Book Review: Adam’s Needle by Beth Lyon Barnett and Dissolution by Lee S. Hawke

Adam's NeedleAdam’s Needle
Beth Lyon Barnett
Prairie Acres Press, March 2015
ISBN 978-1503268968
Trade Paperback

Will grows up in a shack tucked away outside of the town of Pecan Grove in the Ozarks. His father is an abusive alcoholic who causes Will to quit talking when he is five years old, and his mother has been beaten down by abuse, ailments, and life. Will’s rescuer is his part Native-American granny who instills in him a sense of right and wrong and inner strength that allows him to survive.

Some of the town leaders, members of the local fundamentalist church, and several uneducated hotheads on neighboring farms are connected with white supremacist organizations. The towering white cross on Adam’s Needle was placed there by the Ku Klux Klan. Incidents of teenage pregnancy and the drug culture are growing among the poverty-stricken families.

A young Jewish couple, scientists from K.U. dedicated to improving agriculture and restoring wildlife in the area, buy a neighboring farm. A gay couple moves to town to run the florist shop. Then, the church’s pastor retires and is replaced by a phony preacher bent on making his reputation by stirring up trouble with his xenophobic interpretations of Bible passages that appeal to the poor farmers and townsfolk ready to blame their situations on something or someone. Predictable trouble.

Mass hysteria can be caused by unscrupulous, power-hungry leaders anywhere. This book is both an engrossing story unique to Will’s Ozark community and also a universal phenomenon. It’s both timely and ancient. Compare it to Winter’s Bone but with a political edge.

Reviewed by Joyce Ann Brown, March 2016.
http://www.joyceannbrown.com
Author of cozy mysteries: Catastrophic Connections and Furtive Investigation, the first two Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mysteries.

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DissolutionDissolution
Lee S. Hawke
Blind Mirror Publishing, March 2016
ISBN 978-1-925299-03-8
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

What would you sell yourself for?

Madeline knows. She’s spent the last eighteen years impatiently waiting for her Auctioning so she can sell herself to MERCE Solutions Limited for a hundred thousand credits. But when the Auctioneer fails to call her and two suits show up at her doorstep, Madeline discovers there are far worse bargains to be made.

So when your loved ones are in danger, there’s a bounty on your head and your entire city might turn out to be a lie… what would you sell yourself for?

In recent times, we in the US have come to have a rather jaundiced view of corporations, particularly the big ones, and we’ve largely lost the naive faith our parents and grandparents had that corporations cared about people. That doesn’t mean there aren’t good ones that DO have an altruistic bent but the moneycrunching type seem to be prevalent. Even with our mounting distrust, though, I don’t think we’ve anticipated the theme that Lee S. Hawke has built her story around in Dissolution.

How repugnant is the idea that our children can be bought and sold by corporations with the true parents aiding and abetting the process? I immediately felt a good deal of empathy for Maddie not only because of the auction that’s happening but also because she doesn’t know how wrong this is, never having experienced any other lifestyle. She’s an interesting girl, quite appealing, and I came to like her quite a lot despite her blind dependence on the existing system (and imagine how unromantic it must be to have to pay to spend time with your boyfriend!).

More than anything else, I found Dissolution to be somewhat incomplete. There’s no real worldbuilding and that’s pretty important in a tale like this one, a way to let the reader know how we got to such a point in our future and what propelled the corporations to a position of absolute control. The lack of such information is understandable in a novella but I’m sure I would have enjoyed Maddie’s story more in a full-length novel with space enough to provide the backstory and flesh out the characters more.

All that said, I do want to know more and I appreciated Dissolution enough to hope Ms. Hawke will bring Maddie back in the near future.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2016.

Book Review: The Wages of Sin by Nancy Allen

The Wages of SinThe Wages of Sin
An Ozarks Mystery #3
Nancy Allen
Witness Impulse, April 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-243875-1
Ebook

From the publisher—

In rural McCown County, Missouri, a young pregnant woman is found beaten to death in a trailer park. The only witness to the murder is Ivy, her six-year-old daughter, who points to her mom’s boyfriend—father of the unborn child. County prosecutor Madeleine Thompson promises the community justice, and in the Ozarks, that can only mean one thing: a death sentence.

