Review: ‘Newberry Sin’ by C. Hope Clark

Newberry SinNewberry Sin by C. Hope Clark
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Readers of C. Hope Clark’s Carolina Slade Mystery Series (“Low Country Bribe,” “Tidewater Murder,” and “Palmetto Poison”) didn’t see Ms. Slade for several years while the author was working on her Edisto Island Mysteries. It’s a pleasure meeting Slade again in “Newberry Sin.”

Newberry has a potential murder, a truckload of motives and prospective suspects, and, of course, enough sin to require the use of oven mitts while reading this mystery. Slade and her petty boss are in town for a radio show when a local man dies under suspicious circumstances. Even though USDA investigator Slade befriends a potential confidential informant, her boss–who has a grudge against her–assigns a less-experienced investigator to the case and orders Slade to stay away from Newberry.

Slade is a somewhat less self-assured investigator in this book than in earlier stories. She has good reason to be. Her boss assigns her nothing but administrative assistant duties, there are emotional issues at home and conflicts with her boyfriend, and the looming reality that she will probably be fired if she follows up on her informant’s constant pleas for help. This mix results in a somewhat muddled approach to the case at the outset, and she makes a few mistakes that don’t help.

However, readers of “Newberry Sin” will discover a deeper, more complex Slade in this novel as she wrestles with personal and chain-of-command issues while trying to sort out who might have killed whom and why. The book starts out at a high pitch and never slows down. Every page brings a new revelation or incident that clearly shows Newberry will get worse before it gets better.

Slade doesn’t want to become one of the casualties or let the bad guys get away with whatever they’re trying to do to a nice town (except for its contagious gossip).

I wanted to savor this novel for a week or so, but I couldn’t because the plot made me feel like I was riding a bat out of hell with no brakes. Slade seems to have a similar opinion.

I received a free ARC (advance readers copy) of “Newberry Sin” in exchange for an honest review.

My 2012 review of “Low Country Bribe” is here.

View all my reviews

Malcolm

Briefly noted: ‘Mercedes Wore Black,’ by Andrea Brunais

Mercedes Wore Black, by Andrea Brunais, Southern Yellow Pine Publishing (June 14, 2014), 291pp.

mercedesworeblackI’m enjoying this smartly written political thriller set in Florida where I grew up. As a former college publications adviser from a “journalist family,” I see immediately that Andrea Brunais knows the world of reporting and gets it right, especially in the domains of murder, political intrigue and the often-losing out Florida environment.

From the Publisher

Florida Politics. The only thing predictable is the unpredictability. When Janis is fired from her job at the newspaper, she focuses on the causes that matter to her. The environment and the economy. That embroils her in the 2014 election.

When her good friend Mercedes encounters danger and is brutally murdered, Janis begins to investigate. She finds herself in a political maelstrom of big money, lottery, and interests with opposing goals. Will she be able to find the crux of the problem—and Mercedes’ killer? Will she be able to expose corruption before anyone else is put in danger?

Quotes from the Reviews

  • “Fast-paced, exquisitely written, Mercedes Wore Black vividly depicts the underbelly of the newspaper industry and the all-too-real shenanigans of those who are ever willing to sacrifice Florida’s natural treasures” – Joe Guidry, The Tampa Tribune
  • “A fast-moving story with as much Florida flavor as a grouper sandwich.” Daniel Berger, Amazon reader review.

Floridians especially will enjoy this novel for it is rich in recent political history, on-going environmental issues pitting development against the land, and places state residents know well such as Tate’s Hell Forest, Sopchoppy, Bradenton, Tallahassee and Wakulla Springs. While these strengths will endear the book to Florida readers, they could be a little too much for those in other parts of the country–could be, for the intrigue is high level and will carry readers past the heavy local color.

I spent many hours at Wakulla Springs, a half hour south of Tallahassee where I grew up, and I always saw its old-Florida charm as unique and a bit strange. Now, after the protagonist’s best friend is murdered there  in Mercedes Wore Black, I don’t think I’ll ever see this home of snake birds, limpkins, turtles, and icy cold water the same again.

Highly recommended. See the full review here.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s Florida short stories include “Moonlight and Ghosts,” (Tallahassee) “Cora’s Crossing,” (Marianna) “Emily’s Stories,” (St. Marks)  and “The Land Between the Rivers.” (Tate’s Hell Swamp) His novel “The Seeker” includes major scenes at Alligator Point and Tate’s Hell.