Smoke On the Mountains


Fiction - Mystery - Murder
434 Pages
Reviewed on 05/09/2018
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Born in the heart of the Shenandoah, moved up to north to work as a chaplain, counselor, and crisis mental health professional. I am probably one of the larger people you'll meet, but I don't take up much room, and value getting to know folks, and sharing in the day-to day. I think dogs are some of the best parts to God's creation, and motorcycles make me smile. I love life, and wish good things for all living creatures. Reading, and writing - could anything ever be finer? It is such a special thing to write my heart, and then be able to share it with others.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Lesley Jones for Readers' Favorite

In Smoke on the Mountains by Sam Knupp, the year is 2018 and a Coalition, including Antifa and Black Lives Matter, has arrived in Timberville, Virginia from Charlottesville. Tensions are high as people have had enough of the uncertainty and feeling that they are not being listened to. The statue of Stonewall Jackson, a brave general killed by his own men, is torn down in a stand against his view on slavery. The Coalition hopes to make America great again. No sooner has the Coalition arrived and set up camp when a child called Pepper Anne disappears while searching for her dog. When one of its high profile and well-respected residents is questioned, the people of Timberville realise everyone is under suspicion and no one can be trusted.

For me, this was a heartwarming look at human nature. I loved each and every character; they were unique to one another and the detail the author has put into each of them was outstanding. I thought Reverend Marvel Goodman was an impressive character, full of wisdom and with a love for his community and everyone that attended his church. The relationship between the residents as the search for Pepper Anne’s killer ensues was a superb example of weaving different plots into each other. I also found the way the writer describes scenes of violence was not graphic; he used his talent for descriptive writing instead. The words of wisdom at the end of each chapter were a great addition and relevant to the story line, my favourite being, ‘the poorest man owns many things. The richest man isn't owned.’ This book had everything for me; an emotional search for a missing child, gripping twists in the plot and an ending that I was not expecting. A fantastic novel and highly recommended.

Jamie Michele

Smoke On the Mountains by Sam Knupp is something of a dichotomy between the genre into which it has been pigeon-holed (murder mystery) and where it truly lies...somewhere within the realm of paranormal and religious fiction. It also flirts wildly with literary fiction, as Knupp writes in the style of the best classics. It is for this reason I initially thought the story might just be too deep - too intelligent - for me. Thankfully I hung in there because it's a story that, while tying up all of its loose ends, also requires a period of reflection after setting it down. A little girl named Pepper Anne goes missing while looking for her dog, Rufus, in Timberville, Virginia. As the story unfolds, we see this town is not what we first imagine, and elements that transcend time, space, and all we know to be true slowly reveal themselves.

Knupp has achieved what most would call world-building, but has done so on a slice of America's most rugged topography, the setting cleverly named within a state where logging is a staple in every county. This is also where history and the present tend to collide, and where the separation of church and state don't apply. Knupp has so well crafted this world that any initial hesitation to immerse myself into Smoke On the Mountains left in the space of a handful of paragraphs. The prose is eloquent and reminiscent of William Faulkner. Passages almost sing, such as: "Admitting he believes her dead taints him. He wishes he had held tighter to hope. Giving up hope is conspiring with death. He has betrayed life." I would recommend this book to anyone interested in intelligent fiction and an extraordinary, almost lyrical story about murder, community, reflection, and - at the heart of it all - God.

Divine Zape

Smoke on the Mountains by Sam Knupp is a story with a very complex plot, a tale with a powerful historical setting and interesting characters, featuring mystery and murder. It is a story with several interesting subplots, driven by the setting and conflict. At the start of the story, a young girl, Pepper Anne, goes out to look for her puppy but never returns. Something awful is about to happen, a merging of the past with the present. With a setting between the regular world in 2018 and 1864 with the images of the Civil War, the reader is drawn into a culture of violence and a religiosity that edges towards escapism. Sam Knupp paints a fascinating tapestry of Timberville and the Shenandoah Valley, with an array of very interesting characters.

