I recently read the second and third books in Sandra Parshall's Rachael Goddard mystery series that started with The Heat of the Moon. I read The Heat of the Moon last year. I found the psychological mystery fascinating and suspenseful. Sandra delves into the details of Rachael's childhood, her relationship with her younger sister, and how she deals with her overpowering mother. What Rachael discovers explains and chills at the same time.
What I missed at the time was the sticker on the book that identifies it as the Agatha Best First Mystery of 2007. Wow. That is a huge honor. This year's awardee for the same honor will be named this Saturday night (and I'll be there to watch!) at the Malice Domestic conference in Bethesda, Maryland, along with the Best Short Story and Best Novel (in the Agatha tradition).
I've been reading mysteries all my life and writing them for almost 20 years. Awareness of the field, the awards, and the support systems for writers has come very gradually, however. Not sure how I missed that sticker, but I figure it's never too late to say, Congratulations, Sandra!
So I was pleased to have time during my recuperation from back surgery to read the next two books in the series, Disturbing the Dead and Broken Places. They continue the story of Rachael, a veterinarian who has now moved to Mason County, Virginia, in part to escape the emotions dredged up in the first book.
The Heat of the Moon is written in first person. The second and third books have Rachael's voice in third-person, and also feature the point of view of Tom Bridger, second-in-command to the local Sheriff. A romance develops between them through both books. It adds to the fun, the psychological depth, and the suspense. Also, Tom Bridger is part Melungeon, an ethnic group part Mediterranean, part native American, part African-American. This is a group I had never heard of, the members of which in the books experience racism and discrimination.
Sandra is a skilled writer who tells a fabulous story. She draws the setting in fine detail and keeps you on the edge of your chair. Sandra, it's your fault my fingernails are now so short as I travel to Malice. Full disclosure: Sandra is a fellow Sister in Crime, and a very active member of our online group, the Guppies - the Great Unpublished - even though she's moved up into the Great Published. I look forward to meeting her in person this weekend.
And I encourage everyone to read her series. From her web site comes the following description of her next book, Under the Dog Star. "Disappearing pets, a feral dog pack, and illegal dogfighting make a deadly mix in the mountain community of Mason County, Virginia. When a prominent doctor is fatally mauled, Deputy Tom Bridger and veterinarian Rachel Goddard pursue two killers, one human and one canine, and pierce a complex web of lies and brutality."
What about you? Have you read Sandra's books? Are you interested in the rural Virginia setting?