Review: ‘Causing Chaos’ by Deborah J. Ledford

Causing Chaos (Inola Walela/Steven Hawk Suspense Series Book 4), by Deborah J. Ledford, IOF Productions Ltd (March 31, 2015), 308 pp.

causingchaosDeborah J. Ledford follows Staccato (2009), Snare (2010) and Crescendo (2014) with another powerful mystery/thriller set in the western North Carolina world of the Smoky Mountains and the Eastern Band Cherokee trust lands of the Qualla Boundary.

The story begins in blood, “Red streaks on the lower cabinets, an overturned chair, the oven door. An arc of crimson, the entire height of one wall.”

While Cherokee artist Paven Nahar works in his studio, his wife Shellie argues with two art dealers in the couple’s house who insist on acquiring the sculpture in progress. When Paven returns to the house later, he finds a bloody kitchen, a shattered pottery urn and no sign of his wife.

Paven, who is soon on the run, quickly becomes the prime suspect in his wife’s disappearance and presumed murder. Inola “Hummingbird” Walela, the only Cherokee in the Bryson City police department is tasked with the capture of the man who was her closest childhood friend.

The story is also defined by blood, blood as represented by the often conflicting love and drama within a family, and blood as a force of heritage and loyalty for members of the Cherokee Nation. Walela’s case is potentially related to an unsolved series “Qualla Ghosts” cases of missing women on tribal lands. This increases the pressure on Walela while ramping up the suspense for readers.

While each novel in this very cohesive series has developed the characters of Walela and her boyfriend Steven Hawk, Causing Chaos belongs to Hummingbird in every possible way. While the novel is aptly categorized as a police procedural and thriller, it is also a deeply personal story for Walela as multiple layers of her past and her family/tribal relationships come to light. Among these is a childhood incident, a source of nightmares and latent fears, that may somehow be related to the fate of Paven and Shellie and to the puzzling Qualla Ghost cases.

Causing Chaos is a cop story with great depth and a heartbreaking psychological undertow.

On a personal note, I have been hiking and vacationing in western North Carolina since childhood and have a deep fondness for the Smoky Mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the sacred waters of the Oconaluftee River. Ledford’s novels not only fit hand-in-glove within this setting, but enhance it for those of us who know it well.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy and magical realism fiction, including “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”


Review: ‘Crescendo’ by Deborah J. Ledford

crescendoIn music, “crescendo” indicates a gradual increase in force or loudness. If Deborah J. Ledford’s three-book Steven Hawk/Inola Walela Thriller Series (Staccato, 2009, Snare, 2010, Crescendo, 2013) were a concerto, the audience would leave the concert hall at the end of the performance electrified by the force of the third movement and the virtuosity of soloist Inola Walela.

Crescendo (Second Wind Publishing, January 27) begins with great force when antagonists Preston Durand and private investigator Hondo Polk push Billy Carlton to tell them what he knows about the location of Durand’s son and ex-wife. The book’s volume increases when Inola’s partner is killed during a traffic stop by a bullet that might have come from her gun and a female passenger in the stopped car is struck and killed by another vehicle just after she says, “I got you the money.  Where is my son?”

Though she’s a decorated Bryson City, North Carolina police officer, Inola is put on administrative leave pending a departmental investigation into the deaths at the scene. She’s told to stay away from the investigation, including trying follow up on her gut feeling that the woman’s son has been kidnapped.

Inola’s fiancé Steven Hawk, now the county sheriff, wants to play everything by the book. He tells Inola that there’s no evidence of a kidnapping and the city police and county sheriff’s departments can’t take action until evidence and leads, if any, materialize—and she is to stay home.

Readers of the Steven Hawk/Inola Walela Series were introduced to Inola in Staccato when Hawk, who was a sheriff’s deputy then, first became aware of her: “Hawk had noticed Inola Walela, the only female cop on the Bryson City police force. She was captivating, beautiful, smart, tough, exactly what he hoped to find in a woman.”

