cover image She Walks These Hills: A Novel of Suspense

She Walks These Hills: A Novel of Suspense

Sharyn McCrumb. Scribner Book Company, $21 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-684-19556-8

In 1779, Katie Wyler, 18, was captured by the Shawnee in North Carolina. The story of her escape and arduous journey home through hundreds of miles of Appalachian wilderness is the topic of ethno-historian Jeremy Cobb's thesis-and the thread which runs through the third of McCrumb's ballad novels (after The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter). As Cobb begins to retrace Katie's return journey, 63-year-old convicted murderer Hiram (Harm) Sorley escapes from a nearby prison. Suffering from Korsakoff's syndrome, he has no recent memory: old Harm is permanently stuck in the past. Hamelin, Tenn., police dispatcher Martha Ayers uses the opportunity to convince the sheriff to assign her as a deputy. One of her first duties is to calm a young mother who, angry at her inattentive husband, is threatening her baby with a butcher knife. Ayers and the sheriff must also warn Harm's ex-wife Rita that he has escaped. Acting as a kind of narrative conscience is a local deejay, a ``carpetbagger from Connecticut,'' who sees Harm as a folk hero from another era. Deftly building suspense, McCrumb weaves these colorful elements into her satisfying conclusion as she continues to reward her readers' high expectations. Mystery Guild selection; author tour. (Oct.)