Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Flowers For Her Grave by Jean Sheldon
Published by Bast Press
A twenty-year-old mystery is about to come to life again, stirring up old doubts, old fears and, perhaps, old memories. On this, the twentieth anniversary of a murder and a disappearance, the Gazette, this small town's local paper, has run a story revisiting the long ago unsolved crime. Louise Vandenberg, the only surviving member of the family has just passed away. She chased the mystery for years, writing every clue into diaries, did she have the answer to who killed her husband and what happened to her daughter? Who killed Jack? Was five-year-old Kimberley kidnapped? Is she alive or dead?
The little town of Raccoon Grove was stunned by this crime in their usually crime-free community, but twenty years is a long time and memories fade. David and Tracy run the paper, and Tracy definitely has an inquiring mind. When two unsigned letters arrive at the paper, one purporting to know who killed Jack, and another simply saying Kimberly is alive in Chicago, and giving a phone number, her clue-sniffing persona takes over. Tracy and Kate are best friends, so sleuthing together does not deter them.
This is also a tale of renewal, family relationships, growth and confidence, and how terrible things can happen without intent. Kate, never with faith in herself, lived in an empty shell most of her life until she discovered her love of flowers and her skill with arrangements. Jean Sheldon is an expert at description, and no less so in this book. Her description of the flower gardens is so beautiful it is possible to picture them in the reader's mind. I'm sure if I didn't suffer from lack of smell, I would even have smelled them. Her gardens have given Kate a feeling of worthiness she has never known before and made her stronger.
Jack Vandenberg was "the" attorney many women chose to obtain divorces, for his compassion, understanding, and as a very good divorce lawyer. We meet several quirky characters in this book, many ex-husbands firmly ensconced in their bar stools. Some husbands blamed Jack for the breakups of their marriages and convinced themselves their wives were having an affair with him. Kate's ex-husband Dirk was one of these. Was it possible that a disgruntled ex-husband had done the deed?
Tracy and Kate begin with old files from the Gazette and an interview with Ben, ex-police chief, who soon turns up dead raising even more questions. Coincidence or accident? There are enough dead ends, false leads, threats, and pretenders to keep the reader guessing. Sara Collins as Kimberley's best friend spent many years treated for depression after the disappearance, but with 20 years behind her and an excellent therapist, she is doing very well, even with the inevitable gaps in her memory. When Kate takes her on as assistant in her gardens and mentors her, her health improves dramatically, but Sara is unable to go near pink roses. Is there a connection?
Throughout the book, odd incidents happen. The tension mounts bringing with it danger for our protagonists. In their haste to stall off more crises, some errors in judgment occur, but a reality check makes up for those slips. Uncertain memories sometimes steer them in wrong directions as the townspeople try to remember who was where, and when. The most crucial evidence is expected to show up in Louise's journals, but a break-in at the Vandenberg house has resulted in the disappearance of the most recent ones. Can they ever be found? Will they be destroyed? When Tracy and Kate find themselves as targets, they become more determined to find the culprit.
Ms. Sheldon has a wonderful sense of history, mystery, and the flaws of mankind. She has written several stand-alone books, and though mysteries, they are entirely unique. They all pique the reader's interest. Each is carefully researched, presented, and keeps us reading. She is sharp as a tack in nailing her diverse mysteries, always with a touch of humor. My thanks to the author for keeping me entertained and guessing! Another great mystery by Jean Sheldon, who will shock you by the end of this book