The Beautiful Risk
“Gripping, suspenseful read” —Booklist
“Dark and swiftly moving, both a thriller and an examination of how deep a connection can be.” —Kirkus Reviews
An intelligent, provocative standalone thriller from internationally bestselling author Lynn Hightower
The Beautiful Risk is a story of the collateral damage of grief, the adrenaline of revenge; it’s the story of corruption and greed, of ecoterrorism. Above all, it is a romantic thriller, a love story, a tale of courage and of mending a broken heart. It’s the story of a woman who will stop at nothing to uncover the truth.
Because when you don’t care if you live or die . . . you are always the most dangerous person in the room.
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Was it really an accident?
After nine months of sorrow and grief, Junie Lagarde — a brilliant forensic accountant and passionate guitarist — is gradually accepting life without her beloved husband Olivier, a French safety consultant and climate-change expert, whom she lost in a plane crash over Mont Blanc. Was it really an accident?
And what happened to her loyal hearing dog Leo, who ran off in the aftermath of the crash, disappearing into the dangerous mountain terrain?
But then Junie receives an unexpected call from France…
Capitaine Philippe Brevard, the man in charge of investigating Olivier’s death, has seen recent CCTV footage which shows Leo being held by a man who closely resembles Olivier — right down to his distinctive jacket.
It’s not Olivier.
It can’t be... can it? But who is the man — and what else is Capitaine Brevard hiding from her?
The Beautiful Risk
The plot of the story is centered on climate change and ecoterrorism. There is enough villainy in climate change to keep a thriller writer knee deep in plots. The climate change landscape is thick with dark money predators . . . with greenwashing Oil & Gas giants who make billions, and are experts at controlling the narrative of greenwashing, where they do a publicity spin about reducing emissions, which never actually happens. Meanwhile helping themselves to government subsidies to fuel their greenwashing persona. It’s a hell of a racket. Most of the progress I see comes from the European Union, and their network of NGOs have a lot of influence and power. And that is where the individual can make a difference. Anyone who stands their ground against these big companies is going to be a target. In my research, I ran across an espionage fueled NGO intent on holding these companies accountable and that inspired me to create my own espionage NGO, run by the ruthless and lethal Madame Reynard. There are a lot of dangerous women in this novel. An Ecoterrorist from the American South who will break your heart and chill your soul and keep you up at night. And my heroine, Junie Lagarde. When she finds out what really happened to her husband, all hell breaks loose, and the things she does are jaw dropping. And that is another thing I wanted to write about. How she survives losing the love of her life. And the dark and magical journey of grief.
My husband was French and he loved mountains, particularly the French Alps, Mont Blanc, and Chamonix. All the places I am afraid of because I don’t like heights, I don’t like to ski, and the Mont Blanc tunnel triggers my claustrophobia. But I was swept away by the beauty of the mountains, and charmed by the Parc de Merlet, a stunning wildlife sanctuary above the valley of Chamonix. I managed to get there on the last day of the season, when the snow was starting to fall. The people there were gracious and friendly, they answered all of my novelist questions, and assured me it would be impossible to get lost. I nodded and went off to explore, clutching the pretty little map they handed me. I was lost in eight minutes. Normally it would not have taken that long, but I was walking slow.
All of this is a shockingly easy drive from my favorite place in the novel, which also happens to be my favorite place in the world — Old Town Annecy, the Venice of France. I spent quiet and contented days there researching the novel and Annecy owns my heart. To me, it is the most beautiful city in the world, and it has everything I love. I got lost there too, several times, but you can see Mont Blanc from almost anywhere in the city, and I knew that if I kept it pretty much dead center, I could find my way back to my hotel.
Leo in the novel is based on my first German Shepherd, also Leo, and it was wonderful to bring him back for the novel. He was brave, loyal, protective, and huge. People thought he was a wolf. Two weeks after my husband and I rescued him, I was home alone when two men tried to break into the house. It was a home invasion, they knew I was there. Three seconds later they were on the run, and I thought Leo was going to go right through the glass door to take them down. I have never been more impressed. He lived a long Shepherd life, only listened to commands in French, and broke my heart when he died. And now I have my Leah, another German Shepherd who also insists I speak to her in French. She figured out that I have a hearing loss when she was just a puppy, and decided she needed to be my hearing dog. I did not even know there was such a thing, but our trainer picked up on it immediately, and coached me on working with her, and what a gift she is. She tells me everything she thinks I need to know…when a package is delivered, when a man is hiding in the bushes outside my office window, when the landscaping crew needs me to open the back gate, when she hears a siren, when the white cat is sitting on the porch. She rolls my yoga mat out every morning, brings me my socks, and makes sure I get frequent walks and plenty of time to play ball. She has a gentle heart but she is all Shepherd, and keeps me safe in the world.