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by Phillip DePoy
St Martin's Minotaur, December 2005
288 pages
ISBN: 0312339348

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A MINISTER'S GHOST takes its title from an encounter Fever Devilin, the series protagonist, has while driving home along a mountain road. He spots what appears to be a hitchhiker, who promptly vanishes. An oncoming train crashes into a car parked on the tracks, killing young Tess and Rory Dyson, and the small town of Blue Mountain, Georgia is rocked to the core. Fever now has a context for the apparition; it was an omen.

The accident has personal impact on Fever; he knew the girls personally and his friend Lucinda was their aunt. She is convinced that this was no accident and asks him to look into it. Fever agrees, thinking this will be a simple matter of asking a few questions. As might be expected in a mystery novel, it turns out to be a lot more complicated than anticipated.

Fever's investigations uncover a small but burgeoning drug trade. His closest friend in town, the sheriff, is suddenly non-communicative and surly. Mysterious encounters with an albino dwarf, a snake-handling minister, and an aggressive junkyard owner all serve to hammer home the point that although Blue Mountain is Fever's hometown, it's not quite the same place he left.

I have a personal bias against first person narratives, but the device is used well in A MINISTER'S GHOST. The only fault I have with the book is the slow pace. However, DePoy makes up for this in many ways. His descriptions of Blue Mountain are very vivid. The language is almost lyrical at times and he does an especially good job when it comes to describing food.

This is not to say that this is a cozy; it's not, not by any means. For all that A MINISTER'S GHOST is about a changing community, it's also about traditions. Funeral suppers and homemade apple pie are as much a part of this book as drug dealing, tox screens and autopsies.

Although A MINISTER'S GHOST is the third book in the series, new readers should not have any difficulty catching up. This is an intelligently written, thoughtful mystery that is well worth your time.

Reviewed by Michelle L. Zafron, March 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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