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Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Riveting Mystery Taut, Atmospheric

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

With paper mills closing all up and down the Androscoggin River, everyone knows it's only a matter of time before the one in little Titan Falls, New Hampshire, follows suit.  Not that anyone dares to voice such an opinion.  Or to imagine a future without the steady pulse of the mill pumping its lifeblood into the small community.  Without its only industry, Titan Falls is poised to become another "hollowed-out settlement stuck at the wrong end of nowhere" (5) just like all the other failed paper towns in the North Woods.     

As the wife of the mill's owner, June McAllister must keep a stiff upper lip at all times, despite her many worries.  The other mill wives might not fully accept her—since June was not, after all, born and bred in Titan Falls—but they look to her for guidance and leadership.  In spite of her misgivings, she must give it to them, must keep up the image of being in control of what is, by all appearances, a picture-perfect life.  This becomes especially important after June learns the truth about the cause of a school bus accident that stole the life of a young girl.  She will do anything to cover up what really happened.  Anything

Unlike the McAllisters, the Snow Family has never had much—no money, no education, no standing in the town that has always shunned them.  Accused of vagrancy, witchcraft and all manner of evil-doing, the Snows have never been able to get ahead.  Nineteen-year-old Mercy Snow wants nothing to do with Titan Falls, but she has little choice.  With nowhere else to go, she, her older brother, and her younger sister come looking for their estranged father, who still lives on his family's land.  What they find is what the Snows always find—trouble.  Accused of causing the school bus crash, Zeke Snow is jailed.  Mercy knows—or thinks she knows—that her brother is not responsible.  But, who is?  It's up to her to clear her brother's name.  

At cross-purposes, June and Mercy clash in a vicious battle between rich and poor, influence and ruin, truth and lies.  The fate of two families, a dying town, and a boat-load of long-buried secrets hang in the balance as the women face-off in a war that only one can win.

When Gerard Zemek—one half of the married couple that writes Grab a Book From Our Stack—posted a rave review of Mercy Snow, I knew I had to read the novel.  ASAP.  As promised, Tiffany Baker's newest is indeed "an enjoyable page-turner."  It's more than a run-of-the-mill (see what I did there??) thriller, though.  Baker infuses her tale with rich, complex characters; a vivid, multi-layered setting; and sharp, atmospheric prose.  True, none of the book's characters are all that likable and the whole story's pretty darn depressing, but still, Mercy Snow is a taut, engrossing mystery that kept me riveted from start to finish.  

(Readalikes:  Reminded me of Crooked River by Valerie Geary [available October 14, 2014])

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a few F-bombs, plus milder invectives), violence and sexual content

  To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

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Swimming in a Sea of Stars by Julie Wright

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