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Posts Tagged ‘small town Missouri’

ANOTHER MAN’S GROUND by Claire Booth: Book Review

Hank Worth has been sheriff of Branson, Missouri, for less than a year, but it’s re-election time in the county.  That’s because Hank was appointed to the job, not elected, when his predecessor gave up the position with less than a year to go in his term to become a state senator.  And if there’s anything that Hank dislikes more than criminals in his county it’s running for office.

He almost welcomes the phone call from Vern Miles, a landowner who calls Hank to ask him to view the trees on the Miles’ property that have been stripped of bark nearly to the top of their trunks.  Vern tells the sheriff that it has recently been discovered that there’s big money in the outermost layer of the slippery elm; it’s used to cure a variety of ailments.  (Seriously.  I looked it up on Google, and the bark of the Ulmus rubra is used as an herbal remedy for fevers, wounds, and sore throats.)  It’s bringing in much needed revenue, Vern informs Hank, but stripping the trees so high will likely result in the trees’ death, and he wants whoever did this caught.

So, Hank thinks, “This was excellent.  A nice little crime to investigate, but with no trauma, no violence.”  It turns out that nothing could be further from the truth.

The Miles’ property touches the land that belongs to the Kinney clan, and both families have been feuding for at least three generations.  The Kinneys are the most powerful family in the county, for reasons Hank is finding hard to understand.  His barber, Stan, finally comes the closest to putting it in words:  “They own people’s minds….It’s better just to move around with caution and respect when it comes to them.”  And when Hank makes a return visit to the woods and finds even more bare trees, this time on the Kinney property, he knows he’s going to have to face Jasper Kinney sooner rather than later.

At the same time, Hank is trying to keep his job as sheriff despite his distaste for the political machinations necessary to run a campaign.  His initial meeting with Darcy Blakely, his campaign manager, does not go well.  Added to that is the fact that his competition, Gerald Tucker, has been a long-time deputy in the sheriff’s department, while Hank is still an outsider by Missouri standards.  Plus, in Hank’s opinion, Gerald is much too involved with Henry Gallagher, the area’s most successful businessman.  Hank is pretty sure Henry is involved in arson, extortion, and insurance fraud, even though he’s been unable to prove it.  But Henry’s pockets are deep, and he definitely could sway voters toward Gerald.

Then a teenage undocumented worker is found hiding in the woods, and there’s an unidentified corpse there as well.  So Hank’s “nice little crime” is no longer nice or little.

Claire Booth’s second novel is an excellent follow-up to The Branson Beauty, which I blogged about in July 2016.  The characters, including Hank, his physician wife, and his African-American deputy, make the story real and compelling.  Another Man’s Ground is well worth another visit to Branson, Missouri.

You can read more about Claire Booth at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.



EVERY HIDDEN FEAR by Linda Rodriguez: Book Review

When two wealthy men come to the small town of Brewster, Missouri, old secrets are revealed and murder follows.  That’s the trouble with secrets; it’s hard to keep them hidden.

Skeet Bannion is chief of police at Chouteau University, having left her job as a detective in Kansas City for what she hoped would be a quieter life.  But even in a small town, there are motives for murder.

Brewster is divided, as are many cities and towns, by the possibility of a mall coming in and changing the face of the city.  Small business owners are afraid that the new mall will decimate the cluster of shops in the center of town, but they are fighting against men with the money to get their way.

Walker Lynch has big pockets, and it’s his money that is behind the mall.  Walker has brought in a man who grew up in Brewster, Ash Mobray, as an ally to convince the citizens to vote in his favor, but that might not have been the best idea.

Ash came from the worst family in town, but somehow he got together the money to go off to college and become a success.  But it seems as if he has returned home not just to back the mall but to get even with a number of Brewster’s citizens.

Ash’s pronouncement at the city council meeting that he’s the biological father of Noah, the high school quarterback, startles nearly everyone there.  But that’s not the only remark he makes that causes trouble.  He throws innuendos at one of the town’s businessmen, Peter Hume, who is in a homosexual relationship with a younger man.  Bea Roberts, owner of an antiques and collectibles store that would be hurt by the coming of the mall, is publicly trading insults with Ash.  And his offensive manner alienates him even from one of his former supportors, Pearl Brewster, the “first lady” of the city who gave him the money to leave town and go to college years ago.

Then, the morning after the meeting, Ash is found dead outside the country club, his head bashed in by a golf club.  Although the murder is outside her jurisdiction, Skeet is brought into the investigation by her foster son Brian, a friend of Noah’s.  It’s Noah’s club that was used repeatedly on Ash, and his fingerprints are the only ones on the club. 

Skeet has personal problems to deal with as well, problems that may be impacting on her investigation of the murder.  Three men are showing that they’re romantically interested in her:  her ex-husband, the town’s sheriff, and one of Walker Lynch’s employees.  However, Skeet has created a wall around herself, and she’s not sure if she wants to tear it down. 

Every Hidden Fear is the third Skeet Bannion novel.  The recurring characters in the series are well-drawn, and readers will care for them because they ring true to life.  Their strengths and vulnerabilities are something we can relate to as they try to get through life and the many problems they face.  Every Hidden Fear will bring readers more deeply into Skeet’s life and make them eager to follow her in the future.

You can read more about Linda Rodriguez at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.