4 out of 4 stars
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Ghost Dog by Helen Currie Foster is the second installment in the Alice McDonald Greer Mystery series. It is a mystery set in Coffee Creek, a small town in Texas Hill Country where everyone knows everyone or knows their mother, friend, etc. Annie Temple, a folk/country singer icon, is found dead in a pool right before Tessa McElroy’s concert at Twin Springs Studio, Ray and Toni Gimble’s recording studio/retreat. Tessa, a young singer-songwriter, immediately becomes a suspect in Annie’s murder. The Gimbles claim that Tessa signed over the publishing rights to a song of their choosing, and they chose Tessa’s best song, Hills. They sold the song for Annie to use in a commercial. Discovering this information just before the concert, Tessa says that she would never have signed away the rights to her favorite song.
Small-town contracts lawyer Alice McDonald Greer becomes involved in the case, since Tessa was staying at her home temporarily. Cowboy-poet style singer Blanton Geddes is also missing, although no one seems that concerned at first. He has gone off the grid a few times before, although this time he leaves behind his truck, recordings for a new song cycle, and an unpublished book. There is also a mysterious dog that hovers whenever Alice goes to the Twin Springs Studio retreat to search for clues. The stage is set for a mystery about the country music industry, sprinkled with a healthy dash of homespun Texas Hill Country culture.
I felt like I was wrapped up in a warm, country blanket while reading this book. The Texas Hill Country setting is like an extra character in the book, giving a cozy, down-home feel to the story. The quirky, folksy characters of Coffee Creek are written so vividly that I felt like I lived there. In fact, after reading this book, I wanted to live there! The descriptions of the places in the book, such as the Beer Barn and the bookshop that Alice and Ben visit on their road trip, are particularly well written.
The pacing of the mystery is a bit slow at times, although it didn’t dampen my enjoyment of the book. Blanton Geddes’ disappearance is brought up early in the story, and then not brought up again until much later. I don’t necessarily consider the slow pacing a negative in this book, as it is consistent with the laid-back style of the setting. I guess it’s just my taste in mysteries that I like a faster pace in a story. I am always eager to find out “whodunit”.
The real strength of the book lies in the author’s ability to make the characters and setting come alive to the reader. Alice is the main character in the story, although all of the characters, even the minor ones, are well drawn. I felt like I knew the owners of the Beer Barn, Steve the Gimbles’ assistant, and even M.A, Twin Springs Studio’s neighbor. The author does a good job of painting a picture of Coffee Creek and its inhabitants. There is only one character, Ben Kinsear, that I felt the author was inconsistent in the way he was referred to. When he is first introduced, Alice calls him Ben. When he appears again in the story, he is referred to as Kinsear. Since he was an old friend and potential romantic interest, I thought it odd that Alice would call him Kinsear. I wasn’t even sure he was the same person without looking back to the earlier chapters.
This book is the second installment in the Alice MacDonald Greer Mystery series. Although I haven’t read the first book, I didn’t feel it was necessary to have read it in order to fully understand this book. That’s always a good thing, since many readers don’t want to feel they have to start a series with the first book.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. Even with the slow pacing, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was like savoring a leisurely meal with a good friend. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a cozy mystery or just a good book with a distinctive setting. I look forward to reading more of this series.
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