Book Review: Strange Country by Deborah Coates

Strange CountryStrange Country
Deborah Coates
Tor, May 2014
ISBN 978-0-7653-2902-8

I wish I’d read the book that came before this one. It would’ve clarified some of the many references to previous goings on. That said, this one is self-explanatory enough that I never got lost. I just had to take some things on faith.

In a nutshell, the grim reaper (Death) wants South Dakota rancher Hallie Michaels to take his place. She’s already died once and is a great candidate for the job. Troubled by the ghosts all around her, Hallie just wants to be let alone and to live her second-chance life, preferably with her love, Deputy Sheriff Boyd Davies. Oh, yes, and she has a “supernatural being” that appears and disappears at will, which talks to her and gives hints and clues. The supernatural takes on the guise of a dog

Then, on a wintery December night, a woman named Prue Stalking Horse calls in to dispatch to report a prowler. Davies finds no trace of anyone, but as he’s leaving, Prue is shot and killed by a long distance sniper. It isn’t long before more people die although the links between them, let alone a motive, remains elusive. Davies is plagued by unfortunate accidents at his house, as well, and has in his possession some mysterious stones that may either be the cause or the reason for everything, if only anyone could put all the clues together.

The mystery will be tied-up at the end, although you can bet there’ll be more stories with Hallie, Boyd, and their friends. And I’ll be glad of it. Ms. Coates writes eloquently of the South Dakota setting. Cold winter scenes will make the reader seek out a blanket to wrap up in. The never-ending farm work that needs done is so ordinary and real it seems exotic within the confines of a story that includes ghosts, Death, magic, and a supernatural being called “Maker.”

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, December 2014.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

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