Book Review: The Devil Amongst the Lawyers by Sharyn McCrumb @StMartinsPress

The Devil Amongst the Lawyers
A Ballad Novel #8
Sharyn McCrumb
Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, June 2010
ISBN: 978-0-312-55816-1
Hardcover

Set in 1935 in a small town in the Appalachian mountains, a young schoolteacher is accused of murdering her father. Since Erma Morton, the suspect, is reported to be beautiful and people love a good murder story with an attractive woman at its center, journalists from all the big city newspapers flock to town to report on the trial. The question is, are they going to write the facts, or just the myths of hill country life?

That’s where Carl Jenkins, a more local small town reporter with big ambition comes in. He wants the truth, but with Erma not talking and her enterprising brother running the show, the truth may be difficult to pinpoint.

Extraordinary steps must be taken, and Carl enlists his young cousin, Nora Bonesteel, to help him. After all, people will talk with a twelve-year-old girl when they won’t an adult man. And Nora is gifted with the “sight.” If anyone can discover whether Erma killed her father or not, it is Nora.

I was disappointed with the story, in part because it starts out repeating the tale of the 1916 hanging of an elephant in Kingsport, Tenneesee. A true story, sickening, that I’ve read about before. I skipped it this time.

Perhaps the inclusion of the incident colored my view, but from that beginning I never really got into the “meat,” if meat there was, of the plot. I didn’t relate to or care abut the characters, with the exception of Carl and Nora. The story moved slowly and a great deal of the novel was given over to flashbacks concerning another journalist, Henry Jernigan.

But read the novel for yourself. See what you think. After all, Sharyn McCrumb writes wonderfully literate books. This one will plunge you deeply into 1935 mountain folk life.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, January 2021.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Six Dancing Damsels: A China Bohannon Mystery

Book Review: Hanging Falls by Margaret Mizushima @margmizu @crookedlanebks

Hanging Falls
A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #6
Margaret Mizushima
Crooked Lane Books, September 2020
ISBN 978-1-64385-445-8
Hardcover

While hiking in the mountains, Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo discover a man’s body floating in a lake. They soon find the body, once buried, has washed downhill due to the heavy rains plaguing the Colorado high country. While searching for clues to the man’s identity, they spot someone watching them and take him in as a suspect. Forced to let him go, as there doesn’t seem to be a connection between him and the dead man, in a matter of hours the suspect also ends up dead, hanging from a tall woodland tree. Investigation leads Mattie, Robo, and the police department to a group of religious adherents of what appears to be plural marriage.

This is the first of Mizushima’s Timber Creek mysteries that I’ve read, and it’s certainly not the last. This is the sixth book in the series, and I intend to go back for the earlier stories and catch up with Mattie’s previous adventures. Besides, I want to learn how she and Robo became partners. Then there’s her love life with veterinarian Cole Walker, and her interaction with the other LEO’s at their station. All are interesting and play important parts in the story arc.

As a plus, a great deal of the action happens in the mountains of Colorado, and we interact with wildlife, and the great outdoors.

Plus, Mattie was kidnapped, then abandoned by her mother when she was only two years old. She’s recently had a DNA test done and found some possible close relatives. What’s going to happen with that? It all adds to a well-rounded story with a good mystery, one sure to stir your blood. Besides, I’m a sucker for stories where dogs play a part. Definitely recommended reading.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, December 2020.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Six Dancing Damsels: A China Bohannon Novel

Book Review: Seldom Traveled by Marilyn Meredith

seldom-traveledSeldom Traveled
Tempe Crabtree Mystery Series #15
Marilyn Meredith
Mundania Press, August 2016
ISBN 978-1-59426-433-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

The tranquility of the mountain community of Bear Creek is disrupted by a runaway fugitive, a vicious murderer, and a raging forest fire. Deputy Tempe Crabtree is threatened by all three.

One of the things that makes the Tempe Crabtree series by Marilyn Meredith so appealing is its setting in a mountain community where the issues facing law enforcement that can be common in urban areas are rather unique in a more rural environment. Certainly the fugitive seen near Bear Creek could have just as easily headed for a big city but he didn’t do so, meaning Tempe will have to deal with the situation along with…or, rather, in spite of…the dismissive Marshal Gallegos. Unfortunately, that isn’t all she has on her plate; a woman, Mariah Konstanzer, has gone missing from her family’s remote vacation home and is found murdered.

Detectives Morrison and Richards take control of the murder investigation but it isn’t long before Tempe is pulled in to assist and is soon interviewing a lengthy list of potential suspects. Before she can shorten the list, a third crisis erupts, a wildfire high on the mountain. Tempe races to warn residents to evacuate and it isn’t long before all three issues intersect.

Tempe is a deputy I’ve followed for years and, once again, she’s the diligent, thoughtful investigator I’ve come to expect as well as a caring wife and member of the Bear Creek community. For some reason, Tempe always gives me a sense of confidence that all will be right with the world when it’s all said and done and she pulls it off once again. I hope we won’t have to wait long for the next adventure.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

Book Review: Nora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past by Sharyn McCrumb—and a Giveaway!

Nora Bonesteel's Christmas PastNora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past
A Ballad Novella
Sharyn McCrumb
Abingdon Press, October 2014
ISBN 978-1-4267-5421-0  Hardcover

From the publisher—

When someone buys the old Honeycutt house, Nora Bonesteel is glad to see some life brought back to the old mansion, even if it is by summer people. But when they decide to stay through Christmas, they find more than old memories in the walls.

On Christmas Eve, Sheriff Spencer Arrowood and Deputy Joe LeDonne find themselves on an unwelcome call to arrest an elderly man for a minor offense. As they attempt to do their duty, while doing the right thing for a neighbor, it begins to look like they may all spend Christmas away from home.

Two companion stories that really are not related except that a few of the people know each other and they’re in the same mountain location offer a brief but gentle look at the Christmas season. Sheriff Spencer Arrowood and his deputy, Joe LeDonne, are tasked with arresting a traffic offender on Christmas Eve with snow approaching and the elderly Nora Bonesteel, who has the Sight, is asked by a “snowbird” neighbor to find out why peculiar things are happening with her Christmas decorations.

Both stories, on the surface, would seem to be rather simplistic and they actually are but there’s a kernel of meaning in each that reflects the best of home and hearth, so to speak. At times, the stories drag a little but it’s nice to spend time again with Nora and the Sheriff and Joe (as cranky and cynical as the last might be) and absorb some of the Appalachian sensibility Sharyn McCrumb conveys so well. Is there mystery here or perhaps fantasy? Yes, in a very mild way, but it’s far more about the characters and the setting. The appeal is in these people and their community and I always enjoy returning to Appalachia and, in particular, to Ashe Mountain.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2014.

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To enter the drawing for a hardcover
copy of Nora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past
by Sharyn McCrumb, leave a comment
below. The winning name will be drawn
Tuesday evening, November 25th.
This drawing is open to residents of the US.