Review: ‘Snare’ by Deborah J. Ledford

SnareSnare by Deborah J Ledford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Deborah J. Ledford’s “Snare,” book two of the Deputy Hawk/Inola Walela Thriller Series quickly entangles readers who believe young Katina Salvo’s broken past will remain long ago and far away. A popular California songwriter and recording star, Katina has never released photographs and videos or appeared in a live concert because she doesn’t want her fans to know what happened in Valentine, Nebraska on August 29, 1995 at 11:29 p.m.

After convincing her twenty-three-year-old Native American signing sensation she owes her fans a live concert, business manager Petra Sullivan hand-picks a small theater in North Carolina so Katina can debut in a nonthreatening environment.

However, before they leave for the Great Smoky Mountains, Katina discovers that Petra has been hiding threatening fan mail from her. Both overprotective and nurturing, Petra is the mother Katina was never allowed to have. Katina asks if the series of letters is coming from the father she wants to forget.

While Petra maintains the nasty letters are simply a nuisance downside of being famous, Katina is less certain, and wonders what else Petra has been keeping from her. The concert goes forward as scheduled because, as Petra tells Katina, “you can’t hide out forever.” Plus, Katina’s safety is a top priority through the efforts of the sheriff’s point man on the security detail, Deputy Steven Hawk. Hawk also appeared in Ledford’s stunning debut novel “Staccato” (Second Wind Publishing, 2009).

The concert appears to be a triumph until Katina is attacked by a shadowy man in the audience who escapes leaving few clues behind. Katina thinks she knows who it was. Hawk thinks he is responsible for the security lapse. Together, they plan to ensnare the perpetrator. Against the advice of Petra, Hawk’s girl friend and sheriff’s department colleague, Inola, and veteran officer Kenneth Stiles, they fly to the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico where Katina’s past lies hidden.

In “Snare,” Ledford brings her readers a novel of contrasts: Katina’s horrible childhood vs. a successful recording career, people who can be trusted vs. those who follow their own agendas, Native American beliefs vs. mainstream spiritual viewpoints, and the lush beauty western North Carolina vs. the stark beauty of central New Mexico. “Snare” has been nominated for a Hillerman Sky Award, an honor presented to the mystery that best captures the landscape of the Southwest.

While “Snare” does not quite match the bone-chilling punch of “Staccato,” it excels in other ways with deeper character development, a realistic presentation of Native American society and beliefs, and the role of family and friends in the choices one makes. By no means legato, “Snare” provides an ever-tightening story with a realistic, satisfying and unpredictable conclusion

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If you like the Pueblo influences in SNARE, you may also like the Blackfeet influences in GARDEN OF HEAVEN

Book Review: ‘Crush at Thomas Hall’

When Cassandra Martin attends Crush Weekend at Virginia’s Thomas Hall Winery with her good friends Sarah and Michael, she experiences the multiple meanings of the word “crush” in Beth Sorensen’s soon-to-be-released romantic mystery Crush at Thomas Hall.

In wine making, the crush–often called a grape stomp when it’s done with bare feet–gently splits the skins of the recently harvested grapes allowing the juice to escape. Thomas Hall’s annual Crush Weekend is a festive event in which long-time friends of the powerful Baker family gather to help with the harvest, taste the wine and enjoy each others company.

Cassandra quickly develops a crush on winery CEO and confirmed bachelor Edward Baker. The feeling is mutual. Yet, she has recently buried an abusive and controlling husband, and Edward–for all his gentle intentions–is used to being in charge. His behavior is not only emotionally crushing, but reminds her of the worst moments of her marriage.

A college professor on sabbatical to rediscover her life, Cassandra is a highly intelligent protagonist, eager to soak up not only the ambiance but the art and science of wine making. Yet, in personal matters, she is indecisive, vacillating between losing herself in Edward’s arms and running away to a safe place where she can avoid the danger of emotional commitments.

Complicating her evolving romance is talk of millions of dollars of funds embezzled from the winery, a dead body in the wine cellar, and an attack that sends Cassandra to the hospital. Beth Sorensen has spun a compelling mystery of champagne dreams and family intrigues in Crush at Thomas Hall. Sorensen’s protagonist must decide whether to continue her round-the-world travels or seriously consider whether she should make a commitment to Edward and his winery. No matter that she decides, she’s in jeopardy, for there is every indication that the killer wants her stomped dead and out of the complicated picture.

Crush at Thomas Hall is an exciting, romantic and highly recommended fine-vintage debut novel.

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “The Sun Singer,” “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire,” and “Garden of Heaven.”

‘Notes in a Mirror’ author coming Dec 8

I’m looking forward to interviewing Helen Macie Osterman, author of the new thriller “Notes in a Mirror” on December 8.

This compelling book, released November 15th by Weaving Dreams Publishing, is set in a grim, 1950s mental institution where the treatments are as archaic as the dark. cold buildings.

The author worked as a nurse for 45 years. During her training, her rotation took her to such a hospital for three months where she witnessed hydrotherapy, Insulin coma therapy and electroshock. These were once accepted treatments for the mentally ill, and they are part of the world protagonist Mary Lou Hammond and Kate Stephens are plunged into at the fictional Hillside State Mental Hospital.

But there’s more. Somebody is trying to contact the sensitive Mary Lou. Is it her imagination, a former patient, or perhaps the mad house is driving her mad. This 213-page mystery will keep you guessing while making you thankful you were never committed to Hillside–or the real-life institutions on which it is based.

As the Osterman writes in her introduction, “The treatments provided were primitive and sometimes dangerous, but at the time, considered state of the art.” The author’s experience as a student nurse in such an institution gives her the knowledge to make this an accurate and chilling novel.

Malcolm, author of “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire” and “The Sun Singer”

Book Review: ‘Staccato’ by Deborah J. Ledford

Staccato Staccato by Deborah J Ledford

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“Staccato” is staccato: sharp, crisp, almost percussive–like gun shots, like a cane tapping on the floor or striking a shoulder, like light reflected off a black Porsche Targa, like the piercing cold of a Great Smoky Mountains night.

Two years into his career as a world-class concert pianist, young Nicholas Kalman finds his absent father’s journal. It’s written as a warning to Nicholas, or perhaps a confession. “Beware of this man you call, Uncle,” it says.

The uncle is Alexander, the tyrannical, club-footed, cane tapping maestro and mentor. He’s crafted the talented Nicholas into a dazzling musician who crushes the competition in every venue. He drinks. He expects perfection. He lashes out when angry.

Alexander demands unquestioning obedience from Nicholas, the cloyingly submissive second-string pupil Timothy, the imposing butler Sampte, his niece Elaine, sheriff’s deputy Steven Hawk, and everyone else who dares enter his ten thousand square foot mansion in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Deborah J. Ledford’s thriller tears through mountains and music with a steady rhythm in perfect time with the maestro Alexander’s music room metronome. Nicholas finds a his lover’s body in his Porsche. Timothy perfects his Prokofiev to steal the limelight. Sampte does what he’s ordered to do. The metronome ticks and the cane taps as the bodies pile up, as Nicholas searches for a killer and runs for his life, as Hawk investigates a grim case, as Alexander orchestrates notes and lives, as readers turn “Staccato’s” pages, quickly, crisply, sharply throughout Ledford’s Toccata-like virtuoso performance.

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Tomorrow: A conversation with Pat Bertram, author of “Daughter Am I.”

Copyright (c) 2009 by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.”