Smoke On the Mountains

Fiction - Mystery - Murder
434 Pages
Reviewed on 05/11/2018
Buy on Amazon

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Free Book Program, which is open to all readers and is completely free. The author will provide you with a free copy of their book in exchange for an honest review. You and the author will discuss what sites you will post your review to and what kind of copy of the book you would like to receive (eBook, PDF, Word, paperback, etc.). To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email.

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Book Review Exchange Program, which is open to all authors and is completely free. Simply put, you agree to provide an honest review an author's book in exchange for the author doing the same for you. What sites your reviews are posted on (B&N, Amazon, etc.) and whether you send digital (eBook, PDF, Word, etc.) or hard copies of your books to each other for review is up to you. To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email, and be sure to describe your book or include a link to your Readers' Favorite review page or Amazon page.

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Book Donation Program, which was created to help nonprofit and charitable organizations (schools, libraries, convalescent homes, soldier donation programs, etc.) by providing them with free books and to help authors garner more exposure for their work. This author is willing to donate free copies of their book in exchange for reviews (if circumstances allow) and the knowledge that their book is being read and enjoyed. To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email. Be sure to tell the author who you are, what organization you are with, how many books you need, how they will be used, and the number of reviews, if any, you would be able to provide.

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.

Ruffina Oserio

With a setting between two worlds, between present day and 1864, a few miles down Main Street, Smoke on the Mountains by Sam Knupp takes readers on a suspenseful ride along the Shenandoah, and to a quaint city with its antiques — Timberville. It’s a story of murder, but it is also a kind of reminiscence of a people, of places rich with history and events that have shaped the lives of the characters. The author plunges readers into the history of a community and explores the quirkiness of the characters and how that quirkiness is linked to the history of the place.

A young girl goes out in search of her puppy and never returns. Now the entire town is in search of the monster that killed her. And it’s here that Sam Knupp plays with the emotions of readers, crafting a tapestry of interesting characters and exploring their backgrounds, giving readers no clue of who the murderer could be. What happens is that the reader keeps on guessing, hoping it could be one of the characters and then it turns out to be someone else. Throughout the narrative, the reader asks the question: Who took Pepper Anne away from the tender, loving arms of her father? The answer will blow your mind!

Smoke on the Mountains is an engrossing read spiced with a rare sense of humor and insightful passages. The author has a unique narrative voice and the originality in style is a striking element that will have readers spellbound. He has an unusual gift for setting and the reader can feel a connection to the beautifully described locales as well as the well-crafted characters. In fact, the setting has a soul of its own. The writing is a sheer blend of poetry and exquisite prose, a style that mimics the rhythm of life in Timberville and its history. The pacing is just right, slow enough to allow the reader to savor the beauty of the story and fast enough not to miss any details. I will be reading this novel again, just for the humor that feeds it with life.

K.J. Simmill

Pepper Anne Wright knew all too well the importance of being a doggy mummy, especially after last time, so when Rufus didn't come when she called, she left in search of him. She didn't think of the danger, just of preventing her father's tears. Little did she know her actions that day would cause him more pain than she could have imagined. It is nearly Christmas, and when she doesn't come home people begin to worry. Authorities attempt to find her, hoping against hope that she is alive. But we know the truth. Pepper Anne has been murdered, and the hunt is about to begin to find the killer.

Sam Knupp's Smoke On the Mountains is written with an engaging narrative filled with location appropriate colloquialisms that nurture an authentic feel to the work. It is intelligently planned and written, with an insertion of humour in places that put me in mind of Douglas Adams. The characters are complex and developed, just like the setting. Sam Knupp clearly likes his idioms, and there is certainly no shortage of interesting ones; some set scenes, others moods. Every chapter starts with a title which acts to clarify the time line and a thought, then ends on a 'wisdom says' note that puts me in mind of daytime TV's final thoughts or thought of the day, but is related to the chapter being read.

