cover image If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O

If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O

Sharyn McCrumb. Scribner Book Company, $17.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-684-19104-1

McCrumb surpasses lauded earlier novels, including 1988 Edgar winner Bimbos of the Death Sun , with this inventive mystery. Sheriff Spencer Arrowood remembers Peggy Muryan, a newcomer to Hamelin, Tenn., as a moderately popular folksinger of the 1960s. Hoping to compose fresh songs in the quiet town, Peggy instead attracts messages from a secret killer. Arrowood and Deputy Joe LeDonne answer her call for help and the latter, a Vietnam veteran, recognizes descriptions of the war's horrors in the threats. Peggy's dog is killed, and later a girl with a strong resemblance to her, but it's a long, suspenseful struggle for the sheriff and his right-hand man to learn the terrible, astonishing facts in the case. A superior mystery, the book is also a masterful drama of lives shaped by traumatic events, as McCrumb bares the psyches of her characters. Mystery Book Club selection. (Apr.)