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In Sheep’s Clothing by Rett Macpherson

 

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312301782 

 

Reviewed by C.J. Curry

When Torie O’Shea  receives a curious call from her favorite aunt she jumps at the chance to have a little vacation.  Aunt Sissy Morgan always sounded a little odd but this time Torie detected a bit of urgency and even… could it be worry?  Pushing her thoughts aside, Torie makes arrangements to leave her two daughters with her mother, Jalena,  and just concentrates on relaxation and  a nice long visit with Aunt Sissy, who she doesn’t get to see near often enough.  Torie’s husband decides to come along because after all Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes and Rudy is an avid fisherman.  When Torie’s stepfather, Sheriff Colin Brooke, invites himself along it makes for a very crowded and long thirteen hour trip from their home in Missouri to Minnesota.  Colin and Rudy could talk fishing and bait and lures all day.  But the normal thirteen hours turned into seventeen hours because Colin had to stop so often to eat.  Needless to say, by the time the threesome reach Aunt Sissy’s farm, Torie’s fuse was a little short.

Because of their  late arrival the night was very short but the alarms had been set and the tantalizing aroma of bacon and sausage frying was wonderful to wake up to.   Aunt Sissy always had breakfast at six a.m. and  if you were late, well you just had to do without!  Torie took the stairs two at a time and  rushed into the kitchen to see her aunt in her usual get up of cut off at the calves jeans and red high top sneakers and wearing a baseball cap.  Torie also thought her aunt was thinner and seemed to have dark shadows under her eyes.  She dismissed the thought when she remembered that Aunt Sissy and Uncle Joe were pushing seventy after all.  And  they worked hard on their farm and tree nursery. 

After a great breakfast, the two men were off to the lake that Uncle Joe had recommended  for a day of fishing.  Torie and her aunt talked about the wonderful old farm house and Torie looked at the beautiful quilt that Aunt Sissy was making for her.  Sissy seemed uneasy about something  and finally brought the conversation around to a book that she had found in the attic.  She believed it was written prior to 1890 because it was written in longhand and had never been published.  The story finally came out that the reason Sissy had wanted Torie to come for a visit was so Torie could find out who wrote the book.  Being a genealogist and a docent for their local historical society in Missouri, Torie loved history and had a way of solving old mysteries, so who better to read the book and track down the author?  Was it written by a young Swedish immigrant  woman who had tragically died in a fire that had destroyed the original house?  Or was it about the young woman?  Torie agreed to read the book if it would help put her aunt at ease.  Who could guess that a hundred and fifty year old mystery could cause problems in the present day?  But to cause a MURDER?  And have Torie’s stepfather, Sheriff Colin Brooke accused of the murder? 

There are twists and turns to keep Torie on her toes.  Who would be next?  Torie has her work cut out for her before another murder can take place.  Is the book, in fact, a diary?   She must find the answers so her stepfather can be released from jail and her aunt can have some peace of mind.  Can she stay one step ahead of the murderer?

Rett MacPherson has written a clever and witty  mystery.  Cozy fans will enjoy it.  Good to curl up with on a rainy afternoon.  I didn’t care for the banter between Torie and her stepfather.  It seemed a bit childish and immature to me.  The story has really good bones and I will enjoy watching Ms. MacPherson developing her characters a little more.  She has a great feel for history and makes a good story.  The lobo wolf was a great tie-in between the diary and the present day.  I will be looking forward to the next book in this series.

 

The Witch’s Grave by Phillip DePoy

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312315376 

Reviewed by C.J. Curry

Fever Devilin, Mountain born and bred, is  a folklorist and college professor.  He has returned to the Appalachian region to gather further tales and folklore of the area and is seeking a respite from the city and college environs.  Everything is peaceful and quiet.  The October colors are brilliant.  The cool, crisp air and a warm fire are soothing to the soul.  The soul which is haunted by his childhood and the Devilin family history.

His best friend and colleague Dr. Andrews, a noted Shakespeare scholar, is paying a visit to enjoy the colorful scenery.  The story begins at a local church function where the main attraction is the local  food and methods of cooking.  It sounds mouthwateringly succulent.  Grilled corn, pan-fried field peas, cornbread , yummmm!  The two men have enjoyed the feast and made the proper acknowledgements to the women involved when a loud argument breaks out just outside the door.  Able Carter, the county coroner, and his girlfriend Truevine Deveroe, believed to be a witch by the local folks, were having a “lovers spat”.   Able was the brother to Girlinda Needle, the wife of Skidmore Needle, Deputy Sheriff of the county.  Skid and Devilin were boyhood chums and the couple are still close friends.  Upon leaving, Devilin and Andrews are stopped by Girlinda who asks that Devilin “look out “ for Able as she is worried about him.  But as is the custom of the mountains, refuses to give any details or reasons for her feelings.  ‘Not saying’ is a way of life in these mountains.

 Devilin received a phone call from Girlinda the next evening to report Truevine didn’t go home the night before and the notoriously wild Deveroe  brothers had been combing the countryside for her.  And Able Carter is not to be found anywhere!  Devilin and Andrews are determined to go out first thing in the morning to begin a search for the two lovers.  However, the two men are awakened early the next morning by a group of drunken teenagers, not sixty yards from the house.  At the bottom of the ravine where the boys are standing lies a naked body.  Not knowing who it is, Devilin assumes it is Able.  Upon the arrival of Deputy Needle and the investigation team, it is learned the body is that of the local mortician, Harding Pinhurst the Third.  Did Able kill him? 

Later in the day, Devilin and Andrews begin the search for Able and Truevine.  After looking in all the obvious places, Devilin begins walking a large acreage of state timber land located behind the mortuary and below the cemetery.  Devilin stumbles up a gruesome scene right out of a nightmare.  And so begins a tale with twists and turns to keep Devilin and the authorities confused. 

There are parts of this book that I just loved……….parts that I liked ………and parts that I hated!  Mr. DePoy has a nice turn of the phrase and is very well versed  in mountain folklore.  I can’t imagine why he would take a nice story and then lift such a gruesome tale out of the headlines to incorporate into his book.  His description of the countryside and of his characters literally jump off the page, he makes them seem so real.  There was enough drama and mystery without added  “reality”.  I would have liked for him to develop his characters and the basic plot more and not bothered with sensationalism. 

However, I am sure there are those readers  who will like the sensationalism.