Smoke On the Mountains is well paced with attention to detail, and enough suggestion and deception to point a finger, only for you to be surprised. I particularly enjoyed how the town and characters were built, and the afterword at the end which goes on to tell you about the characters and what happened next. The almost poetic and contemplative style of writing may not appeal to everyone, but the good plot, characters, and development will keep a reader entertained for hours.

K.C. Finn

Smoke on the Mountains is a murder mystery tale by author Sam Knupp, which expands across several different genres and textual styles to tell its story. We begin with a murder, and there’s a clear thread throughout as to who we believe to be the killer, and we follow the journey to discover if we are right or wrong about our suspicions. The plot itself is somewhat secondary to the philosophy of the story, where the characters seek answers to the concepts of belief and faith. Innocence is challenged and punished and the novel asks tough questions about justice and balance in the universe, as well as the acts of man and the judgements of God.

Sam Knupp has a real flair for dialogue and expression, which made huge sections of Smoke on the Mountains enjoyable to read, even if they didn’t appear to go anywhere plot-wise. Whilst I felt the text as a whole could be edited to a clearer point, the philosophy that surrounds the murder plot is far more interesting than the plot itself. Pepper Anne’s immediate plight played on my mind and resonated throughout the rest of the book, whilst Knupp’s cast of would-be murderers and/or detectives faced the same kinds of difficult moral dilemmas that we do in everyday life. I don’t think you have to be a religious person to enjoy Smoke on the Mountains, but anyone with a keen interest in the nature of morality and belief is certain to find this story a fascinating and harrowing experience.

Sefina Hawke

Smoke on the Mountains by Sam Knupp is a murder mystery tale that would appeal most to a diverse audience of adults and young adults who enjoy murder mysteries and who do not mind the use of some profanity by characters. The book begins with Pepper Anne Wright and her father burying their dead dog and then time skips to eight-year-old Pepper Anne searching and finding her new puppy Rufus. A happy reunion between child and puppy quickly takes a dark turn when Pepper Anne and Rufus find their reunion interrupted by a monster. Will the murderer of Pepper Anne Wright and Rufus ever be caught or will the monster retain the freedom to murder again?

Smoke on the Mountains by Sam Knupp is a well-written murder mystery that had me hooked by the end of the first chapter, as I had to know who had killed Pepper Anne and her puppy and why they were murdered. The author introduced a decent number of characters that all had complete backgrounds throughout the chapters. Each time a new character was introduced, I could not help but wonder if that character was the murderer. I liked the fact that the author kept me guessing as it kept the book interesting; too many books reveal the killer towards the beginning of the book and that takes a lot of the mystery out of a story. That was not a problem here as I spent most of the book trying to solve the murder myself. By the time I finished reading, I found that I did not correctly guess who the murderer was! Overall, I greatly enjoyed this story and I hope the author decides to write more murder mysteries in the future using this unique writing style that was employed for Smoke on the Mountains!

Mamta Madhavan

Smoke on the Mountains by Sam Knupp is a heartwarming novel set in 2018 against the backdrop of political turmoil in Timberville. It was a Friday and three days before Christmas when a thousand people marched down the main street, chanting and carrying signs that spoke of a political meltdown. Pepper Anne was feeling scared for her puppy, Rufus, and so she left a note for her mother and went in search of Rufus. She walked, praying to God, but as she reunited with the puppy a monster grabbed them both. When Pepper Anne died, she thought of her dad, Socks; “Daddy’s going to cry forever.”

I like the way the author has woven a murder mystery story against the backdrop of political unrest, lending a lot of chaos, turbulence, darkness, action, suspense, and intrigue to the plot as the story progresses. The tense situation and uncertainty in Timberville, due to the camp set up by the Coalition, is knitted into the mysterious disappearance of Pepper Anne, and the author has done it with skill. There are a lot of twists and turns in the story and the words of wisdom at the end of each chapter are an added bonus. The suspicious tone of the residents of Timberville, the search for Pepper Anne, and the humanity of the characters stand out in the story. All the characters have been well portrayed, but Reverend Marvel Goodman stands out with his love for the community and church. The descriptive narration makes the scenes vivid and effective and keeps readers connected with the characters and the plot.

