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If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O

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Sheriff Spencer Arrowood keeps the peace in his small Tennessee town most of the time. Every once in a while, though, something goes wrong. When 1960s folksinger Peggy Muryan moves to town seeking solitude and a career comeback, and she receives a postcard with a threatening message, her idyll is shattered. Then a local girl who looks like Peggy vanishes without a trace. Al Sheriff Spencer Arrowood keeps the peace in his small Tennessee town most of the time. Every once in a while, though, something goes wrong. When 1960s folksinger Peggy Muryan moves to town seeking solitude and a career comeback, and she receives a postcard with a threatening message, her idyll is shattered. Then a local girl who looks like Peggy vanishes without a trace. Although she was once famous, Peggy has no fondness for the old times. Those days are best left forgotten for Spencer Arrowood, too. But sometimes the past can't rest, and those who try to forget it are doomed to relive it....


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Sheriff Spencer Arrowood keeps the peace in his small Tennessee town most of the time. Every once in a while, though, something goes wrong. When 1960s folksinger Peggy Muryan moves to town seeking solitude and a career comeback, and she receives a postcard with a threatening message, her idyll is shattered. Then a local girl who looks like Peggy vanishes without a trace. Al Sheriff Spencer Arrowood keeps the peace in his small Tennessee town most of the time. Every once in a while, though, something goes wrong. When 1960s folksinger Peggy Muryan moves to town seeking solitude and a career comeback, and she receives a postcard with a threatening message, her idyll is shattered. Then a local girl who looks like Peggy vanishes without a trace. Although she was once famous, Peggy has no fondness for the old times. Those days are best left forgotten for Spencer Arrowood, too. But sometimes the past can't rest, and those who try to forget it are doomed to relive it....

30 review for If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O

  1. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    This is the first in the 'ballad' series of Appalachian novels by Sharyn McCrumb. I like this series so much, and I love that her recurring characters are more than just window-dressing, but are not the main focus of the books. This novel seems to take place in 1986, and it feels a bit dated, not only due to the lack of technology (no cell phones or computers, not even a fax machine in this tiny town) but also due to the interest in and latent advocacy for Vietnam veterans. Not to downplay the i This is the first in the 'ballad' series of Appalachian novels by Sharyn McCrumb. I like this series so much, and I love that her recurring characters are more than just window-dressing, but are not the main focus of the books. This novel seems to take place in 1986, and it feels a bit dated, not only due to the lack of technology (no cell phones or computers, not even a fax machine in this tiny town) but also due to the interest in and latent advocacy for Vietnam veterans. Not to downplay the issues, but it seems a faraway time when that was the biggest military issue weighing collectively on society. Not too hard to figure this one out, but still pretty compelling to read and with a bit of something unexpected at the end.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Dickison

    The beginning of the Ballad series and man, is ever good. Most of the ballad books can be read as stand alones, but if you haven't started yet, begin here. McCrumb has not done anything this good lately though. The beginning of the Ballad series and man, is ever good. Most of the ballad books can be read as stand alones, but if you haven't started yet, begin here. McCrumb has not done anything this good lately though.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Denny

