Monday, February 13, 2006

Sharyn McCrumb's Ghost Riders

Book Cover: Ghost Riders

I just finished reading Sharyn McCrumb's Ghost Riders, the most recent of her "Ballads" novels, set in the mountains of East Tennessee and western North Carolina. Her books are fun to read, and she is meticulous about details, including history, biology, geology, and dialect.

Her early books, the Elizabeth McPherson series and the Jay Omega books (Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool) are mysteries. Previous volumes of the Southern Appalachian series follow Sheriff Spencer Arrowood through present-day investigations while describing parallel incidents from local history. There is always at least a hint of the supernatural in the plots, if only Nora Bonesteel's premonitions. Ghost Riders has the sheriff and other recurring characters, but there's not really a mystery this time, just juxtaposed narratives of Ms. McCrumb's modern-day characters and the historical Malinda Blalock and Zebulon Vance (a Civil War raider and the Confederate Governor of North Carolina). Some reviewers have criticized this absence, but I didn't miss the mystery. The historical narratives are so convincing and so interesting that I consider this book her best. It is quite an achievement to write a series that gets better and better. So many mystery series run downhill, as the author tries to keep the beloved characters moving forward in ways that the readers will like. (Patricia Cornwell comes to mind here, but I think even Miss Marple eventually ran out of steam.)

I was surprised that there were relatively few Internet references for Ms. McCrumb, considering how popular and how well-respected her books are.

Book Cover: Bimbos of the Death Sun Zombies of the Gene Pool

1 comment:

Reya Mellicker said...

You make me want to read this book, in fact you make me want to read all her books, but especially the "ballad" series. What a wonderful label for a set of novels.