This is a great story of murder and mystery with strong historical underpinnings, a story that captures the rhythm of life in a community and what happens when that rhythm is disturbed by violence and murder. The unique and compelling narrative tone, the vivid descriptions and the insightful passages are among the elements of the narrative that set this novel apart. The use of symbolism — the bell for instance — is apt and moving. The voice is clear and exciting - it captures fascinating images of the setting - and the author explores character development in an impeccable way. The pacing is fast and the evocative, poetic nature of the prose offers a lot for readers to think about. Smoke on the Mountains is a unique kind of narrative, with each chapter ending with few lines of wisdom for readers to consider. Well-plotted and executed with the touch of the master’s hand.

Christian Sia

Smoke on the Mountains by Sam Knupp is the story of a people, a story of war, the life of a community, an intersection between the past and the present. The narrator says, “It’s 2018 in the regular world, and 1864 just a few miles down Main Street.” The story begins with a small girl called Pepper Anne, who follows her puppy out and never returns, and quickly moves on to explore the social issues of this community in the valley of the Shenandoah. What happened to little Pepper Anne and who killed her? The story explores the history of the place and traces the evolution of the village from the destruction of the war to what it is now. It’s a story in which the people form the protagonist, a people whose roots have been threatened and who must rise up to face another devastating challenge. Meet the compelling cast of characters, including Mrs. Grant, the seven-foot tall Marvel Goodman, the bell and statues, and many others.

This is a novel that is written in a very evocative style, with prose that reads like poetry, filled with humor and symbolism. Sam Knupp has a unique phraseology and the word choice is impeccable. Readers feel like the entire story is a song in their hearts, the wonderful images of the setting, including the smoky mountains, are vividly captured in the prose. Some of the descriptions are terrific and there is a current of wisdom flowing through the writing. Every chapter ends with a powerful insight. For instance: “… love is what makes a parent. Love and sacrifice is mother and father to raising a child. When children die parents cry because it wasn’t them.” I also enjoyed how the author allows different perspectives of the characters to come across in the narrative.

The narrative is punctuated by compelling social commentaries that enrich the setting and help readers to understand the characters even better. Character development is wonderfully done and the insights the author offers about the characters are just awesome. Talking about Marvel Goodman, the blind man being able to see again, the narrator notes: “Marvel Goodman can see again. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to be happier. It only means that he’ll have to see farther than what a blind man usually has for sight.” Smoke on the Mountains is a novel like no other, a tale of murder and mystery, and the story of a peculiar community.

Anne-Marie Reynolds

Smoke on the Mountains by Sam Knupp is a murder mystery set in the past and the present – at the same time. The Civil War is raging in 1864 but just a couple of miles away, it's 2018. Pepper Anne has gone looking for her puppy, vowing not to return home until she finds him. Instead, she finds evil. The church bells toll, a warning of what is to come, and she waits, waits to be found and brought home. Old Martin watches over Timberville, the biggest bell in the valley, ringing out warnings and welcomes. The bell calls to wake the valley, to warn them of the evil that has taken Pepper Anne, calling the people to help, as bells toll across the whole valley. All hell is about to break loose as the past and the present collide and the hunt for a monster begins.

Smoke on the Mountains by Sam Knupp is an in-depth story, complex, gripping and highly compelling reading. It took me a while to get into it, but it soon caught me, and I found it very difficult to put down. This is a really well-written novel, an excellent debut in the competitive, tough world of writing and I think Sam Knupp has opened with a cracking novel. This is a murder mystery, but it is nothing like any murder mystery you have ever read before. The plot is unique; it twists and turns, it wends its rocky way through the valley, darting off on this path and that, but always coming back to the right path. The characters are fantastic, really well developed and likable. I promise that this story will grip you as hard as it gripped me, and you won’t want to put it down.

Mary Johnston

The novel “Smoke on the Mountains,” by Sam Knupp was a beautifully written tale about the murder of Pepper Anne. A true mystery story that keeps readers entertained until the very end! I highly recommend avid readers to purchase this novel and become entranced by the words on the pages.