    McCrumb does a good job of describing scenery & setting and of capturing snapshots of southern Appalachia and its idiosyncratic characters. Rather than using dialect and accent to give her characters a distinctly Southern voice, however, she uses omniscient narration to reveal their rural, socially stratified, and geographically-defined thoughts and attitudes about their lives, environment, and neighbors. But if you subscribe to professor Jerry Leath Mills' (late of UNC-Chapel Hill) "Dead Mule" McCrumb does a good job of describing scenery & setting and of capturing snapshots of southern Appalachia and its idiosyncratic characters. Rather than using dialect and accent to give her characters a distinctly Southern voice, however, she uses omniscient narration to reveal their rural, socially stratified, and geographically-defined thoughts and attitudes about their lives, environment, and neighbors. But if you subscribe to professor Jerry Leath Mills' (late of UNC-Chapel Hill) "Dead Mule" theory of Southern fiction, then this isn't Southern fiction. I happen to think that Southern fiction encompasses a lot more than just works that feature a dead mule or three. There are some interesting and fairly well-developed characters here, especially Sheriff Spencer Arrowood, his chief deputy, Joe LeDonne, and dispatcher Martha Ayers, and to a somewhat lesser extent victim Peggy Muryan, but the rest are little more than stock characters. Despite the dearth of dead mules, this is assuredly Southern. It features plenty of the grotesque and the gothic, and it's set in the very well-described (though fictional) East Tennessee mountain town of Hamelin. I like the conceit of Sheriff Arrowood having his own personal soundtrack of traditional folk ballads, which helps set this series apart from other formula-fiction mystery series. As for the central mystery, it is by far the weakest part of the novel. The killer and his or her motives are evident very early on, and the two red herrings are so transparent as to be more like pale pink herrings. Still, there's a lot here to build on, and I'll be reading further in this series to see how much it improves as it matures.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Wanda

    A great introduction to one of my favorite character-driven mystery series. Even though I’d read this before and knew who the culprit was, I thoroughly enjoyed re-visiting the folks and sheriff’s department regulars in the mountain community of Hamelin, Tennessee. What I’d forgotten was how well this gave recognition to Vietnam veterans and the challenges they faced even years after returning home. 3 1/2 stars

  5. 5 out of 5

    Betty Strohecker

    Sharyn McCrumb writes intriguing novels of mystery, some often called ballads, set in Appalachia. This was a spine-chilling book, hard to put down.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bookslut

    Well, smack my a** and call me a mystery reader! I ordered up the second one the next day. Paid cash money for it, too. I guess these are so old they are being lost to attrition in the library system, and not replaced. I'm not sure who I am anymore, but I really enjoyed this book. Me and Sheriff Spencer were inseparable for a few days while things got heated in our little Tennessee town. True to the promises of the lusty librarian Nancy Pearl and others, this author creates an excellent sense of Well, smack my a** and call me a mystery reader! I ordered up the second one the next day. Paid cash money for it, too. I guess these are so old they are being lost to attrition in the library system, and not replaced. I'm not sure who I am anymore, but I really enjoyed this book. Me and Sheriff Spencer were inseparable for a few days while things got heated in our little Tennessee town. True to the promises of the lusty librarian Nancy Pearl and others, this author creates an excellent sense of place. I loved the lyrical title, and love the whole idea of a ballad series for Appalachia. I read an exceptionally ugly copy, but once I got over it, the dime store nature of it almost added to the experience.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Glenna Pritchett

    I've read several McCrumb books, but not in any kind of order. So I'm starting at the beginning of the Ballad series, because I just love the Nora Bonesteel character and want to know everything about her. Sheriff Arrowood is another great character, and so is Joe LaDonne...well, I guess they are all great characters. :-) This one is fairly light reading, but there are some deeper moments involving Vietnam vets and the struggle to adjust after coming home. There is lots of Appalachian background I've read several McCrumb books, but not in any kind of order. So I'm starting at the beginning of the Ballad series, because I just love the Nora Bonesteel character and want to know everything about her. Sheriff Arrowood is another great character, and so is Joe LaDonne...well, I guess they are all great characters. :-) This one is fairly light reading, but there are some deeper moments involving Vietnam vets and the struggle to adjust after coming home. There is lots of Appalachian background and culture, which is always enjoyable to me because I'm from the southern Appalachians. Just a good, entertaining mystery.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rona

    This series has promise. Setting, lovely. Characters, yet to be fully developed. Mystery, too easy -- I knew who was doing the deeds as soon as the person stepped on stage. Story of the divorced, lonely, sheriff. He's got a boring job in a tiny Appalachian town. Then a stranger comes to town and is threatened by a mad-man. This series has promise. Setting, lovely. Characters, yet to be fully developed. Mystery, too easy -- I knew who was doing the deeds as soon as the person stepped on stage. Story of the divorced, lonely, sheriff. He's got a boring job in a tiny Appalachian town. Then a stranger comes to town and is threatened by a mad-man.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Fischman