When Madeleine’s first choice for co-counsel declines to try a death penalty case, she is forced to turn to assistant prosecutor Elsie Arnold. Elsie is reluctant to join forces with her frosty boss, but the road to conviction seems smooth—until unexpected facts about the victim arise, and the testimony of the lone eyewitness Ivy becomes increasingly crucial. Against Elsie’s advice, Madeleine brings in the state attorney general’s office to assist them, while cutthroat trial attorney Claire O’Hara joins the defense.

Elsie will not let the power of prosecution—of seeking justice—be wrested from her without a fight. She wants to win the case, and to avenge the death of the mother and her unborn child. But as the trial nears, Elsie begins to harbor doubts about the death penalty itself. Meanwhile, the child Ivy is in greater danger than anyone knows.

How credible is a 6-year-old witness to a crime? Certainly that question has been a concern in the past and will continue to be so in the future but, in the case of Ivy’s mother’s boyfriend and the murder of her mother, it’s really critical because the stakes of conviction are so high. Can…or should…a prosecutor seek the death penalty based on that small child’s testimony even when the man confesses? After all, we all know confessions are frequently false for a variety of reasons.

There are many people who do not believe the death penalty is just or effective but many others who truly do believe it’s sometimes necessary because of the nature and/or the heinousness of the crime. I won’t get into my own opinion but I was captivated in The Wages of Sin by the zeal of both Madeleine and Elsie to carry this prosecution to it’s farthest reaches although their reasons may not be entirely altruistic.

There are other threads in this story, such as domestic violence and the effects of poverty and, together with the central issue of the death penalty, Nancy Allen has provided the reader with much to contemplate. At the same time, her characters and the Ozarks setting are as compelling as any I’ve seen in a while and I’m glad to have “discovered” this fine author.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2016.

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About the Author

Nancy AllenNancy Allen practiced law for 15 years as Assistant Missouri Attorney General and Assistant Prosecutor in her native Ozarks. She has tried over 30 jury trials, including murder and sexual offenses, and is now a law instructor at Missouri State University. Her first novel,The Code of the Hills, was published by HarperCollins in 2014.

The Wages of Sin is the third book in her Ozarks mystery series.

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Book Review: The Revolution of Ivy by Amy Engel

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Title: The Revolution of Ivy
Series: The Book of Ivy #2
Author: Amy Engel
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: November 3, 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic,
Dystopian, Young Adult

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The Revolution of IvyThe Revolution of Ivy
The Book of Ivy #2
Amy Engel
Entangled Teen, November 2015
ISBN 978-1-63375-115-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Ivy Westfall is beyond the fence and she is alone. Abandoned by her family and separated from Bishop Lattimer, Ivy must find a way to survive on her own in a land filled with countless dangers, both human and natural. She has traded a more civilized type of cruelty–forced marriages and murder plots–for the bare-knuckled brutality required to survive outside Westfall’s borders.

But there is hope beyond the fence, as well. And when Bishop reappears in Ivy’s life, she must decide if returning to Westfall to take a final stand for what she believes is right is worth losing everything she’s fought for.

I’m not in a frame of mind right now to write my usual lengthy review so let me just hit the high points.

First, I really enjoyed the first book of this duology, The Book of Ivy, and became quite attached to Ivy and Bishop.
https://cncbooksblog.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/book-review-the-book-of-ivy-by-amy-engel/
Although I didn’t mention it then, one of the things I particularly liked about that book was that there wasn’t a cast of thousands so the author had the time (and energy) to really develop these two characters and bring them to life.

In The Revolution of Ivy, Ms. Engel has continued that approach and, although there are a few more secondary characters, it’s Ash and Caleb that draw the eye, so to speak, in addition to Ivy and Bishop. These four are all so well drawn that they seem like real people and, for differing reasons, I love them all.

In some ways, the plot of this book is much like other post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels and worldbuilding is still a bit thin but that was OK with me. This is essentially a character study of how people cope with extreme conditions and stress while holding on to their humanity. The Revolution of Ivy ends satisfactorily although Ms. Engel could continue the story if she wants to; either option works and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to read both books.

And I still managed to be a little bit longwinded 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2015.

About the Author

Amy EngelAmy Engel was born in Kansas and after a childhood spent bouncing between countries (Iran, Taiwan) and states (Kansas; California; Missouri; Washington, D.C.), she settled in Kansas City, Missouri, where she lives with her husband and two kids. Before devoting herself full-time to motherhood and writing, she was a criminal defense attorney, which is not quite as exciting as it looks on TV. When she has a free moment, she can usually be found reading, running, or shoe shopping. The Book of Ivy is her debut YA novel. Find her online at http://amyengel.net/ or @aengelwrites.


