You cannot meet this author – as I had the opportunity to do at the 12th Annual SIBA (Southern Independent Book Association) Convention this past September – and not like her immediately. So I have been avoiding reading her book – what if I hated it? Fortunately, that was not an issue. I liked it so much I actually intend to go back and read earlier books in the Liv Bergen Mystery Series, even though I hate going backwards in series! But I really like these characters, and the author’s voice as channeled through main protagonist Liv Bergen is as charming as is her real-life voice of Sandra Brannan.
Liv is an attractive 29-year old miner working in Livermore, Colorado who doesn’t go out much, and says she has never apologized for “keeping my nose to the limestone.” Yet somehow [presumably elucidated in earlier books in the series], she had become involved with a murder case in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and got to know the FBI agents on the scene investigating it. And now, it so happens she gets mixed up with yet another murder case, only a short time after the last. This murder looks like one committed by a bizarre and methodical serial killer known as “The Crooked Man.” FBI Special Agent Streeter Pierce (secretly called Agent Adonis by Liv) has been frustrated by these serial cases for thirteen years now, but with Liv’s knowledge of the area and the assistance of two other agents (also-gorgeous Jack Linwood and also-gorgeous Jenna Tate), there are finally some breakthroughs. It also helps immensely that the latest intended victim of The Crooked Man, a feisty widow named Helma Hanson, managed to survive. As the protagonists work towards solving the crime, we also learn a lot about General George Armstrong Custer’s 1874 expedition into the Black Hills, and about the disputes between conservationists and ranchers over the preservation of natural resources and historic sites in South Dakota.
Evaluation: Other than the fact that everyone in this book is either “a looker” or “drop-dead gorgeous” I was delighted with this book. (And what the heck – maybe the Black Hills has more appeal than I knew!) Well, there was also the problem that what occurred in earlier books seems to be pretty important, but isn’t made all that clear to readers just jumping in at book three. Thus, I would recommend starting with the two earlier books in the series, In The Belly of Jonah, and Lot’s Return to Sodom. (Yes, all the titles are biblical references, and yes, one could even define this book, and perhaps the others, as Christian fiction.) But don’t let all these caveats deter you! This is a very likable book, with great characters. The author’s self-deprecating humor and talent as a raconteur are just as charming as can be. (And now, I’m off to order the two previous books….)
Published by Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2012