|Elbow River Now and During the 2013 Flood|
Debut author JE Barnard’s first contemporary suspense novel, When the Flood Falls, won the 2016 Unhanged Arthur Award and was published this year by Dundurn Press of Toronto. She lives in a vine-covered cottage between the Bow and Elbow Rivers, both of which flooded in 2013 and helped inspire her debut crime novel. Learn more about JE at her website.
Rising River, Rising Tension….
In When the Flood Falls, burnt-out ex-Mountie Lacey McCrae arrives in the tiny foothills town of Bragg Creek, Alberta. She’s hoping for solitude and healing. What she finds instead is emotional turmoil that rivals the currents in the melt-swollen Elbow River. Her old university roommate, who offered her shelter, is a paranoid wreck after months of a nighttime prowler, and the whole town is braced for a possible recurrence of the flood that very nearly destroyed it five years ago. Standing on the brink of the swirling torrent is the brand-new Arts Museum, with its ground-level classrooms and below-ground art vault.
The town is real, the massive 2013 flood left very real scars, and the collective breath-holding every June—until the dense snow on the mountain peaks has come gently down the river—is real.
However, to fit in my fictional art museum along the riverbank, I had to arbitrarily triple the distance between the riverbank and the West Bragg road. For my lovely imaginary building, think log walls and three-storey glass façades on both the river and the road frontages. There’s a theatre wing and a two-storey museum wing, a catering-sized stainless kitchen, classrooms, art library, offices, meeting rooms, and of course the vault—all in a pristine wilderness setting with a view upriver to shining mountain peaks.
On a steep, craggy hillside above the new facility, I carved out a curving road and built several luxurious log homes for the fictional hockey stars and oil-company executives (including Lacey’s new roommate) that I added to the local population. At the top, where the real hill flattens out in a small plateau, is an imaginary oil baron’s lavish country getaway, complete with two pools, a riding stable, and a helicopter landing pad—installed after the 2013 flood so he would not be cut off from the world again if the bridge went under. This simple hacienda-style sprawl with its white stucco walls and clay-tile roof is deceptive. It looks like a single-storey from the entrance gates but the house extends three levels down the hillside, maximizing the view over the river valley and mountain peaks. For an addict of fabulous-homes television, there’s no greater bliss than mentally designing and decorating seven luxury homes and a multi-millionaire’s entire estate.
How these settings play in When the Flood Falls:
1. In the art vault, Lacey is nearly crushed to death by a rolling steel rack that weighs a thousand pounds.
2. On the oil baron’s top terrace, near the party pool, an overheard snippet of conversation triggers a murderer during an NHL playoff party.
3. In the surging river right outside the Art Museum, the hit-and-run vehicle is dumped.
4. In the closed, deserted Art Museum, on a sultry summer evening, Lacey at last confronts the killer. With the nearest RCMP post half an hour away, even if she does manage to call for help, the real trick will be surviving until it arrives.
When the Flood Falls
A Falls Mystery
When a phantom stalker targets her friend, Lacey McCrae’s crime-busting skills are tested to their limits.
With her career in tatters and her marriage receding in the rear-view mirror, ex-RCMP corporal Lacey McCrae trades her uniform for a tool belt, and the Lower Mainland for the foothills west of Calgary. Amid the oil barons, hockey stars, and other high rollers who inhabit the wilderness playground is her old university roommate, Dee Phillips. Dee’s glossy life was shaken by a reckless driver; now she’s haunted by a nighttime prowler only she can hear.
As snowmelt swells the icy river, threatening the only bridge back to civilization, Lacey must make the call: assume Dee’s in danger and get her out, or decide the prowler is imaginary and stay, cut off from help if the bridge is swept away.