A Rachel Goddard Mystery
Poisoned Pen Press, March 2014
Also available in hardcover
From the publisher—
When a powerful development company sets its sights on Mason Country, Virginia, as the location for a sprawling resort for the rich, the locals begin taking sides. Many residents see the resort as economic salvation for the small Blue Ridge Mountains community, while others fear the county will become financially dependent on a predatory company.
Few oppose the development more vocally than veterinarian Rachel Goddard. She sides with locals reluctant to sell their land and, in the process, complicates the life of her new husband, Sheriff Tom Bridger.
When a beloved couple is gunned down on the very farm they refused to sell, it seems supporters will stop at nothing to ensure the success of the resort. Now disagreement in the community has exploded into civil war with both sides lashing out. As the violence escalates, Rachel discovers the attacks are more sinister than they appear.
Can she bring the truth to light before her community tears itself apart?
It’s hard to say whether Poisoned Ground and earlier books in this series should be called mystery, suspense, police procedural or thriller because, in reality, none of those subgenres is inappropriate. There’s even a dash of cozy at times or perhaps traditional would be a more accurate term. That’s the beauty of Sandra Parshall‘s books—they appeal to a wide spectrum of crime fiction readers (although the hardcore cozy bunch might not find them entirely to their liking). All I know is, when I see Sandra Parshall‘s name on it, I’m quite sure this is a book I’m going to like and this latest entry is no exception.
The intimidation and divisiveness that goes on when a big corporation wants to take over large swaths of land is at the core of Poisoned Ground. We’ve all seen it, even if only remotely, when Walmart tries to move into an area that has survived quite nicely without a megastore and the arguments for and against go on endlessly until, in the end, Walmart almost always wins. It’s difficult for a governing body to ignore the economic benefits such a company might bring to the locality but that means that personal fallout is inevitable, particularly the loss of land or a beloved business. Throw in the animosity that arises when holdouts prevent financial windfalls to others and the fuse is lit on the powderkeg.
Such is the atmosphere when veterinarian Rachel Goddard stops by her friend Joanna’s farmhouse and finds her holding a local banker at bay with a shotgun. Robert McClure’s transgression? He’s there to offer a deal for Joanna’s land, a deal she doesn’t want, and he just won’t give up. When shots ring out, though, they’re not from Joanna’s gun. They seem to come from a neighboring farm, home to Lincoln and Marie Kelly who also oppose the development causing tempers to flare all over the area.
Tom Bridger, Rachel’s husband and recently elected sheriff, arrives on the scene and immediately knows he’s looking at murder but is it really because this well-liked couple didn’t want to sell? Tom and his deputies follow up one lead after another, none leading to full answers, and suggestions begin to point at other possible motives. Rachel, in the meantime, while not sleuthing per se, learns even more about some of their neighbors than she could ever have suspected.
I’ll admit I had a pretty good idea of who was killing people somewhat before any of the characters did (and I was right although I didn’t know why) but that didn’t matter in the least. Rachel and Tom are one of my very favorite crime fiction couples and the reasons are simple: they’re both very astute, they love and respect each other, they’re both good at their jobs and Rachel does not behave as though Tom is incapable of investigating the crimes that occur around them. Add to my affection for them the well-drawn, interesting people they live among, plots that are clever and full of puzzling leads and quality writing and, as I said before, each book is one I’m bound to like. Poisoned Ground by Sandra Parshall is the latest in a string of intelligent mysteries and I’m just sorry I now have to wait for the next one—but at least I don’t have to wonder if it’ll be good 😉
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2014.