Sunday, May 27, 2007

My new love

The woods all around me, dark now, were full. High wind, black birds, clacking branches, musical frogs, bats, weeds whispering low - here and there, a possible footfall. The night was alive, a different world from the day. Creatures of all sorts were abroad. - from Phillip DePoy's The Witch's Grave

Have you ever read one of those completely captivating mysteries that you just cannot bring yourself to put it down? Then, when you're done, you're disappointed because it's over, so you channel all your energy into trying to convince anyone who will listen to read it, because you just know they would love it, if only they would give it a chance? That is exactly how I am beginning to feel about Phillip DePoy's Fever Devilin mystery series. Not since my Julian Kestrel crush of early 2006 have I been so enamoured with a mystery series.

The series centers on Fever Devilin, a Folklorist who leaves academia to return to his native hills of Appalachia to collect folktales. Instead of quiet research, Devilin finds mystery and unexplained events and with the help of his two sidekicks, Shakespearean scholar Wilton Andrews and his childhood friend Skidmore, he sets about solving them. The plots are intelligent and complex, but never confusing and the stories include such a healthy dollop of folklore, folk music (sacred harp, mouth music, psaltry, hammer dulcimer, mandolin), history and legend that it is hard not to fall in love with them if you have any interest whatsoever in stories and oral tradition.

The other thing that I love about these books is that they are filled with well developed characters. Each person has not only a distinct voice, but DePoy has also taken the time to imbue them with believable characteristics. The characters are complex - they have histories, hopes, fears, annoying human quirks and most are genuinely likable. You'll find no charicatures or dumb yokels here.

So, next time you are bored and looking for something fun to read, pick up a copy of The Devil's Hearth. You'd might as well also pick up a copy of The Witch's Grave while you're add it. That way when you are finished and feeling depressed that it's over, you'll have another one to read. I haven't yet read the third installment (A Minister's Ghost), but am willing go go out on a limb and recommend it too. Basically, the highest praise I know to give these books is that they are just the sort of mysteries I would like to write myself!

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