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Disturbing the Dead    by Sandra Parshall Amazon.com order for
Disturbing the Dead
by Sandra Parshall
Order:  USA  Can
Poisoned Pen, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

There's an area in the Appalachian Mountains where a group of people called the Melungeons live and have done so since the beginnings of the United States. They're said to be a mix of Native Americans, African-Americans, Portuguese and several other nationalities thrown in - depending to whom you're speaking. Sandra Parshall's second mystery, Disturbing the Dead, is set in these mountains and involves the Melungeons living there today.

Veterinarian Rachel Goddard takes young Holly into her home and business to help the girl make her way in the world without the interference of her frightening relatives. In the meantime, two skulls have been found in an inaccessible area and are assumed to be of women who have been missing for years and were thought to have run away from their families.

Melungeon Tom Bridger, a sheriff's deputy, returns to his birthplace bringing with him baggage he'd rather not have to face. Rachel has baggage of her own, as well as a fear for her life from a psychopath. Now she has to deal with the mountain people of her new home. She and Tom seem drawn to each other but are slow to announce their feelings. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Tom is trying to find a murderer while being shot at and verbally and physically abused. His boss doesn't seem to want him to dig too deeply into the mystery, or into the past of Tom's father.

The pace of this exciting book is fast, the plot involving many tightly-drawn characters who seem to swirl together at times. It's worth keeping everyone straight as the scenario thickens and progresses to a hard-to-put-down ending. I also found myself interested in the history of the Melungeons and used their website to educate myself about a people who were subjected to cruel racism, considered to be below everyone else in social standing.

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