Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Book Review: 'Washed Up' by Laurinda Wallace

Despite the fact that author Laurinda Wallace currently luxuriates in the sunny climes of Arizona her background as a native of Western New York State (she gained her degree at Houghton College, NY) comes through on every page of this new work, WASHED UP, the fourth in the Gracie Anderson Mystery series. She brings the climate, the smells, the sights and the folksy atmosphere to life and that enhance her story immeasurably. As she states, `Growing up in rural Western New York where cows outnumber people gave me a love for the great outdoors and the magical world of books. A good book for me usually had a horse or a dog as the main character, or even better, a mystery to unravel. Black Beauty, Misty of Chincoteague, Call of the Wild, Lad, A Dog, along with Paul Hutchens' Sugar Creek Gang mystery series, Sherlock Holmes, and Christie's Poirot were all favorite reads. These books inspired writing my own tales of adventure in notebooks stashed under my bed.'

Writing series of books runs a few risks with readers: some writers either repeat the previous/prior story as a Prologue or in an Introduction, just so the reader of the present book will gain access to the cast. Laurinda Wallace is far more skilled than that. In the first page of WASHED UP she captures our attention Gracie’s discovery of a body in the Coronado National Forest, Hereford, Arizona. ‘The half-submerged body in the mountain stream confirmed Gracie’s misgivings about the timing of her vacation. She stumbled backward into Amanda Littlefield, turning away from the disfigured remains of the man sloshing against the bank of the stream that a few minutes ago had been touted as a pleasant rest stop. Amanda stifled a scream and clutched Gracie’s arm. “Oh, no,” Amanda cried, twisting to dig into her backpack, finally fishing out a cell phone. “I’d better …” The plump, middle-aged woman’s knees buckled, and Gracie caught her B & B hostess. She eased Amanda to the ground, steering her away from the grisly sight. “Don’t look,” Gracie warned. “And take some deep breaths, head down.” Amanda complied and pulled the backpack off, locating her water bottle. She gulped the liquid and took a couple of deep breaths before making the phone call. “Gary, this is Amanda. I need some help. I just found … found a body at Miner’s Springs. I’m not sure ...” All of this history is offered in conversational tone so that by the beginning of Chapter 2 we are all on board. THAT, dear readers, is talent!

Laurinda’s summary captures the essence of this rather short novel: ’Gracie's vacation to Arizona to sort out her relationship with Deputy Marc Stevens immediately turns deadly. A battered body in a mountain stream, suspicious treasure hunters, and a missing teen are players in a dangerous drug cartel case. Her romantic life may fizzle as Marc focuses on the investigation, leaving her to explore on her own. A spur-of-the-moment hiking trip with her B & B hostess leads the pair to discover a crucial piece of evidence in an unmapped cave. That's when her vacation in the high desert heats up.

Writing like this either comes naturally or feels staged. Laurinda Wallace has her style down pat and she is proving that, since all her books are as entertaining and engrossing as this, we may have a new Agatha Christie or Patricia Cornwell blossoming. Grady Harp, July 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.

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