Justine Reyes

Smoke On the Mountains by Sam Knupp is a mixed bag in the best way possible. We begin with a heartbreaking murder, a murder only the reader witnesses. The rest of Timberville, Virginia is still hoping and praying to God that they will find little Pepper Anne Wright alive. Readers are left to wonder who killed Pepper Anne? Amidst the dramatic irony of the narrative, Knupp tells another story hidden within layers of poetic idioms, a story about humanity in America. “Blind is blind. Sight is both perception and a point of view.” Knupp introduces readers to several characters, all very well-developed with their own backstories and motives. Their purpose is to actively engage readers into thinking which of the characters presented could be Pepper Anne’s killer.

As parents, it is natural that we want to keep our children safe, but when our children are young they get the idea in their heads that they have to make us proud and make sure they don’t upset us. Reading Chapter Zero of this novel ripped me to shreds, it knotted my insides and seamlessly undid those knots, spilling out with it a plethora of heartache. Smoke On the Mountain is one of the most beautifully written and haunting novels I have read this year. To call this a ‘whodunit’ does Smoke On the Mountains no justice. It is more than just a mystery novel; it is complex and almost lyrical with the colloquialisms Knupp utilizes. His well-paced and poetic style will keep readers captivated.

Melinda Hills

A little girl is lost and the search to find her turns up much more than anyone would have ever expected in Smoke on the Mountains by Sam Knupp. This deep and extremely thought-provoking story has standard characters that perform the actions of a clever murder mystery/thriller, but in a very large sense the setting and omniscient narrator, the Valley Voice, are the true main characters. Everyone who has a role to play has been shaped by the history and traditions of Timberville in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, and it is the insights shared by the Valley Voice, along with the tidbits of wisdom at the end of each chapter that really give you something to think about.

Marvel, a blind, seven-foot-tall preacher has had an interesting life and is the focus around which the story is built. His past confronts the present, though, in surprising ways as people try to figure out who would kill an innocent little girl. As clues are uncovered, past secrets come to light and the convoluted relationships of Valley folk are brought into the light of day. Old truths are challenged and new realities create significant changes as the search for justice continues, and how those involved will come to terms with the truth is what is truly interesting.

Sam Knupp has an amazing facility for description, both physical and psychological. Folklore, down-home wisdom and the word of God combine in timeless observations of human nature that challenge you to think deeply about what is happening in the story as well as what you believe personally. Past meets present in unique and unexpected ways, but the reality that basic human nature has not changed since Adam and Eve is the underlying theme behind the action. Colloquial speech masks editing oversights, but adds authenticity to the story and depth to the characters with whom everyone can readily identify. Somewhat drawn out at times, Smoke on the Mountains is, however, an excellent book to read and ponder on as you follow the characters in their quest to make sense out of tragedy.

Grant Leishman

Author Sam Knupp takes us back to a simpler time in Smoke on the Mountains, as he transplants the reader to the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Shenandoah River, West Virginia (of John Denver Fame), in the little town of Timberville, Virginia. The world is in turmoil, it is just after the Charlottesville outrage, and a protest march from Charlottesville to Washington passes through Timberville. The town is still rooted in and in some ways fighting the Civil War of 1864, with a controversial statue of Southern General Stonewall Jackson dominating the main square. Amidst this, a local little girl, Pepper Anne, goes missing and the townsfolk and protesters alike unite to search for her. Attitudes, prejudices, and secrets will be revealed and discovered over the next few weeks leading up to and after Christmas. A huge variety of amazing characters will pass through the prism of suspicion as friendships and relationships are tested. Timberville, Virginia, will never be the same again.