    Wonderful writing, sense of place, and characters: I will come back to this series just to visit them again. Unlike other readers, I didn't spot the murderer, and the motive still seems far-fetched...but so much related to America's misbegotten war in Vietnam did and still does. Wonderful writing, sense of place, and characters: I will come back to this series just to visit them again. Unlike other readers, I didn't spot the murderer, and the motive still seems far-fetched...but so much related to America's misbegotten war in Vietnam did and still does.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Angelique Simonsen

    Real slow to start. Hard to get into

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dorothy Alva

    Fun read. Loved the characters and didn’t want the book to end

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kaethe Douglas

    Library copy

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lissa Notreallywolf

    I think highly of Sharyn McCrumb, partially because she writes about thinks I love in a voice I understand. This mystery novel is psychologically excruciating and funny at the same time, hallmarks of that dark voice she uses. Enter small town Sheriff Spencer Arrowood, a man trying to live with ghost of his older brother, the high-school football star killed in Vietnam. Spencer drives around town accompanied by his own mental jukebox, which gives him insight into emotions he was trained never to I think highly of Sharyn McCrumb, partially because she writes about thinks I love in a voice I understand. This mystery novel is psychologically excruciating and funny at the same time, hallmarks of that dark voice she uses. Enter small town Sheriff Spencer Arrowood, a man trying to live with ghost of his older brother, the high-school football star killed in Vietnam. Spencer drives around town accompanied by his own mental jukebox, which gives him insight into emotions he was trained never to articulate. He's divorced, and has bad feelings about Jenny, who appears to have been a hand-me-down girlfriend from Cal, although I wondered about midway through the book if Cal hadn't singled out Spencer's crush on Jennie for his attentions just because Cal could. Cal comes off as that sort of fellow in Spencer's recollections, but then he seems to think he's the only one who saw Cal clearly. It's hard to be the younger brother, especially when the older one dies before he can reveal his real potential or lack thereof. I loved it when you enter Mrs. Arrowood's mind and you find that she keeps her home a museum for her surviving son, and knows that Spencer is worth two of Cal, even though she can't get past her grief for her first born son. No one wants to speak ill of the dead, so Spencer seems to be stuck with his issues, the issues of many of those who did not go to the Killing Fields. Enter the folk singer, Peggy Muryan, the voice of the peaceniks, a celebrity in the little Tennessee town. The locals want to court her, but are too frightened of her supposed wealth and her somewhat stale fame. Spencer explains that she can break the ice by donating to the local church drive, after he's called in to register a complaint against her dog, Blondeen, who pooped in a neighbor's flowerbed. She does, and it sets the stage for threatening postcards, Blondeen's death and a host of animal and human deaths. I won't spoil the mystery aspect of it, because the real gist of the novel is the cost of a culture of violence on its survivors. Pretty Peggy-O ends on a note of moral ambivalence-what do we think of Peggy at the end of the novel? Spencer is pretty clearly a due process sort of fellow, but Peggy is more of the point and shoot variety, calculating the costs. The characters are both haunted people. Spencer has Cal, and Peggy has Travis, her original singing partner and boyfriend. His letters inform the reader of his time in Vietnam, and how cruelly he felt the loss of Peggy, removed not only by his service to his country, but also to her rising status as a singer. We also meet other Vietnam vets, the damaged deputy, the isolated man in a shack on the outskirts of everything. And the evil past stares back at a youth in the local high school who determines to penetrate the darkness of the prior generation. Pretty serious themes for a mystery, which is why I so appreciate McCrumb.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    I loved this reading experience that transported me to another time and place very different from my own. It was so good that I would even pedal a few extra minutes on my exercise bike to finish the chapter! The context of my favorite quote is a mother who desires to update her kitchen to suit herself now she finds herself alone. She lost her eldest son to the Vietnam War and is a widow with one son remaining: "This was the home of his childhood, and while he wouldn't want to live here anymore, I loved this reading experience that transported me to another time and place very different from my own. It was so good that I would even pedal a few extra minutes on my exercise bike to finish the chapter! The context of my favorite quote is a mother who desires to update her kitchen to suit herself now she finds herself alone. She lost her eldest son to the Vietnam War and is a widow with one son remaining: "This was the home of his childhood, and while he wouldn't want to live here anymore, the fact that the house existed unchanged made him feel safe in the world, because here it was 1959, just the way he remembered it. She was used to providing this museum of comfort for the last surviving man of her family; it was part of her job as a diplomat."

