Murder in the Mountains
Drew Strickland proved impactful in his series debut, leaving me eager to read this second novel. I found myself drawn to Elven Hallie, a sheriff in a West Virginia county with ample criminal activity that only a small-town mystery can bring. After a body is found just outside the perimeter of a revival church in the woods, Sheriff Hallie must put the pieces together, while trying to handle a conservation officer who plays by his own rules. When one body becomes many, the hunt is on for a serial killer.
Picking up soon after the last book ended, Deputy Maddison ‘Madds’ Cook continues to be a tad deceptive when it comes to her connections around the county. Around the same time, when news of a body in the woods reaches the ears of Sheriff Elven Hallie, he is disturbed but also eager to get to the bottom of it all. This is the second time he has trekked into the wooded area around Dupray, West Virginia, where he is the law. The trip into the woods alone is enough to knock the wind out of him, but the body shows that this was no hunting accident and that drugs were surely a part of the problem. The more he digs, the deeper his suspicions grow about some visitors to the county.
Elven finds himself visiting a revival church in the woods, where the tent flap is always open for those looking to find salvation. Preacher Spencer Caldwell welcomes Elven onto the property but denies knowing much about what has been happening in the surrounding woods. As hunters become increasingly agitated by the disruptions and lack of game to shoot, Preacher Caldwell promises that he is only doing the Lord’s work and guarantees that he will pass along anything he thinks could be helpful.
When game warden Jesse Parsons arrives to assist with the murder investigation, he is anything but helpful. Making friends with some of the least desirable members of the community, Parsons also does not follow directions well, forcing Elven to instill some of his own law-abiding principles when the time is right.
After a slaughter in the woods, tensions mount, forcing Sheriff Hallie and his deputies to take notice. A killer is out there, drugs are running rampant, and an unwanted game warden is in the midst of much commotion. All the while, Madds continues to play a dangerous game that could see her true mission revealed. Strickland keeps the action high in this second novel of the series.
Drew Strickland does well in setting the tone once more in this series, providing a firm narrative on which the story builds. With a great sense of direction and purpose, the novel moves effectively from segment to segment without getting too bogged down.
Strickland’s development of Elven Hallie’s character proves effective, as the reader wants to know more about his past and the future possibilities he has as sheriff. Delving a little deeper into some of the other characters, Strickland keeps things interesting and flavors the book with a truly rural sense. Maddison Cook has grown as a strong secondary character, though her secret remains only partially revealed, adding to her mysterious nature.
There are some wonderful plot developments in the book, adding to some of the story arcs that occurred in the series debut. Strickland introduces new ones for the curious reader to follow and piece together throughout the reading experience. The few major twists in the story highlight the sense of control and power that has been evading Sheriff Elven Hallie. I can only hope that Strickland has more to offer, as it sets the tone for the novel and keeps the reader on the edge of their seats, seeking to better understand what is going on.
Kudos, Mr. Strickland, for leaving me wanting more as I reach for Book 3!
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