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by Donis Casey
Poisoned Pen Press, July 2005
226 pages
ISBN: 1590581490

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Life in the 1900s in Oklahoma is not especially easy. The winters are harsh, farm life is hard and there are not always enough resources to go around. The one benefit from this lifestyle is the importance placed upon friends and family. However, what happens when a family is divided or members are abused?

Harley Day is a mean drunk who makes moonshine and beats his wife. He leaves all of the farming to his oldest son and refuses to share his monetary gains from the sale of moonshine with the family. When his body is found frozen in the snow no one is surprised that his death is not mourned.

Unfortunately, when the body is laid out for the viewing, Alafair Tucker, a local woman, notices a bullet wound behind his ear. Someone has taken their hatred of Harley a step further and killed him. The police think that the most likely suspect is Harley's oldest son, John Lee, who disappeared after informing the police of the death. As this was before the bullet wound was found, it is suspicious. One of Alafair's daughters is in love with John Lee and swears he had nothing to do with the murder. Alafair will try to get more information about the situation and save the life of an innocent child.

The protagonist of this book is Alafair Tucker, mother of nine surviving children. She washes clothes, cooks the meals, keeps the house clean and is the driving force behind the family. Throughout this book, she always maintains her composure regardless of what she learns about people or their behaviors.

It is apparent that morality and justice play important roles in her life and that nothing will prevent her from making sure that everyone is given the benefit of the doubt. In some ways, Alafair is almost too perfect. While she does have her secrets, she still does everything that is expected of her as a farmer's wife and more.

THE OLD BUZZARD HAD IT COMING is more of a period piece than a true mystery. While murder does have its place in the novel, the struggle of living on a farm in the dead of winter is what drives the book. This book captures the feel of a small farming community and the ties that bind people together. It also provides a glimpse at the harshness of life seen through the death of children and livestock. For the characters of THE OLD BUZZARD HAD IT COMING, life is a precious thing not to be sacrificed or ignored regardless of its disappointments.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, July 2005

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