By: Jennifer Youngblood and Sandra Poole
Reviewed by: Jody Kamins Harper
Mapletree Publishing Company, 2008
Investigating the violent death of her father, a determined young woman risks her life for answers, finding faith and romance amidst the dangerous truth in a small North Alabama town. A sawmill rife with fatal accidents is the site of trouble in the fictional town of Stoney Creek, a place full of misgivings for protagonist and reader alike, but for different reasons.
Sidney Lassiter—whose hidden identity, Cindy McClain, is bound in the tragedy of her girlhood—moves back to her hometown with a personal mission. Under her unknown name, she insists on exhuming answers to her father’s death which occurred a decade earlier in a boating accident that left her seriously injured. She first wavers between anger and self-blame, doggedly seeking evidence of murder covering some illegal activity at the mill.
Sidney/Cindy tries to determine who will help or thwart her in a changing masquerade of charm and distrust from many such as her supervisor, the sawmill owner’s alcoholic wife, and even the local football coach, one of her two romantic interests in the novel.
She connects with the community, serving others, from a destitute family at church to her eccentric yet watchful next-door neighbor. Eventually, she shifts to investigating her own emotions, from anger to honest appraisal to questions of faith. These interactions are redemptive in an obvious way.
Unfortunately, the glare of spelling and grammatical errors, hyper-dramatic phrasing, and cliché illuminate the need for editing. For example, while fishing, the daughter “shutters” when putting a worm on a hook. Later in the novel, when forced off the road by an assailant, she hits the “breaks” in her jeep. The mother-daughter author team of this novel also rely on such stock phrases as “searching for a needle in a haystack” when fresher language is needed.
Several scenes are, however, more aptly described, such as a battle of roosters in a cockfight, which echoes the violence of the local men: “A cloud of feathers rose in the air when the roosters were thrown together. The feathers fell like snow to the dirt, and the handlers reached to disengage their combatants.”
Combining the genres of religious fiction and murder mystery, this narrative may have worked as well if a screenplay.
Jody Kamins Harper is a freelance writer in Dothan.