  15. 4 out of 5

    L Greyfort

    Outstanding start to an excellent series. McCrumb's Ballad series takes place in the mountains of eastern Tennessee; recurring characters include the local sheriff (good policeman, carrying a complex load of personal baggage), a Vietnam veteran deputy (ditto), and elderly mountain woman with a long memory and unusual abilities. This series ranges back and forth in time, sometimes combining contemporary mysteries with historical fact. Heart-stopping ending -- Not to be missed. Outstanding start to an excellent series. McCrumb's Ballad series takes place in the mountains of eastern Tennessee; recurring characters include the local sheriff (good policeman, carrying a complex load of personal baggage), a Vietnam veteran deputy (ditto), and elderly mountain woman with a long memory and unusual abilities. This series ranges back and forth in time, sometimes combining contemporary mysteries with historical fact. Heart-stopping ending -- Not to be missed.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Kleffner

    I love all of the "ballad" mysteries. Learned about this author in 1998 when I was working in the mountains of Virginia, where she is a local hero of sorts, since she's from that area. She tells a great story, and there is a cast of characters you get to know. Some of the books tell the story from a previous characters perspective - new story, new voice, but familiar setting. Very well done, and a nice insight into appalacian culture. I love all of the "ballad" mysteries. Learned about this author in 1998 when I was working in the mountains of Virginia, where she is a local hero of sorts, since she's from that area. She tells a great story, and there is a cast of characters you get to know. Some of the books tell the story from a previous characters perspective - new story, new voice, but familiar setting. Very well done, and a nice insight into appalacian culture.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gennifer

    I'm a bit conflicted about this book because while I really liked the writing style, I thought the storyline was just okay. One issue, of course, is that the book was written in the 90s and so a lot of the references are dated. The mystery wasn't particularly compelling...in fact, for me, it was pretty obvious who did it. There was a lot of setup before getting to any meat. I'm hoping that her future books are a bit more intense because again her writing style is really good. I'm a bit conflicted about this book because while I really liked the writing style, I thought the storyline was just okay. One issue, of course, is that the book was written in the 90s and so a lot of the references are dated. The mystery wasn't particularly compelling...in fact, for me, it was pretty obvious who did it. There was a lot of setup before getting to any meat. I'm hoping that her future books are a bit more intense because again her writing style is really good.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    Flat, two-dimensional characters + Easily identified "bad" guy + Uninteresting, unresolved subplots= a book I wish I hadn't wasted my time reading. Flat, two-dimensional characters + Easily identified "bad" guy + Uninteresting, unresolved subplots= a book I wish I hadn't wasted my time reading.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bev