Smoke on the Mountains could probably best be described as an acquired taste. The story, the writing style and the characters definitely grow on you the more you read. Author Sam Knupp has used an eclectic and bizarre group of characters to try to highlight the cultural divide that is facing American society today. The sheer oddness of the different residents of Timberville highlights the cultural split between rural and urban; between white and non-white; between Evangelicals and non-Christians; and especially between Liberal and Conservative. The characters are grossly overdrawn (on purpose) as typified by the seven-foot-tall, blind preacher Marvel and his equally enormous sidekick, Buddy. I felt the author’s use of humoured cliché to make sense of the ridiculous to be clever and insightful, if a little overdone at times. The fact he is able to make the reader laugh, cry and shout with outrage within a few sentences, is indeed a credit to his ability. Smoke on the Mountains is definitely different from anything I’ve read lately and it makes you think and question your prejudices, which is probably all one can ask from an author. It is definitely an intriguing read.

Kimberlee J Benart

Smoke on the Mountains is a murder mystery and more by Sam Knupp. Set in 2018 in the town of Timberville in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the murder mystery involves an eight-year-old girl who goes missing after leaving a note that she was taking her puppy for a walk and might be late getting back to dinner. When she doesn’t come home that night, her father runs to his church to ask the pastor, Marvel Goodman, for help in searching for her. The call goes out across the community and hundreds respond. Neither the girl nor the puppy will be found that night, and neither will be found alive, but Marvel is determined to find the girl’s murderer. Surprising twists and turns will eventually lead the blind pastor to a terrible truth and transformation.

The “more” comes from the coincidence that an outside coalition has just arrived in Timberville to protest against a statue of Confederate General "Stonewall" Jackson in the town’s park. When the call goes out for help to search for the missing child, the protesters set aside their political agenda and join in, opening channels of understanding and sympathy between the opposing groups. Knupp juxtaposes the emotions of the people of the Shenandoah Valley in 2018 with those of their counterparts in 1864, who defended their homes from attack by the Union. In Smoke on the Mountains, Knupp slowly unfolds an enthralling story with many thematic layers and a complex cast of characters. His narrative isn’t just descriptive and flowing; it’s full of philosophical musings on a wide variety of topics. Knupp builds the suspense in stages, blending the cultural and historical background of the region with modern social and political movements, criminal intrigue, dysfunctional families, and issues of faith and justice.

Romuald Dzemo

Smoke on the Mountains by Sam Knupp is a riveting story with a great setting, written in a unique style and with a compelling voice. It is a tale of murder and mystery and it starts with Pepper Anne, a small girl who goes out in search of her puppy and never comes back. The author builds a story filled with suspense around the incident, unveiling the soul of a community and laying bare its secrets, its history of war and the weird characters that hold the strings that bind man to man. It’s the story of Timberville and the pulse of life along the Shenandoah. Filled with historical images and symbolism, the setting is between two timelines as the author connects the war in 1864 with the present day.

The language is beautiful and the prose evocative, confidently written, each chapter ending with an insightful thought. The author’s gift for setting comes out vividly and the compelling characters, like the blind preacher, are so well developed. Readers can see a clear connection between the characters and the setting. The historical references add beauty and depth to the narrative. I enjoyed how the author moves from one character to the next, creating a powerful sense of suspense which keeps readers turning the pages, wanting to know who murdered little Pepper Anne. Sam Knupp makes readers guess throughout the novel and their guesses are always far off the mark. The place of faith and religion in the life of the community is a theme that is also very well explored and, at times, readers have to determine whether the religiosity is related to despair or the need for genuine answers, or could it be an escape from the crude reality of pain? Smoke on the Mountains is work of pure genius, a masterpiece in its own right, thanks to the originality of the different aspects of the story.

Asher Syed

Smoke On the Mountains by Sam Knupp is a work of literary fiction that begins with the disappearance of a little girl named Pepper Anne as she goes to find her lost dog in the rural Shenandoah Valley. The town of Timberville in Virginia is in something of a time warp, not by any element of science fiction, but by simple virtue of the slow pace of the locale itself. As the mystery of Pepper Anne's vanishing turns into a case of murder, Timberville and its residents are forced to confront their faith, commitment, and antiquated credos when the outside world deluges the isolated town in protest of a nod toward its Confederate roots.

