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Thursday, May 24, 2007

PIckard's Newest Disappointingly Average

With nearly 20 crime novels under her belt, Nancy Pickard should be a master of the murder/suspense story. At least that's what I assumed when I picked up her newest book, The Virgin of Small Plains. Unfortunately, its compelling plot wasn't enough to rise above its many other flaws. Here's a peek...

When a young woman's body is found in a snowy pasture in close-knit Kansas town, the lives of many are changed overnight. Take Mitch Newquist, for example, who sees the corpse when it is brought into his girlfriend's father's home medical office. Although the sight of a dead woman startles him, he is even more
shocked when he sees the doctor smash her face in with a baseball bat. When he confronts his father - a judge - Mitch is told to leave town and forget about the whole thing. Then, there's Abby Reynolds, Mitch's girlfriend, who wakes up to find that her boyfriend has disappeared, without a note or a phone call. The town soon comes to suspect Mitch had something to do with the murder, but Abby simply can't believe the boy she loved was capable of committing a brutal killing. Rex Shellenberger, the sheriff's son, suspects his no-good brother was involved, but his father warns him not to tell anyone that his brother was even in town. Although the murder remains unsolved, life in Small Plains changes dramatically because of it.
So, Rex, now the sheriff, is understandably reluctant to re-open the case of the unidentified girl. His old friend Abby, however, finally convinces him to get to the bottom of the 17-year-old crime. While he's busy investigating, Mitch returns to town for the first time since his abrupt departure, causing Abby and the other townspeople some serious consternation. Did Mitch really murder the young woman? If not him, then who? Abby's new boyfriend, Patrick Shellenberger? As Abby and Rex dig into the past, old secrets surface, threatening to turn Small Plains on its head once again.
If I had to rate this novel I would probably give it about a C, and that is mostly for its plot, which was exciting enough to make me read the book in one day. However, it loses points for writing that is only so-so, as well as loose and illogical plot twists. I also felt as if the characters were flat and stereotypical. The ending was also fairly predictable, although I have to admit that the first character I suspected was actually innocent. So, the book was good enough to keep me reading, but it lacked the elements that would have made it anything more than average.

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