Inola, who played a larger, but secondary, role in Snare, is Ledford’s on-the-hot-seat protagonist in Crescendo. She comes into her own in this tense novel as a three-dimensional, risk-taking police officer who needs to find the young woman’s son and who has kidnapped him even though she may be suspended or terminated regardless of what she learns.

This is a richly told psychological and physical thriller. Ledford, who knows her characters and her settings well, increases the volume of this story until the last shot is fired.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy novels, including “Sarabande’ and “The Sun Singer.”

Books on the Nightstand

My nightstand has so many books on it, there’s hardly enough room left over for the reading lamp and the alarm clock. I sleep better when there are plenty of yet-to-be-read books there. When they’re gone, I’m worse than a chain smoker who’s run out of cigarettes.

Running out of books is not an option. After finishing Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl Who Played with Fire,” I started reading two books simultaneously since one of them is on my computer. Yes, I know, if I had a Kindle, I could read e-books in bed.

By night, I’m reading Montana Mist: Winter of the White Wolf by Doug Hiser. In addition to the wolves, this novel is filled with memorable characters and mountains. I couldn’t resist.

Publisher’s Description

In the remote Montana wilderness, a mountain man, once a professional athlete, lives his life in seclusion protecting and raising orphan wolves until he gives his heart to Sassy, a young woman hitchhiking across America. He guards his secrets and the other woman in his life, a beautiful blind woman, known as “Shy Girl.” The wolf pack roams the mountains as he searches for the white wolf, Mist; that he raised and released into the harsh snowy forested peaks, his ties with the wolves as close as the bond with his new love. Montana Mist is the story of one man’s secrets, the two women in his life, and the wild world of wolves of the remote forest in the last untamed region where man has not put his imprint on the land. A man shaped by the mystery of his past and the complication of his future while the adventure of his heart threatens to destroy his solitary precious world of mountain, wolverine, moose, elk, and wolf.

By day, I’m reading Razor’s Revenge by Paul Chandler. I enjoyed Chandler’s previous novel Peeper, and was happy to see the new release. This is very different (as its cover suggests) from Montana Mist, but equally absorbing.

Publisher’s Description

In 1958, a group of unscrupulous men use fabricated evidence, perjured testimony, and a crooked judge to steal Samuel Razor’s company. For ten years Razor allows them to believe they’ve gotten away with their crime. They continue to believe it until the day Razor comes for them.

Five decades later, Samuel Razor is a billionaire and an icon in the business world. His revenge taken, his youth long gone, and his health rapidly failing, there is one last important thing he wants to accomplish before he leaves this world, one more villain he needs to deal with.

The legal justice system-the very system that made the theft of his company legal and binding-is laughably easy to deceive. All it takes to defeat it is something that any human being can do: tell a lie. And from that lie come lawyers, trials, incompetent verdicts, and inevitably, unsatisfying compromises.

To ensure that the law only serves and does not victimize, there can be no lies, no lawyers, no biased judges. Samuel Razor has the money, the influence, and the motivation to reinvent the system. It will be his last and final act of revenge.

Coming up next, Snare by Deborah J. Ledford. The novel has has been nominated for The Hillerman Sky Award and follows Ledford’s outstanding 2009 novel Staccato.

Publisher’s Description

Native American pop singer/songwriter, Katina Salvo’s career is about to take off. There’s one problem: someone wants to kill her. Katina and her bodyguard, Deputy Steven Hawk, are attacked during an altercation at her first live concert. Could the assailant be a mysterious, dangerous man from her youth? Or her estranged father recently released from prison for killing her mother?

Performed against the backdrop of the picturesque Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina , and the mysterious Taos Pueblo Indian reservation, SNARE is a thriller fans of Tony Hillerman will appreciate.

These will keep me busy for a little while, though I’m already looking for more so I don’t run out. What great books are waiting on your nightstand that I ought to be considering?

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