Book Review: Poisoned Ground by Sandra Parshall

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Poisoned Ground

A Rachel Goddard Mystery

Sandra Parshall

Poisoned Pen Press


288 pages

Genre: Mystery

Poisoned Ground starts with a bang. Literally. Veterinarian Rachel Goddard arrives at one of her closest friend’s home for a routine call to find her with a shotgun in her hand. Robert McClure, president of the local bank is standing stock still on the business end of that gun.

While Rachel tries to defuse the situation, twin shots ring out from a neighboring farm. An elderly husband and wife are found dead. It cannot be murder/suicide, but who would murder this kind couple? Apparently, more people than you would think for more reasons than you would associate with a small town.

To begin with, there is a big land deal in the works for Mason County, Virginia. A developer wants to buy up all of the prime land, paying much more than the residents would ever hope to see in a lifetime. Half of them are ready and willing to sign on the dotted line. But the other half have dug in their heels, willing to protect the family farms with their dying breaths.  And they might have to.

When Rachel’s husband Tom, the newly elected sheriff, begins investigating the murders, everyone believes it is because of the land deals. Digging deeper, he finds illegal marijuana being grown and distributed, old love affairs and even cold case murders muddying up his findings.  Neighbors are pitted against neighbor in this once peaceful town. Protests lead to arrests and lifelong friendships are tested.

At first glance, this is a comfortable cozy mystery.  While it has some of the elements, Rachel gets involved with the murders deeper than she should; it has many more plot lines that add depth and layers. When Tom digs into the past of some of the residents, the sub-plot adds a richness that most cozies do not have.

I really enjoyed reading this as a standalone book having never read any of Parshall’s previous novels. There were twists and turns that kept me guessing until the last  few pages . As an avid reader of mysteries; it is often evident to me who the killer is within the first half of the book. Not this one! There were so many subtle suspects I kept getting it wrong (much to my delight) until almost the end of the book.

This is the sixth in Parshall’s  Rachel Goddard Mystery Series.  I haven’t read her other works, but didn’t feel gaps in the story or characters. Enjoying Poisoned Ground as much as I did, I will seek out her previous novels. As bonus to anyone that collects autographed books – personally, I love them and am very excited when I get one to add to my collection – you can to go her website where you can purchase signed copies or signed bookplates. Summer is coming; you may want to order several.


Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.


Book Review: The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch

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Wendy Welch The Little Bookstore of Big Stone GapThe Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap

Wendy Welch

St. Martin’s Press


291 pages

Genre: Memoir

 Wendy and her Scottish husband Jack jump blindly into their dream of owning and operating a used bookstore. With high expectations and little understanding of the pitfalls of opening a business in a tiny Virginia town, they begin living their dream hoping it doesn’t turn into a nightmare.

Challenges surrounded them. They do not have enough capital to stock the store with books, were clueless when it came to appraising collectible books and were considered outsiders by the locals. Luckily, their dream, desire to succeed and determination helped them through the difficult times.

This is so much more than a memoir about starting up a small business and following your bliss even when times are tough. It is a love story between Wendy, Jack, the locals and books.

Several times while reading this treasure, I smiled to myself thinking Wendy is profound and eloquent. Her stories brought the bookstore visitors to life. The descriptions and stories about the books she loves and sells gave me too many additions to my “to read” list.

One of my favorite quotes in this book is credited to Alan Bennett’s The History of Boys, “The best moments in reading are when you come across something—a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things—that you thought special, particular to you. And there it is, set down  by someone else, a person you’ve never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it’s as if a hand has come out and taken yours.” Every reader has felt this at least once, and I hope often. Thanks to Bennett for expressing what we feel and to Welch for sharing.

My fabulous Aunt Cindy gave me this book for Christmas. When I told her how much I loved it (after staying up way too late finishing just one more chapter the day I started it) she said she worried because I read so much and it looked different from the usual type of books. She was right that it was different, and should not have worried. This is a book for bibliophiles and tentative readers alike.

In the spirit of the Little Book Store, I will share this book with family and friends. I can’t wait to take the list of books culled from the pages to my local used bookstore, Culture Stock, to see if I can pick up a few of them. I encourage you to do the same.


Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

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