cover image The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter: A Novel of Suspense

The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter: A Novel of Suspense

Sharyn McCrumb. Scribner Book Company, $19 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-684-19407-3

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. (Apr.)