Elizabeth George sets latest novel on Whidbey Island

Small town Langley and the dark, moody forests surrounding it on south Whidbey Island is the setting for a new young adult novel by a best-selling author.

Writer Elizabeth George’s “The Edge of Nowhere” ($18.99) follows Becca King, a teenager with an assumed identity on the run from a threatening stepfather.

An unexpected event leaves the teen stranded alone on Whidbey, a strange place, with nothing but her wits and a rickety bicycle.

She gets caught up in an apparent attempted murder and meets a cast of island characters who harbor their own hurts and secrets. Becca also has the ability to hear other people’s thoughts, a gift that seems to cause her more grief than good.

A young adult novel set here is a first for George. She is well known by mystery readers for her best-selling British crime novels featuring inspector Thomas Lynley. Most of her stories have been filmed for television by the BBC and have been broadcast in the U.S. on PBS Mystery.

A popular series of young adult novels she declined to name inspired her to try something new.

“I read a couple of bad young adult novels and they were just terribly written,” she said. “I felt it was doing kids a disservice.”

Local readers will recognize the south Whidbey that George creates in the novel, right down to the steep road leading away from the Clinton ferry dock, which Becca huffs up on her 10-speed. A good portion of the story takes place in and around Langley.

George has retained some of the names of real places there, including the Dog House, an abandoned tavern Becca hides in. Readers will recognize other businesses, South Whidbey High School and the twisty, hilly roads of the island.

She’s incorporated bits of the south end’s eccentric, arty culture, too, such as people’s willingness to barter.

Although George’s previous work is set in England, she’s not British. The anglophile lived most of her life in Southern California. She moved to South Whidbey with her husband in 2006. She found the island perfectly suited for the setting of a novel.

“Setting is what inspires story for me,” she said. “Whidbey Island has so many places that by their names alone ask to be a setting.”

Just for starters, Mutiny Bay and Smuggler’s Cove. The office where she writes has a window view of Saratoga Passage.

George finds writing about the place she now lives more difficult than England.

“It’s easier for me to write about a place I don’t live,” she said. “When you live in a place, you drive around and you miss the telling details because you’re going about your daily life and you don’t notice things.”

She wrote “The Edge of Nowhere” at the same time she was working on another of her British crime novels. She’d work part of the day on one book, then study Italian to clear her head before moving on to write the other.

“The Edge of Nowhere” ends without resolving one of the central plot points. That will come later. She’s contracted to write a total of four novels in this series, and she’s already completed the second, titled “The Edge of the Water.”

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