Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Disturbing the Dead by Sandra Parshall

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of Disturbing the Dead by Sandra Parshall. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Disturbing the Dead by Sandra Parshall

Disturbing the Dead by
A Tom Bridger and Rachel Goddard Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-378-7 (1590583787)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-378-4 (9780580583784)
Publication Date: March 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Tom Bridger, who is half Melungeon, thought he had escaped his mountain community's lingering prejudice against the mixed-race group when he left to join the Police Department. Tom was moving up the detective ranks when a family tragedy brought him back home and moved him into his father's job as chief deputy in the Mason County Sheriff's Department. Now the bones of a Melungeon woman who disappeared ten years ago have surfaced on a remote mountaintop, and all evidence points to murder. Violence escalates as the victim's poor family and the wealthy white family she married into scramble to protect their secrets from Tom's scrutiny. As he probes into his father's investigation of the case, he finds his father was not the man he idolized.

The woman Tom is falling in love with, Rachel Goddard, is struggling to start a new life in a place that holds no memories for her. She puts herself in danger when she befriends the dead Melungeon woman's teenage niece, Holly. As a child, the girl witnessed something that could implicate her aunt's killer, but she is too terrified to tell anyone what she knows. While Rachel is determined to keep Holly safe and help her piece together past events, the guilty are equally determined to silence the girl -- and Rachel too, if necessary.

Will this murder investigation be Tom's and Rachel's undoing or will it free them to look to the future?

Review: Disturbing the Dead, Sandra Parshall's second mystery, takes place in a small town in the foothills of the Virginia mountains. The crime is a 10-year old “cold-case” murder, and the hatred, fears and jealousies that were present then are still prevalent today. It’s a story of a mixed race people, the Melugeons, dark in color with black hair and dark eyes. The Caucasians of the town believe they are a mixed race of American Indian, black and white trash. Tom Bridger is such a man. He left his home town for Richmond where he became a part of the Virginia Police Force but had to return when his father, the deputy sheriff, died unexpectedly. Tom took over his dad’s post.

A skull and bones have been found in the mountain above the small town. They are the remains of Pauline Turner who vanished ten years ago. Pauline, a Melungeon, had fallen in love and married very wealthy Adam McCauley, a Caucasian, who adored her. Adam’s family, two brothers and their wives never accepted Pauline. Adam’s mother finally became somewhat friendly when Pauline presented her with her first grandchild. Now that Pauline's remains have been located, the lies, deceit and anger begin again. Both Pauline’s family and Adam’s family have secrets that they refuse to share with anyone, even each other.

Sandra Parshall portrays her characters in such a way that readers will think they really know who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. But in all likelihood, they will be wrong. She takes us to the little town in the foothills and describes the lone, grimy café, and the broken-down wooden homes where the impoverished live. One can almost get claustrophobic reading about them. We see their old cars and trucks. Then we go to the city, away from the foothills where the elite live in mansions with servants and big beautiful cars. When she writes about the snow falling so beautifully, you can look out the window and almost see it.

This is a good mystery. It stays suspenseful until the very end. The reader can associate with the characters and can feel the mountain breeze in the same way they do.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty for contributing her review of Disturbing the Dead and to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 - Hidden Staircase Mystery Books - All Rights Reserved.

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