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Saturday, 19 April 2014

‘Poisoned Ground’ by Sandra Parshall

 Published by Poisoned Pen Press,
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0226-1

Rachel Goddard is the vet in a small, rural community in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia. Although Rachel is a relative newcomer, her new husband, Tom Bridger, who has been recently elected Sheriff, is a native of Mason County and has close ties to the community. The Packard development company decide that they wish to create a luxury leisure resort in the area, but it will only go ahead if all the landowners are willing to sell. This divides the community. Many people are desperate for the employment and income the development would bring, even though Rachel's researches reveal that the Packard company is an unscrupulous and ruthless employer. Some landowners are eager to accept Packard's offer, others are undecided and Joanna MacKendrick, Rachel's closest friend, is determined not to sell her flourishing stables. Another couple who have been unwilling to sell are Lincoln and Marie Kelly, despite the temptation to acquire the money to move to a place where it would be easier for Marie to get care for Lincoln, who is suffering from Alzheimer's and growing increasingly irrational. When Marie and Lincoln are murdered, it is a shock to the whole community and a grief to Tom, because his late mother had been one of Marie's closest friends.

As Tom and his deputies struggle to solve the murder and contain the hostility the opposing sides are exhibiting, more violence, arson and vandalism occurs and Rachel is threatened by an unknown adversary. The close community has many bitter secrets that have lain dormant for years and now, under the pressure of the disruption and division caused by Packard's proposal, the evil of the past erupts into fresh violence.

This is the sixth Rachel Goddard mystery and I very much regretted not having read the previous books. It is an intriguing story, filled with beautifully drawn characters. It intrigued me that some of the people and situations were comparable to rural England when I first moved into the country from London, forty years ago, (although fortunately with a lot less firearms.)  Rachel and Tom are thoroughly appealing protagonists and I was totally on their side and hoping that everything would work out for them and Tom's orphaned nephew, Simon. It is especially refreshing to have a female protagonist who, while helping her husband investigate in any way she can, does not recklessly put herself in harm's way.

Poisoned Ground is an excellent read. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it wholeheartedly. I certainly plan to read others in the series.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Sandra Parshall  was born and raised in South Carolina. Her first job that paid  her for writing was that of weekend obituary columnist on her hometown paper, The Spartanburg Herald. Eventually she became a reporter. From there I went to jobs on newspapers in West Virginia and The Baltimore Evening Sun. Sandra had  written fiction since childhood, but I didn't find the genre comfortable in -- mystery/suspense -- until a few years ago. The Heat of the Moon was her first attempt at psychological suspense. With its publication, she set off on a new phase of life.
She lived for many years in the Washington, DC, area, and currently share a house in McLean, Virginia, with my husband, a long-time Washington journalist, and two unbelievably spoiled cats. (See below. They demanded their own bios.)

 Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013, About the Children is to be published March 2014.

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