Shocking Final Chapters Leave Readers Breathless. This book was one of the more interesting in this series both because the crime being investigated here is one of the more brutal Bratt has ever put into her fiction (at least in my now 5+ yrs of reading most of her work) *and* because Bratt’s style doesn’t normally lend itself to “oh my god I can’t stop reading I have to know what happens next NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” level pacing… and yet this one’s last several chapters read exactly that way. Thus, showing a truly deft hand with her storytelling along with strong growth as a storyteller. Indeed, perhaps one minor weakness here is that given the somewhat limited number of characters (wait, what? I know – but bear with me here), it isn’t really *possible* to show just how shocking this particular crime would be throughout an entire region of small Southern towns – though even here, Bratt works well within her style and within the world she has crafted through this series to relay that as best as possible. And yes, as others have noted, given everything that happens here… Book 8 *could* be the series finale… but I too agree I’d like to see it continue well beyond that point. Very much recommended.
Strong Story Well Told – Yet Very Preachy As Well. I’ve been reading Melissa Payne’s books since the very first one, and I can assure long time fans that while this book is in fact quite preachy on a couple of subjects in particular (more on that momentarily), it is also her usual quite strong storytelling here. For people that haven’t read Payne yet, this is a good one to start with *if you don’t have issues with the topics she is preachy about here*. (Otherwise go with literally any of her other books – The Secrets of Lost Stones, Memories In The Drift, or The Night Of Many Endings.)
The preachiness here is *mostly* around trans/ LGBT issues, though there is also a fair amount of “country men who don’t agree with my opinion on these issues are all backwards a**h***s”. (I’m not going to say outright misandry, because there *are* a few male characters who are both country and shown in quite positive lights – so long as they agree with particular views on the above issues.)
Beyond the preachiness though, there *is* a genuinely strong story here. Perhaps not quite as strong as the prior works by the author, all of which created strong dust storms no matter where they are read, as this reader’s eyes got watery no matter what environment he was reading them in – and *that* never actually happened with this book. Still, as a story of finding oneself even in tragedy – a few times over – and how traumas can last to new generations, this really was quite a strong tale. And heck, there are even elements of the tale that the most hyper militant pro-LGBT types probably aren’t going to like much either, but discussing those gets *way* too far into spoiler territory to mention beyond the simple fact that they exist.
Overall truly a strong tale well told, and one that while preachy, is still readable and enjoyable by most anyone – one that even if you would normally be put off by the preachiness, it is still a tale strong enough to push through those feelings and read anyway. Just please, if you do that, don’t lower your rating because of the preachiness. Do what I did here, and put your thoughts on that subject in the text of the review. 🙂
Very much recommended.