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Book Review: The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel

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Title: The Book of Ivy
Series: The Book of Ivy #1
Author: Amy Engel
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: November 11, 2014
Genres: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic,
Dystopian, Young Adult

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The Book of IvyThe Book of Ivy
The Book of Ivy #1
Amy Engel
Entangled Teen, November 2014
ISBN 978-1-62266-465-8
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

What would you kill for?

After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.

This year, it is my turn.

My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and return the Westfall family to power.

But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.

Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

Twists and turns abound in The Book of Ivy and I can honestly say this is one of my top books of 2014. The interesting thing is I never anticipated feeling this way.

At heart, this is a typical post-apocalyptic/dystopian story in which the society is divided into two sectors, the oppressors and the oppressed, and one amongst the oppressed is chosen to carry out a deadly attack on a leader of the controlling side. Along the way, a romance will develop between the attacker and the attackee.

And that’s where any similarities end. In fact, much of that premise is turned on its head and that’s why I love this book. Just when I’d be getting comfortable with what was going on, Ms. Engel would throw me a curveball and I’d have to sit up and pay attention. Then, I’d start to settle in again when—dang!—she’d do it again. To say I never got bored reading this book would be a stupendous understatement as this is one of the best plots I’ve seen in quite a while in ANY genre.

Worldbuilding is not really in-depth but the author has offered enough so that I wasn’t distracted by my own questions. I never want to know all the details in the first book and, in this case, I was very satisfied.

When it comes to the characters, every last one of the major players, and even some of the lesser-seen, is multi-dimensional and you can never be sure you know everything about them. Just when you’re sure so-and-so is pretty much scum of the earth, he/she will go and show you a softer side and, conversely, none of the so-called “good guys” are 100% good, not by a long shot. And did I mention there’s no love triangle, thank heavens? AND no insta-love, either. Be still, my heart!

Ivy and Bishop are both strong characters with character, if you get my drift, and the relationship that builds up between them is very believable. They’re both pawns at the mercy of their families and made me think of Romeo and Juliet in some ways without the suicidal tendencies. Even so, both Ivy and Bishop have backbones and, together, they grow to learn that life is not black and white and they have choices. My heart went out to them many times because there is so much going against them and, really, no way they could avoid what was coming at the end—and, oh, what an ending. A terrific plot, interesting and appealing characters (even the ones we wouldn’t usually care about) and a crackerjack ending…I don’t know how I’m going to wait till next November for The Revolution of Ivy. Maybe Ms. Engel will take pity on us (me!) and give us a short story or two in the meantime  😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2014.

About the Author

Amy EngelAmy Engel was born in Kansas and after a childhood spent bouncing between countries (Iran, Taiwan) and states (Kansas; California; Missouri; Washington, D.C.), she settled in Kansas City, Missouri, where she lives with her husband and two kids. Before devoting herself full-time to motherhood and writing, she was a criminal defense attorney, which is not quite as exciting as it looks on TV. When she has a free moment, she can usually be found reading, running, or shoe shopping. The Book of Ivy is her debut YA novel. Find her online at http://amyengel.net/ or @aengelwrites.


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Book Reviews: A Wedding to Die For by Radine Trees Nehring, The Demands by Mark Billingham, Viral by James Lilliefors, The Prophet by Michael Koryta, and They Disappeared by Rick Mofina

A Wedding to Die For
Radine Trees Nehring
St. Kitts Press, 2006
ISBN No. 978-1-931206-01-3
Trade Paperback

Here Comes The Bride and this time it is Carrie McCrite who is getting married.  But she is confused about how to have a wonderful wedding but one that is appropriate for a mature bride and groom.

On the advice of her friends Henry and Carrie take a trip to inspect The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  Carrie immediately falls in love with the place and decides it is indeed a perfect place for a wedding.

In trying to plan the wedding Carrie and Henry are plunged into a vicious scheme to run a florist and his family out of Eureka Springs.  Certain residents are prejudiced and don’t want Chandra and Ashur Mukherjee, owners of Artistic Floral Designs of Eureka Springs, to continue business in their town.

Carrie and Henry make friends with the two and try to help them out through a bombing and a murder.  Other friends of Carrie and Henry join in to help as well.

But even in Eureka Springs Carrie can’t escape the ghost bride wearing red who has been haunting her dreams.

