Thursday, February 8, 2018

Book Review: 'Oklahoma Winds' by Cary Osborne

Oklahoma author Cary G. Osborne has always lived in the Southern states (many of them) and writes in a variety of styles – science fiction, fantasy, horror, and now mysteries. OKLAHOMA WINDS his her eighth book. She derives her inspiration for her stories from the South, from her career as an archivist, and from her experiences growing up as an Army brat!

Leaning on her personal experiences as an archivist, Cary has created Sydney St. John and if the subtitle of ‘A Sydney St John Mystery’ suggests more stories with St John as the main character, we have much to anticipate. Cary introduces us to her lead in the opening paragraphs of her book: ‘Irene shivered as she walked down the hall of the old bank building. The wooden plank floor creaked with each step. She drew the light jacket more tightly around her plump body. Temperature control is important in an archive and Sydney St. John, archivist of the Filmore Historical Archives, and her boss, kept an eagle eye on the thermostat. Irene had volunteered to come in early to try to make points with Sydney. The transcripts of some oral histories she had typed up earlier in the week were not up to the archivist’s standards and she needed to make points if this internship was going to earn her a good grade. Surely, volunteering would make a difference in the report sent back to Dr. Harmon who was the monitor for the internship. She turned on the hall light and made her way down the stairs to the processing room. It was even colder down there. The light was already on, although no one else was supposed to be in the building this early. Someone forgot to turn it off the night before. She set her purse on the worktable. She and Sydney had cleared it off the afternoon before to make room for her work. Now, there were tools and a box of acid-free folders she might need, plus a copy of the box list that had come with the new collection. Irene went to the old boxes stacked against the far wall and picked up the lone box sitting on the floor nearest to the table. It was numbered “17.” Startled by a noise behind her, she started to turn, but the box was heavy, hampering her movement. Something hard smashed down on the back of her head. Her knees buckled and she dropped the box straight to the floor. The second blow took her to her knees. The pain blinded her. The cold concrete floor cooled her cheek as blood bubbled from her lips.’

The synopsis lets us know what is in store: ‘In Oklahoma, spring brings storms raging across the American prairie, too often spawning tornadoes that lash the land. But this spring Sydney St. John finds herself fighting for her life against another danger, one from the past. When her intern's body is discovered in the archives processing room, everyone wants to believe the girl's death was an accident or a horrible mistake. But Sydney sets out to discover whether the cruel murder of today resulted from another crime committed nearly seventy years earlier, searching for clues as only an archivist can. Her search leads her to another danger, different, in the person of Ben Bartlett, grandson of the creator of the very collection at the center of the mystery. Is he to be her lover? Or her murderer?’

Binding history with current facts is a gift that is a specialty of archivists, so it is no wonder that Cary pulls off this character so well. What is an added attraction is her sensitive description of the background Oklahoma weather – Cary knows the rages of change than can sweep the plains of that state and makes them a true character in the story. This a very well written book – a true mystery as few can write today. Grady Harp, May 16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.