    Sharyn McCrumb's If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O (1990) is set in the small Appalachian town of Hamelin, Tennessee where Spencer Arrowood is the Sheriff who keeps the peace. It's not a difficult job most of the time--an occasional run-away or teenage boy with excess energy stepping out of line; a few drunk and disorderlies...that's pretty much it. Then Peggy Muryan purchases the old Dandridge home. The moderately popular folksinger from the '60s is looking for a quiet place to compose new songs Sharyn McCrumb's If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O (1990) is set in the small Appalachian town of Hamelin, Tennessee where Spencer Arrowood is the Sheriff who keeps the peace. It's not a difficult job most of the time--an occasional run-away or teenage boy with excess energy stepping out of line; a few drunk and disorderlies...that's pretty much it. Then Peggy Muryan purchases the old Dandridge home. The moderately popular folksinger from the '60s is looking for a quiet place to compose new songs and set the stage for a comeback. But the peace and quiet doesn't last long. Peggy begins receiving postcards with lyrics from various folksongs which she had once made famous. As Sheriff Arrowood points out to her, the lyrics as printed are scarcely threatening--but Peggy knows the lines that come next and the haunting, ominous nature of the lines not written are worse than those which appear. Then Peggy's dog is killed and marked with an insignia of some sort--butchered in a commando-style that has indications of a link to Vietnam. The dog's death is followed by a sheep--also left with clues referring to Vietnam. Things really get serious when a high school girl goes missing and winds up murdered--for Rosemary Winstead bears a striking resemblance to Peggy Muryan at the height of her career. LeDonne, Spencer's Vietnam vet deputy, doubts the Vietnam connection because the clues left behind in each case are too scattered. They point towards several different military units. Peggy, meanwhile, keeps getting those cards, and they seem to implicate her former singing partner, Travis Perdue--except es that Travis was a Vietnam casualty, an MIA. Is it possible he returned to the States after all? Why would he kill nice, young Rosemary? Who else had a motive? [Possible spoiler ahead!] I find the ending deeply disturbing and unsatisfying. Which, honestly, is what I believe McCrumb wants. Many of her characters are disturbed--whether they are haunted by a past that never was quite like they remember it or a past that changed them forever or if they are caught up in their interest in a past that was never theirs. Portraying the psychological dilemmas of the various characters is probably McCrumb's strongest gift in her writing. It certainly isn't in the crime plotting itself. I found the motive fairly unbelievable--quite probably because the killer's psychology is the least examined. The character appears regularly, so the fair-play side of me can't holler "No Fair! X isn't even a real suspect." But I can't say that I'm believing in X as the villain. It also doesn't help that Arrowood doesn't really figure anything out and does very little in the investigative line. We find out who the killer is because s/he appears in Peggy's house and spills out a confession in a burst of bragging. Otherwise, I just don't see this crime being solved. The setting is grand and the Appalachian background well-done. Most of the characters are well-rounded, interesting, and believable. One just wishes the villain were included in "most." A decent mystery with an intriguing set-up and lead-up to the final chapters. If the promise had been fulfilled, I would have given it a higher rating--as it is...★★★ First posted on my blog My Reader's Block. Please request permission before reposting. Thanks.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Daryl

    The ending of this one veered away from what you'd expect (even once the mystery itself was solved), and I suppose I liked that. The writing didn't do much for me, though. It made me think that there are several types of writing, of which the list below is a subset: Writing in which getting from point A to point B in the action is the main point and the author pulls it off fairly artfully or at least in a coherent way. I think some of the older hard-boiled mystery novesl I've read this ye The ending of this one veered away from what you'd expect (even once the mystery itself was solved), and I suppose I liked that. The writing didn't do much for me, though. It made me think that there are several types of writing, of which the list below is a subset: Writing in which getting from point A to point B in the action is the main point and the author pulls it off fairly artfully or at least in a coherent way. I think some of the older hard-boiled mystery novesl I've read this year fit in this bucket pretty well. The point is the action, and the prose that gets us from A to B all makes sense, without much superfluity. Writing in which A and B are less important than how the author writes about it (this tends to be my favorite). Writing in which getting from A to be is what's important, and the author blunders through it kind of awkwardly, as if to fill time or pages between A and B. This book felt like it had a lot of the latter in it. I see this most often in just bizarre statements or rationalizations for behaviors, or weird behaviors on the parts of the characters. I see it in incorrect facts. It's really annoying and makes me doubt in a way that the author is working in good faith. It feels in a way like padding out an essay to hit a word count when you've run out of stuff of substance to say. I didn't jot down any specific examples of this from McCrumb's book, but it's very much the feeling I had while reading it. I also found it annoying that the author's introduction makes a fuss about how there's some intellectual heft to the book -- that you have to keep your brain turned on to read this one. Well, sure. There's some consideration of how we trat veterans; there's some consideration of our narratives around women. But none of it is terribly compelling or artfully done. A few literary quotes and what I guess she felt like were clever references in the text don't make a book intellectually hefty, and to suggest that they do seems a little self-aggrandizing and silly. So, it's an ok book, but a bit disappointing given expectations the author set. It is at least a quick read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie Randall