I enjoyed the characters in the books and the descriptions of the area.  Nehring tells a good story and gives a good description of how an older couple deciding on a wedding might feel.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, May 2007.

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The Demands
Mark Billingham
Mulholland Books, 2012
ISBN No. 978-0-316-12663-2
Hardcover

We are all creatures of habit, and Helen Weeks is no exception.   Helen, a detective for the police department and a single mother, stops at a newsagent every morning for her newspaper, gum and some candy.  As Helen is paying for her items three boys walk into the shop wrestling with each other and messing with the stock.  Javed Akhtar, the owner, chases the boys out of the shop.  Helen and the man behind her in the store are shocked when Akhtar locks the door to the shop and pulls a gun on his two customers.

So begins a situation that is terrifying to the hostages as well as the police attempting to see them released without harm.  The hostages are handcuffed to the radiator. Stephen Mitchell, the other customer taken hostage, seems to think that Helen can use her familiarity with Akhtar and her skills as a detective to miraculously rescue them from the situation.  But he soon realizes she has no power over Akhtar.

Akhtar orders Helen to get in touch with a detective named Thorne.  Helen knows Thorne since she dealt with him when her boyfriend was killed.  Helen learns Akhtar’s son, Amin Akhtar, was involved in a manslaughter case and sentenced to prison. Amin killed himself in Barndale Young Offenders Institution eight weeks earlier.  Thorne is familiar with the manslaughter case and had been surprised the boy got the stiff sentence that he did.

Akhtar does not believe that his son’s death was a suicide and he is demanding that Thorne find out what really happened.  Thorne is racing against time in his investigation into the boy’s death.  Two people’s lives are at stake and it is up to him to save them.  But first he must satisfy all of Akhtar’s questions and prove that his son was murdered.

As Thorne investigates, he finds more and more puzzling things about the conviction and the boy’s death – some that will come as a shock to Akhtar.  The story switches back and forth between Thorne who is seeking answers on the outside and Helen Weeks who is one of the hostages.  It is a race against time as the police outside the newsagent’s shop try to determine whether to go in with force or hope Thorne comes up with answers.

Mark Billingham introduced Sgt. Helen Weeks in the novel In the DarkThe Demands bring Weeks and Thorne together and this reader hopes for more adventures involving Weeks and Thorne.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, May 2012.

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Viral
James Lilliefors
Soho Press, Inc., 2012
ISBN No. 978-1-61695-068-2
Hardcover

Two brothers separated by years and miles work together to stop an evil plan to spread a deadly virus that will change the world.  Charles Mallory is a private intelligence contractor and former CIA operative.  His brother Jon, an investigative reporter, is alarmed when a call from his brother Charles is not received as scheduled.  Charles is counting on Jon to be a witness to some event that he has yet to reveal to Jon.

Charles is investigating a lead found in a message left by his father in a safe deposit box.  He is acting undercover, using fictitious names but someone is alert to his movements and Charles knows that he is in danger.   When Jon begins to search for his brother Charles leaves clues that only his brother would be able to follow.  Jon is able to decipher the clues but is still lost as to what he is to witness.

Terrible events are happening in a remote area of Africa.  People go to bed at night and just never wake up.  A whole village is wiped out.  Charles is working against time to find out who is behind the scheme and figure out how to put a stop to it before there are more deaths.

The book shifts back and forth between Jon and Charles as well as some of Jon’s contacts in Africa.  The book is well written but at times, it was hard to keep the characters straight.  The descriptions are very graphic and not to be read by a squeamish reader. The entire plot is not revealed until well into the novel.  Viral is an exciting book that keeps the reader on edge.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, June 2012.

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The Prophet
Michael Koryta
Little, Brown and Company, 2012
ISBN No. 978-0-316-12261-0
Hardcover

Marie Austin was picked up on her way home from school, brutally attacked and killed.  The death of Marie had a profound effect on her brothers Adam and Kent.  The family was torn apart by the tragedy.  Both boys were outstanding football players.  Kent went on to become a coach at the high school.  Adam became a bondsman and private detective.  Adam felt responsible for his sister’s death.  He was to pick her up and give her a ride home from school but instead he picked up Chelsea Salinas and spent the evening with her.

Adam is still with Chelsea even though she is married.  Her husband is in prison.  Adam owns his parents house along with his brother Kent.  Adam has reconstructed Marie’s room to be exactly as it was when she was alive and spends many hours in Marie’s room.

