I’m curled up in bed, spooked by the unfamiliar sounds of morning. The tent walls flap in the wind, tiny paws whisper on the snow, and campers snore in the tents near by. In the distant hills, a wolf howls. My fur rises on my back.

It’s still far from sunrise, but the blackness of night is beginning to fade. Soon the trip leaders will be up, shoving more wood into the woodstove and boiling water for coffee. Soon the delicious smells of oatmeal and maple syrup will fill the air. I love the wilderness. In fact I love just about anywhere as long as I have my beloved Amanda, food, and a stick to fetch. But the nights are long, cold, and boring. I’m stuck in the tent with Amanda, with hardly enough room to turn around, and because she’s afraid of fires, she doesn’t light the woodstove in the corner. I snuggle in her sleeping bag, but each time an animal goes by or the wind whips the branches against the tent, I’m on guard. The woods are alive at night.

My job is to keep Amanda safe and happy. She’s never told me that, but the way she hugs me close when she’s scared and laughs when I do something funny, I know I’m important. She named me Kaylee, which means a lively kitchen party, and she brings me everywhere. She even had a custom trailer made for her motorcycle – lime green to match the bike – so I could go with her on her adventures.

Amanda is brave and passionate, but she’s not fearless. I know something terrible happened to her far away in Africa, before I came into her life, and at night the nightmares still come. Once she hugged me so hard that I had to yelp to wake her up. After a few kisses from me, she started to breathe again. I love to keep her safe.

But I also love to run and play and fetch. On this camping trip, some of the students are afraid of dogs, Amanda says because of scary experiences before they came to Canada, but Jean Charles is always happy to throw a stick for me. He seems lonely and laughs when I bring it back for more. I’m easier to play with than the humans in the group.

Humans think too much. They make life complicated. This little group is from all over the world, but they’re the same age and from the same college. They should all get along, but some days have been tough. Dogs get jealous and suspicious too. We also fight about who’s on top and who gets the most food, the best toys, and the most hugs from our master. But we sort it out with a curled lip or a sidelong glance – no words needed – and a few seconds later, it’s all forgotten. Humans never forget. They remember every snarl and secret look. They imagine things that haven’t even happened yet! And they look for ways to win.

Amanda hopes these kids can put all that aside for the joy of the adventure. Part of my job is to help them forget. I’m not so sure, but luckily for me, I don’t think too much. In fact, I hear Jean Charles waking up. Time to play!


You can read more about Kaylee and Amanda in The Trickster’s Lullaby, the second book in the “Amanda Doucette” mystery series.

A winter camping trip turns deadly as two missing teenagers, a twisted love triangle, and the spectre of radicalism create turmoil in the remote Laurentian wilderness.

Amanda Doucette’s cross-Canada charity tour is in for a cold snap when she organizes a winter camping trip for inner-city young people in the stunning setting of the Laurentian Mountains. With a view to bridging cultural divides, she brings along a mixture of Canadian-born and immigrant youth.

Trouble begins when two of the teenagers disappear into the wilderness during the night: Luc, a French/English-Canadian with a history of drug use, and Yasmina, an adventurous young woman from Iraq who dreams of becoming a human rights lawyer. Although frantic, their parents are strangely secretive amid suspicions of drug use and forbidden romance. But when a local farmer turns up dead and terrorist material is found on Luc’s computer, the dangers turn deadly. Now in a battle against both the elements and police, Amanda and Corporal Chris Tymko discover a far greater web of secrets and deception.

As Amanda races to save the young people from danger, she finds herself fighting for stakes far higher than their own lives.

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About the author
Barbara Fradkin is a retired child psychologist with a fascination for why we turn bad. Besides her short stories and easy-read short novels, she is best known for her gritty, psychological Inspector Green series, which has received two Arthur Ellis Best Novel Awards. However, she recently embarked on a new mystery suspense series featuring international aid worker Amanda Doucette, who battles her own traumatic past to help people in trouble. Amanda’s canine sidekick, Kaylee, is based on one of Barbara’s own dogs.

The series debut, Fire in the Stars, was released in 2016, earning starred reviews, and the second, The Trickster’s Lullaby, is hot off the shelves. Barbara lives in Ottawa. Connect with Barbara at barbarafradkin.com.

All comments are welcomed.

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