Book Reviews: Crying Blood by Donis Casey and Running on Empty by Sandra Balzo

Crying Blood
Donis Casey
Poisoned Pen Press, 2011, 250 Pages
ISBN No. 978-1590588314
Hardcover
Also available as a trade paperback

Haint is an old-fashioned word for ghost or lost soul.  Since Shaw Tucker went quail hunting on Peter McBride’s property, he feels that a haint is hounding him.  Shaw is the father of ten children and husband to Alafair and not one to take flights of fancy.  The hunting trip is brought abruptly to an end when Shaw’s dog Buttercup discovered a body buried on McBride’s property.  Shaw took a trinket from the corpse’s medicine bag.  It turns out Shaw won’t be rid of his uneasy feelings until he rids himself of the ghost that is following him.

The discovery of the body is reported to the Sheriff and the group of hunters’ returns home. Shaw goes about the everyday duties required of a landowner in Oklahoma in 1915 but he is unable to hide his concerns from Alafair.  Although Alafair does her best to set Shaw’s mind to rest he is still uneasy and fearful for his family.

Shaw’s fear escalates when he discovers that someone has stolen meat from the newly butchered pig that is hanging in the slaughtering area.  It doesn’t take Shaw long to capture the thief but his relief is short-lived.  Shaw is determined to unravel the mystery.

When Sheriff Scott Tucker invites Shaw to visit another town in search of information that will lead to the identity of the thief Shaw declines the invitation.  Alafair steps up and offers to accompany Sheriff Tucker so the two set off in an automobile to a nearby town to see what they can find out.  This fits right into Shaw’s plans.  Alafair has arranged for all of the children to be cared for in her absence.  As soon as Sheriff Tucker and Alafair are on the road, Shaw leaves home to return to the old McBride property where he plans to trick the haint into showing itself.

Crying Blood is a great addition to Donis Casey’s Alafair Tucker series.  Readers will become much better acquainted with Shaw in Crying BloodDonis Casey’s books always have some extras at the end so if you are thinking of butchering a hog or rendering lard or even making headcheese you will find clear instructions at the end of the book.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, February 2011.

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Running on Empty
Sandra Balzo
Severn House Publishers, 2011
ISBN No. 978-0727869814
Hardcover

AnnaLise Griggs is working when she receives a call from Mama, who is really not her mother, informing her that Daisy, who is her mother, had drained all of the blood out of Mrs. Brandenham.  Mama also informs AnnaLise that the doctor says Daisy is not quite right.  Mama is Phyllis Balisteri the proprietor of Mama Philomena’s restaurant in Sutherton, North Carolina, AnnaLise’s hometown.  AnnaLise began calling her mother Daisy when she was in kindergarten and eventually most everyone called Lorraine Griggs Daisy.

Mama’s call terrified AnnaLise who could not believe her mother who was still in her fifties was beginning to have mental problems.  The trip from Wisconsin to Sutherton was a trip back in time for AnnaLise who counted memories as she made the drive.  Sutherton was preparing for the Labor Day weekend when AnnaLise arrived in town.  She soon found out that although Daisy did make a terrible mistake when drawing blood from Ema Brandenham, Ema was suffering no ill effects from the accident.

Before AnnaLise had even been in town for a day, a body is pulled from the lake.    Chuck Greystone, an old friend from school, is now Chief of Police.  Chief Greystone rules that the death was not accidental.  Soon there was a second body pulled from the lake.  As AnnaLise and her hometown friends get together, everyone has a theory as to who is behind the killings.  AnnaLise decides that she must find the killer before someone begins to suspect Daisy, who is indeed acting strangely.

AnnaLise has a varied group of friends in Sutherton including Bobby Brandenham who still lives at home with his mother Ema Brandenham, the victim of Daisy’s blood-letting.

This is a good beginning to a new series by Sandra Balzo.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, February 2011.

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