    Sharyn McCrumb reflects her culture and creates her characters with a wide spectrum of flaws and virtues. There is a big cast in this novel, yet every person within this story has a distinct voice, a history, and a crucial presence in the plot. Notable is the way she captures the darkest internalizations of mere ordinary folks - there is something ominous within everyone, and McCrumb not only gets that but also uses it within crafting character motives, choices, and outcomes. She is a brilliant Sharyn McCrumb reflects her culture and creates her characters with a wide spectrum of flaws and virtues. There is a big cast in this novel, yet every person within this story has a distinct voice, a history, and a crucial presence in the plot. Notable is the way she captures the darkest internalizations of mere ordinary folks - there is something ominous within everyone, and McCrumb not only gets that but also uses it within crafting character motives, choices, and outcomes. She is a brilliant assessor of people. The mystery here is woven around the aftershocks of the Vietnam War - from its impact on its veterans, to the hippies who opposed it, up to and including how Vietnam touches those who seem to hold a morbid fascination for it. And it would not be a 'Ballad Novel' if folklore, too, was not an underpinning, and atmosphere hums throughout this story in the form of haunting lyrics from centuries-old folksongs. I love the world McCrumb creates in her Appalachia, and I adore every character she thrusts onto her stage. Her stories are phenomenal. 5 Stars

  22. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Wood

    I was looking for a great Southern mystery and this was so highly recommended but it failed to impress me. McCrumb writes beautifully but omg this just dragged on and on and on. For me it was as slow as a one traffic light town in rural Georgia. I did the audiobook version and the narrator has a clipped almost British tint to her voice and a terrible Southern accent drawling some vowels and forgetting to do the same to others and her ending consonants were clear instead of dropping the hard d's I was looking for a great Southern mystery and this was so highly recommended but it failed to impress me. McCrumb writes beautifully but omg this just dragged on and on and on. For me it was as slow as a one traffic light town in rural Georgia. I did the audiobook version and the narrator has a clipped almost British tint to her voice and a terrible Southern accent drawling some vowels and forgetting to do the same to others and her ending consonants were clear instead of dropping the hard d's and t's as most Southerners do ... I finished it because it's a VERY rare book that I'll just quit on but this was so bloody bad that when my computer fried and I replaced it I had totally forgotten I'd been listening to it and this morning a month and a half later a light came on and I said "Oh yeah, I was listening to that" -- you may be more patient than I was with this but I just can't say it's even a good mystery.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    Entertaining mystery with tie in to Appalachian folk music and the Vietnam war. The author writes very well, although this isn't my favorite of her Ballad novels. The mystery was clever, but I had figured out who dunnit pretty early on. It does convey the loss felt by anyone who was sent to Vietnam, or who loved someone sent there, along with the callousness of youth. Some good characters, who appear later in some of the other books, especially Martha. I just feel like I can relate to her, even Entertaining mystery with tie in to Appalachian folk music and the Vietnam war. The author writes very well, although this isn't my favorite of her Ballad novels. The mystery was clever, but I had figured out who dunnit pretty early on. It does convey the loss felt by anyone who was sent to Vietnam, or who loved someone sent there, along with the callousness of youth. Some good characters, who appear later in some of the other books, especially Martha. I just feel like I can relate to her, even though she's a lot tougher than I am! A cool thing with Sharyn McCrumb is that you really don't need to read these books in order, although it might be helpful for character development. I just really appreciate her love for the people and the history of those mountains. It shows out in her depiction of them. I HIGHLY recommend her Ballad novel, "Unquiet Grave". It's the latest one and it's a gorgeous book. I couldn't stop reading. The main narrator's voice is beautifully constructed.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    I started this series in anticipation of an upcoming trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway, hoping to get a sense of the area. This book did accomplish that, with scenes describing the mountains and the small town, and the inclusion of lyrics from songs of the area. It also gives an interesting look into the mid-1980s (and does show its age a little bit from time to time - published in 1990). Few likable characters, but some intriguing ones. It was a quick read with a somewhat predictable mystery, but I started this series in anticipation of an upcoming trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway, hoping to get a sense of the area. This book did accomplish that, with scenes describing the mountains and the small town, and the inclusion of lyrics from songs of the area. It also gives an interesting look into the mid-1980s (and does show its age a little bit from time to time - published in 1990). Few likable characters, but some intriguing ones. It was a quick read with a somewhat predictable mystery, but right now, for me, the setting overcomes the detractions. I would read another in the series.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Felicia J.