Kent has married and loves his job as Coach of the local football team.  A championship is in sight and Kent is busy preparing his team.  Kent is also deeply religious and became involved in visiting prisoners.  Adam is furious that Kent has taken this road in life.  Adam still attends the games coached by his brother but there is no closeness between the two brothers.

This all changes when another girl dies.  A girl directly connected to Adam.  Adam vows that he will find her killer and avenge her death.  When a person connected to the young girl’s killing threatens Kent and his family, the two brothers join together to protect Kent’s family and stop the killer.  Although seemingly the brothers are working together, Adam keeps Kent in the dark about some facts in the case and strikes out on his own.

The Prophet is a very exciting book with characters that I loved.  As I neared the end of the book I postponed reading the final pages.  I just did not want this book to end.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, August 2012.

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They Disappeared
Rick Mofina
Harlequin MIRA, 2012
ISBN No. 978-0778313816
Mass Market Paperback

Cole Griffin is nine years old and his dream is to see Manhattan and that dream is about to come true.  Jeff, Cole’s father, is a mechanic and volunteer fire fighter in the family’s Laurel, Montana hometown.  Sarah, Cole’s mother, is a schoolteacher.  The family of three had been a family of four until Cole’s baby sister died.  Since Cole’s baby sister died, Jeff and Sarah had been holding the family together with a thread.  Neither parent is good at handling their grief and this has caused a rift in their marriage. The couple is hoping the rift can be repaired during this family vacation.  The decision to visit New York is two-fold.  Cole will have his dream fulfilled and Jeff and Sarah hope to be able to put their troubles behind them.

Fate has a way of changing the best-laid plans and the Griffin’s are thrown a curve when they pick up their bags at the airport. Cole picked up what appeared to be his bag but when the Griffin’s get to the hotel it is discovered that Cole has someone else’s bag.  None of the contents are Cole’s but he is fascinated with a tiny plastic toy jet that falls out of the bag.  Arrangements are made to meet with the owner of the bag that Cole picked up by mistake and the exchange is made but with a small but very important exception.  Cole left the plastic jet on the windowsill in the hotel.

When Jeff steps into a shop and leaves Sarah and Cole on the street the mother and son are abducted.  It seems the plastic jet is a very important piece in a group of terrorists plan.  The group has no concern for the lives of Cole and his mother and will take any step necessary to get the jet back.  When Jeff leaves the shop, he finds his wife and son gone.  Frantically Jeff contacts the police.

The police investigate but not to Jeff’s satisfaction.  Jeff begins his own investigation and surprisingly is a very good detective.  With his son and wife at risk, Jeff manages to finds clues faster than the police do.

The hunt is exciting and terrifying and always there is the fear of what the terrorists will do to Sarah and Cole before Jeff and the police can uncover their location.

Rick Mofina draws on his experience as a news reporter to bring the reader thrillers such as They Disappeared.  The story keeps the reader on edge as the danger mounts for the Griffin family. I’ve enjoyed many of Rick Mofina‘s books.  He always gives the reader an exciting story.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, October 2012.

Book Review: A Fair to Die For by Radine Trees Nehring—And A Giveaway!

A Fair To Die For
Radine Trees Nehring
Oak Tree Press, February 2012
ISBN No. 9781610091220
Trade Paperback

Carrie McCrite and Henry King have their own little patch of paradise in scenic Arkansas.  The couple are enjoying their early years of marriage although both are senior citizens.  They have a comfortable home, a close circle of friends and it would seem the couple is living a life that many would envy.

It comes as a shock to Carrie when she receives a phone call from a woman who identifies herself as Edie, Carrie’s cousin.  Edie asks for Carrie Culpepper, which is Carrie’s maiden name.   Carrie has no recollection of this woman but Edie plows ahead telling Carrie her name was Edith Embler and started explaining her connection to Carrie and how she had managed to trace Carrie.   Edie’s statements could be true but then again it might be a well-rehearsed story.  Carrie discusses the phone call with Henry and they decide to invite the woman to lunch and learn more about who she is and why she is contacting Carrie now.  The first thing Carrie begins to worry about is what to have for lunch.  Henry solved that little problem by contacting his friend Chef John Bohnert who offered several suggestions.

