First Line: When Dessie Miller lay dying at home, her family overflowed the little house in a bittersweet reunion.
This marks the first time that I've read a book because I've been enjoying an author's photographs and posts on her blog. I first became acquainted with Vicki Lane's blog through a photography meme this past winter. I've had an almost daily dose of western North Carolina through her splendid photos and words. It didn't take Curious Cathy long to wonder about the mysteries Lane has written.
Elizabeth Goodweather is a fifty-something widow living on a farm in the mountains outside of Asheville, North Carolina. She's lived there for twenty years, running her herb and flower business, and she has become friends with many of her neighbors, but when Cletus Gentry goes missing, Elizabeth discovers how much she doesn't know about the land and people around her.
Cletus's elderly mother, Miss Birdie, is convinced that her childlike son has been murdered while out hunting for ginseng. She pleads with Elizabeth to help her find out what happened. As Elizabeth retraces Cletus's last wanderings through the mountains, she discovers fundamentalist Christians who use snakes in their services, an ultra conservative militia group calling themselves the Sons of Adam, and a commune that harks back to the 60s. With each discovery, she puts herself in more and more danger.
Lane's depiction of the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina and their people is wonderful. The cadence of the characters' speech was music to my ears. Woven throughout is the story of Little Sylvie, a young girl who lived in the area at the turn of the twentieth century. No one seems to know what ultimately happened to Sylvie, which bothers Elizabeth:
My god! I've lived here twenty years and still don't know what's on the other side of the mountain. But Cletus did.... I've got to help Birdie find out what happened. We can't let it be like the Little Sylvie story--just something that happened and it doesn't matter what the truth is. The truth does matter.
I really don't know what I expected when I began reading Signs in the Blood. If Lane's blog were any indication, I thought I'd enjoy the setting of the book. I enjoyed much more than that. Yes, the setting does play a large role in the book. It is a character unto itself. But the two-legged characters shine every bit as brightly: Elizabeth, who's let grief and widowhood blind her to the people around her; Birdie, a strong little mountain woman who's always done her best and puts her faith in Elizabeth to find out what happened to her son...even Little Sylvie, a young girl whose fate no one really seems to care about. They're all woven into a story that can mesmerize--just like those old mountains themselves.
When the time comes, I know I'll pick up the second book in the series, Art's Blood, with anticipation and pleasure.
As wonderful as Sharyn McCrumb, and from me that is the height of compliments.
True Appalachian flavor in a modern world.
The mystery will keep you guessing until almost the end!
Great character development and so well written!
I am addicted to Vicki's books. When I am reading a book of hers, I learn about life in Appalachia, meet fascinating people and read a good mystery. When I had a bookstore, I was prone to making certain everyone had seen her books in the store and had at least one or the promise to buy one next time. ;-)
Vicki has a good newsletter once a month -- the place to sign up is:
http://www.vickilanemysteries.com/newsletter.html The photos she adds to her newsletter are great and make me want to go out and buy a house in the mountains.
The books should be read in order. This is the first book and my favorite.
Cathy's review sounds like a love letter to the mountains which is something that most readers seem to feel after starting the series. This one starts the series and introduces most of the characters. Hmmm... think I'll go back and read that one again.
READ IT!!!!!!! ;-)