    "There's always a new dead girl to sing about. Always a dead girl." 3.5 stars The characters and themes in this suspense novel were enough to keep me listening despite the weaknesses of plot. The killer was easy to guess and their motives not well-fleshed out. But the author skillfully populated her fictional Tennessee town with unique characters, using their regrets, resentments and petty revenge to explore compelling topics - casual sexism and mistreatment of women, the struggles of war veterans "There's always a new dead girl to sing about. Always a dead girl." 3.5 stars The characters and themes in this suspense novel were enough to keep me listening despite the weaknesses of plot. The killer was easy to guess and their motives not well-fleshed out. But the author skillfully populated her fictional Tennessee town with unique characters, using their regrets, resentments and petty revenge to explore compelling topics - casual sexism and mistreatment of women, the struggles of war veterans and the private, unsettling inner lives of ordinary people.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Denise Spicer

    Spencer Arrowood and the other colorful characters of his small Southern town are featured in this puzzling mystery. Spencer's 20th high school reunion is coming up and he investigates the threats to a famous 60's folksinger while dealing with conflicting emotions about his ex-wife Jenny and dead Vietnam-era brother, Cal. The Vietnam War is a tie-in to another subplot also. The text alternates between current-day events and those of the Vietnam War through letters sent to Peggy, from her former Spencer Arrowood and the other colorful characters of his small Southern town are featured in this puzzling mystery. Spencer's 20th high school reunion is coming up and he investigates the threats to a famous 60's folksinger while dealing with conflicting emotions about his ex-wife Jenny and dead Vietnam-era brother, Cal. The Vietnam War is a tie-in to another subplot also. The text alternates between current-day events and those of the Vietnam War through letters sent to Peggy, from her former boyfriend, missing-in-action. But is he still alive?

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bobbi

    An above-average murder mystery, very entertaining. Even though it was fairly clear whodunit. But I will never forgive the author for spelling the Child Ballads as Childe Ballads. This was the first in a series of detective stories based on Child Ballads-- namely, the Ballad series. Well, the Harvard professor who collected these folk narratives into The English and Scottish Ballads spelled his name Francis Child. Do your homework, and do it on book one!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kshydog

    Suppose to be a mystery about someone threatening Peggy, a folksinger visiting the town, but more time spent on the town residents and a 1966 class reunion. Descriptions of personalities, previous issues in their lives coming back to bother them especially side effects of Vietnam War are setting the stage for future books. Peggy is getting messages from a MIA former lover that involves killing animals and more.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jay Wright

    It is based on people who went to Vietnam and either died there or are coping with it at home. It is a whodunit and tough to get who did it until the end (with the clues, I should have figured it out. I always love her characters and they were good in this book too. She is one of my favorite authors.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brooke

    As far as the detective work goes, there pretty much was none. There were no real suspects. There was no inching closer to finding out who the killer was (as far as the sheriff’s department goes - you as the reader are finding out snippets of information along the way). I mostly found this book supremely creepy and disturbing. I probably won’t read the rest of the series.

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