Edie arrived as agreed and attempted to explain her background and why she was in the area.  It seems that Edie’s father may have been involved in some illegal drug scheme.  Carrie had never used drugs nor had Henry who is an ex-police officer.  They are both shocked by what Edie has told them about her father.  Before Edie’s visit ends, Carrie and Henry are going to have a lot to be shocked about and find themselves in some very dangerous positions.

Although Edie is invited to stay with Carrie and Henry, she insisted that she had a reservation at a local hotel.   They made plans to meet the next morning and go to War Eagle Mill, a local attraction that is having a craft fair beginning the next week.

This simple lunch and plans to visit War Eagle begin a series of events that reveal “Cousin Edie” may be involved with some dangerous people and her connection to Carrie and Henry place the couple as well as some of their friends in danger.    Carrie helps her friend sell her wares at the fair and while helping makes some inquiries among the other vendors.  These inquiries lead some people to believe that Carrie knows more about their affairs than is actually the truth.

You will have to read A Fair To Die For to learn how Carrie and Henry manage to find out the real story behind “Cousin Edie”.  This is just one of the books in the series that take the reader into the world of Carrie and Henry.  Once you’ve read the couple’s story and meet their friends through the pages of Nehring‘s books you will want to visit the locations so wonderfully described in these books.  You will also want to read the entire series and wait impatiently for the next novel.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, May 2012.

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Book Review: A Valley to Die For by Radine Trees Nehring—And A Giveaway!

A Valley to Die For
Radine Trees Nehring
St. Kitts Press, April 2002
ISBN 0-9661879-9-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Carrie McCrite and her husband, Amos, had dreamed of retiring to a home in the Ozark mountains. After Amos dies in a hunting accident, Carrie decides to go ahead with their dream, but alone. She needs to be someone – to prove she’s a capable woman who can take care of herself. Carrie meets neighbor JoAnne Harrington, a man-hater who certainly provides an example of female independence. And there are important things to do when a stone quarry threatens to turn part of their beloved valley into heaps of gravel. The two women and their neighbors band together to fight for their valley. But someone decides JoAnne must die. Grieving over JoAnne’s death, Carrie feels compelled to uncover and destroy the mystery and darkness now swirling in the valley. That’s what a strong woman would do. Then Carrie’s new neighbor, retired Kansas City Police Major, Henry King, warns her that she, and not JoAnne, may have been the killer’s real target. But that’s ridiculous – isn’t it? And Henry is hiding secrets of his own. How strong can Carrie be? How much danger can she survive? It’s time to find out.

Years ago, when my now ex-husband was in the Air Force and our first daughter was a baby, we were stationed for a while in Bossier City, Louisiana. This was new territory for us native Virginians and we enjoyed doing the tourist thing in Louisiana and surrounding states.  The one significant trip we never had the chance to make was to the Ozarks in Arkansas. I was especially interested in that area because I’d heard that it was very similar to our own very distinctive Appalachian Mountains, a place I’d loved to visit on camping vacations since I was a child. Alas, Air Force pay in 1970 and 1971 was not robust enough to allow us to indulge all of our travel urges, not to mention the AF’s desire to keep my husband close to base.

Now that I’ve read A Valley to Die For, I feel as though a void has been at least partially filled. Ms. Nehring‘s descriptions of the valley where Carrie and her friends live are enticing to anyone with an interest in a mountain environment and I could easily visualize Carrie’s surroundings. The beauty of the Ozarks comes through with all the peace and serenity, as well as the natural dangers, that are to be found there.

As for the characters who live in the valley, I have to say I wouldn’t mind calling them neighbors. There is a great deal to be said in favor of rural or small town living although, in my younger days, the very prospect of moving to a town with a  population of about 1,500 pretty much curdled my brain. Anyway, folks like Carrie and Henry and their friends are a likeable bunch and their zeal to stop the quarry is a natural reaction to the threat to their beautiful valley. And wouldn’t it be nice to know that someone would actually notice—without being annoyingly nosy—if your routine changed or you didn’t answer the phone or you didn’t show up for a meeting? Yes, I like these people and I like the way they look out for each other. Oh, and I’m in love with FatCat.

As for the mystery, it’s a good one without being overly elaborate. I had my suspicions early on about who the killer might be and, as it turned out, I was right but that certainly didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the story. I had to get to the reveal before knowing for sure and other reviewers have said they didn’t figure it out early so this debut mystery was certainly nicely done. I’m looking forward to catching up with the rest of the series.

Now all I have to do is figure out a way to get to the Ozarks to see them for myself.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2012.

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