction and tension when possible police corruption, a stalking secret, a dash of politics and a sprinkle of conspiracy splash onto the scene. Add to that a handsome private eye and a heavy dose of flirtatious banter, along with a fair bit of sexual tension, and a substantive novel emerges. “Trail of Murder” has a charming quality that I appreciated. One might not expect that from its title, but with Bella at the center of the action how could it not be charming? She is a sweet dog readers will come to love.

Who would guess this pair could get into such a dangerous predicament by taking a walk in the woods? Albeit, it was a trail not widely travelled by many, but its remote location provided solitude and made it all the more appealing. It was Bella that made the ill-fated find, that of a man’s body whom appeared to have met his demise in the moments before the discovery. Who was he? Was this an accident or a crime? Was a killer lurking and on the loose? Upon the shocking sighting Rachel and Bella’s lives were shaken to the core. The feeling of danger was unfamiliar and scary. After returning to town safely and reporting it to the police, Rachel was met with skepticism. Her credibility was in question, and the authorities were unwilling to explore the situation much beyond step one. Now what to do? Enter Luke Reed, a charismatic but also annoying and arrogant private detective. At least he would hear her out and help her find answers, right? The trio is off on a mission to discover the truth.

Bella, along with the quirky and unlikely relationship between Luke and Rachel, gives the story a softer side and provides a fair amount of feel good moments. Quashnick has clearly developed and defined the personalities of her characters and uses the opposites-attract angle to play them off of each other. The pace keeps a nice clip for the most part, but there are a few times when it slows, mostly during technical exposition. Most of us do not know much about environmental practices, and we learn something along the way. “Sierra Nevada, Trail of Murder” is a dog story and a love story but is also a story that just might rattle your cage enough to pay attention to environmental concerns and take seriously the social responsibility we have to protect Lake Tahoe. Locals will dig into “Sierra Nevada: Trail of Murder,” as will dog lovers and anybody who enjoys a solid whodunit tale.

“Sierra Nevada: Trail of Murder” can be purchased online at or at Quashnick can also be contacted directly at

Gloria Sinibaldi resides part-time in South Lake Tahoe. Her short story, “A Means To Survive,” appears in “Tahoe Blues.” She is a job coach, trainer and author. Contact her at

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