The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter Turtleback – Aug 1995
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From Publishers Weekly
Revisiting some of the characters from If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O, Edgar Award winner McCrumb weaves Appalachian folklore and death, in natural and unnatural forms, into a story that meanders like a mountain stream through the hills of east Tennessee before rushing to its turbulent conclusion. Wake County Sheriff Spencer Arrowood asks Laura Bruce, wife of the local Baptist minister, who is now an Army chaplain stationed overseas, to comfort the bereaved at the scene of a bloody murder. Ret. Maj. Paul Underhill, his wife and two of his four children are dead, shot apparently by one of the sons, who took his own life after killing the others. Laura serves as advocate for the surviving children, Maggie and Mark, who want to remain in the house so they can continue going to classes at the local high school. But when deputy Joe LeDonne discovers that the two have disinterred their father's body from its grave, he wants to know what really happened on the night of the shooting. Concurrently, 38-year-old Laura is told she is pregnant and local farmer Tavy Annis is diagnosed with cancer, brought on by a chemical spill in the Little Dove River. These plots twine around the knowledge of an old mountain seer whose gift adds to the haunting quality of the story and to its chilling suspense. Mystery Guild selection.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Kirkus Reviews
Here, McCrumb turns serious as she explores death from many angles: the matter-of-factness of a backwoodswoman with the gift of Sight; the get-even attitude of two old friends, one dying from the willful contamination of the Little Dover River by the Titan Paper Company; the emotional trauma paralyzing a brother and sister (who were subjects of physical abuse and witnesses to a family bloodbath and suicide); and the despair of a three-year-old who loses his mother, and of a pregnant woman who loses her unborn child. The story unfolds through the vision of Nora Bonesteel, whose Sight sets her to sewing a funeral quilt with six graves on it, and the ministrations of Dark Hollow, Tennessee, preacher's wife Laura Bruce, who is trying to tend to her husband's flock while he's serving in the Gulf. Four of the tombstones are soon co-opted by the Underhills--mother/father/two sons--and while Sheriff Arrowood tries to understand why son Joshua killed his kin and himself, two old friends hold the paper company's CEO hostage for carcinogenic polluting (another grave), and a trailer fire (another tombstone) fills out the quilt, while Laura, grieving for her unborn child, completes the dying cycle. Compelling, in the manner of a folk tale, despite the rather limp prose. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Also, what was with the whole thing about the Judds? Particularly since all the facts were wrong. McCrumb has Martha tell Spencer that the liver is the one organ that doesn't get better, when reality is exactly the opposite. The liver is the ONLY regenerative organ in the body. Also, what's with the talk of the hepatitis coming from bad road food? If you don't want to go into the modes of transmission of hepatitis C, don't make it a subplot. As someone with a family member with hep C, the misinformation here really annoyed me. It's horribly nitpicky to say it affected my enjoyment of the rest of the book, but I kept thinking, what other facts has she gotten completely wrong? not her best effort at all.
Laura Bruce, the wife of the local minister, is summoned to the home of a family she barely knows, where the oldest son has shot his parents, youngest brother, and himself, leaving the two middle kids (who were out at the time) alive but distraught. This isn't really a mystery--there is no question as to whodunit, or even why--I guess I've read too many books, but I knew exactly what the family secret was from the very beginning. The question is, whay will become of the two remaining teenagers now that they are alone in the world? The law demands a guardian until the older sibling, the boy, reaches 18 in a few months. Laura Bruce takes on the position, but not the responsibility; she sees it mainly as a formality and doesn't check on them much. As the winter progresses, Laura becomes preoccupied with her own problems, and completely ignores the teenagers until disaster (quite literally) strikes. Hello? Why did Laura marry a minister if she didn't want to assume the social role of a minister's wife? And why, why, WHY did she agree to become these poor kids' guardian if she wasn't going to even give them a call once in a blue moon? Yes, I know she has her own problems, but she is almost forty, these kids are in high school, and she accepted the responsibility. She's an adult, and she doesn't act like one.Read more ›
Ms. McCrumb deftly guides alternating voices through the high-speed story. The tale is a page-turner, not as reflective as the other ballad stories. Nora Bonesteel, who has the Sight, is almost swept aside in the swift-moving events, both God and man-made.
Ms. McCrumb's near poetical characterizations are a delight, particularly the Ophelia-like, fifteen year-old Maggie Underhill. Maggie etches herself in your mind, though she is elusive as a fairy child. Stalwart Sheriff Spencer Underwood's not-so-secret devotion to country singer, Naomi Judd, weaves lightly in and out of the story.
I was troubled by the medical course of action advised for Laura Bruce, pregnant minister's wife. I can't see where it furthered the plot, and it seemed grossly erroneous. It is difficult to fathom how a closely-knit community can leave two teenagers whose family had been massacred so completely on their own. Surely, the church and neighbors would visit and attempt to assist them. All the characters intend "to stop by," but never get around to it. These were my only two reservations about the story line.
"The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter" should be started early in the day, because it's bad for your health and disposition to stay up all night reading a book. Enjoy.
Among the wide variety of subjects tackled in McCrumb's novel are homicide, suicide, poverty, cancer, environmentalism, Vietnam war hauntings, pregnancy and, for some strange reason, The Judds. It's a well-planned mystery that has the necessary ingredient for any great tale of the genre...the pace quickens drastically towards the end. You can't put it down once you know the answers are stepping from out of the shadows. This book is also genuinely touching in some parts.
The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter is a well-crafted book that certainly deserves to be read and enjoyed. I don't want to give anything away...so I won't. That is all.
Most recent customer reviews
"sharyn mcccrumb" on a book is a surety of star quality talent. I will save and read them again. Read morePublished on July 9 2013 by blackrock woman
I started reading this book b/c of it the title. I love sort of off beat book titles and this was certainly different. It was depressing and didn't make a whole big bunch of sense. Read morePublished on April 30 2004 by Cass
Nora Bonesteel, the wise woman of the Tennessee mountains is what her Celtic forebears would recognize as an "edge witch", one who patrols the boundaries between life and death,... Read morePublished on May 12 2003
I read the first book in this series, Pretty Peggy-O and read this one right after. This book still seemed to have the author finding her way as a writer, but it was better than... Read morePublished on April 29 2003 by Theresa W
I picked up this book reluctantly, because I have always found mysteries to be stale and boring. But this book has a way of pulling you in that you never want to get back out. Read morePublished on Nov. 28 2002 by Madeline Marshall
I read this book expecting a mystery and wound up with a slew of Tennessee backwoods tales. None of the characters were that interesting and all were the product of things... Read morePublished on March 18 2002
I really don't see how this can be called a mystery. It started off well enough but then went down hill the rest of the way. The book was fair but not what advertized to be. Read morePublished on May 1 2001 by Mac Blair
I read this for a mystery book discussion group, and we all liked it very much. McCrumb does an excellent job of putting you in the Appalachians and of detailing the various... Read morePublished on April 24 2001 by Mark S. Winger
I found "The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter" to have too many subplots. I think Sharyn could have been more detailed if she had limited her focus to 1-2 storylines. Read morePublished on Dec 30 2000 by Susan Brown