Elizabeth Goodweather and her husband built a rewarding life in the hills and hollows of their adopted Appalachian home. But now Elizabeth is alone, her husband tragically killed, her children grown, the land around her filled with customs and beliefs she cannot share. It’s still a good life–tending the small herb and flower business–but Elizabeth’s fragile peace is about to be shattered.
Cletus Gentry vanished while hunting ginseng in the hills–and his mother is sure the childlike man was murdered. As Elizabeth retraces Cletus’s last wanderings, she will discover that a killer has been waiting all the while in the coves and hollows near her farm for her to see the light…and then come willingly to her own death.
Fundamentalist Christian snake handlers and liberal back-to-the-landers; a secretive white supremacist militia and undercover police agents; simple rural mountain dwellers and sophisticated urban artists throw in a counterculture commune of allegedly extraterrestrial origin and that still wouldn't cover all the disparate types who populate the Appalachian community of Ridley Branch, N.C., the setting for this well-crafted, dramatic tale of murder, miracles and midlife romance. Widow Elizabeth Goodweather, the 52-year-old proprietor of an herb and flower farm, becomes dangerously involved in a homegrown investigation when a housebound elderly neighbor refuses to accept the official verdict that her retarded yet woods-savvy son's death was accidental. Evocative detail brings the supporting characters vividly to life, as the plot moves between the mountain man's killing and an unsolved historical mystery that appears to eerily mirror the murderous modern scenario. Also admirable is the sensitivity with which Lane utilizes exotic religions to intensify the book's dark-toned suspense, while resisting oversimplification and insult. Her heroine's open-minded fascination with beliefs not her own should appeal to an unusually wide readership.