Sam Knupp creates a timely narrative with the release of Smoke On the Mountains. The characters are almost caricatures of themselves, but since all of them are (on every front) it comes off as a revelation of the flaws each person holds within themselves. Pepper Anne is the young girl who is served up as the plot but almost feels like an ancillary pawn in Knupp's grand game of whodunit chess. God is the real main character, as varied in His presence as the people who steer the story of Timberville. I think those who will really enjoy this book will be readers who prefer tales with a more thematic and literary quality as opposed to a straightforward murder mystery about a girl who died while looking for her dog. I loved this book and look forward to reading more from its author.

Peggy Jo Wipf

Sam Knupp takes the time to set not only the mood, but also the characters in this small Shenandoah Valley community. Smoke On the Mountains is just as much about the people in this valley who sacrificed to find the 'monster', while they questioned the meaning of their own beliefs, as the little girl who lost her life. Sam Knupp skillfully gives scraps of information about multiple individuals who were in the valley at the time of Pepper Anne's disappearance, but he always comes back to the blind pastor, Marvel Goodman. It is he who perseveres until the murderer is served justice, but he asks himself how it could be justice if the end result is still a little girl in a grave and parents who are destroyed because of grief.

Smoke On the Mountains is told by the Voice of the Valley, which Sam Knupp cleverly disguises as the Seer later in this novel. I find it difficult to describe the depths this book plumbs while contemplating human nature and the paths people will choose during times of distress, greed, anger, and love. You cannot read Smoke On the Mountains like a typical murder mystery, expecting to get from the murder to discovering the murderer and close the book. Sam Knupp will make you think about the worth of a life, while making you question your own values. He brings his characters alive to the point where you are experiencing their pain, joys, and grief. I found it interesting that the author took his time to expound on the unique beliefs and behaviors of the Shenandoah Valley community so the reader could fully appreciate the characters; something which I truly did enjoy.

Kathryn Bennett

Smoke On the Mountains by Sam Knupp takes the reader to Timberville, VA, a place that ends up being ground zero for a terrible murder. When little Pepper Anne goes looking for her puppy, she finds much worse; a monster. The past and future seem to collide all because a young girl dared to head out and find her little puppy. But what happens when monsters rise up? When horrible things happen? Can people find peace again?

This book throws you into the deep end right away and that is something sure to catch my attention when I am reading. The biggest reason I very rarely read murder mysteries is that I tend to be able to pick out who the bad guy is just a little way into the book, so it takes away the suspense for me. I have to stand up and applaud author Sam Knupp because I was not able to figure out the true bad guy until it was revealed in the story.

The flowing, flowery style of the prose in the narrative doesn't take the edge off the events that happen throughout this story. What they are very good at is making sure you do not get a reveal until the author is ready for you to know something. It truly keeps the mystery of the events as something that unfolds slowly, little bit by little bit for you to really enjoy. The only thing I can observe that would be “negative” is that there are points that drag and move quite slowly. These points aren't many and, overall, the book is just great. I highly recommend Smoke On the Mountains by Sam Knupp if you enjoy a good murder mystery. Read this book!

Kayti Nika Raet

Smoke on the Mountains by Sam Knupp is a complex murder mystery novel, set in the South, that defies simple genre conventions. Using an almost poetic lyricism and penchant for ramping up the emotional drama, Knupp explores the questions about life, religious beliefs, and death. When young Pepper Anne is brutally murdered one southern night, the whole town of Timberville, Virginia is shaken to its core. And Marvel, a seven-foot tall, blind pastor over at the Tastee-Freez Church, is determined to get to the bottom of it.

Full of twists, turns and red herrings, Smoke on the Mountains can sometimes be a difficult story to read as it often draws the reader in only to almost push them back a few chapters later with its long, heady descriptions and odd sidetracks. It gives Smoke on the Mountains an 'old time' feel, despite it being set in 2018. Knupp manages to transport the reader to a bygone era where stories were communal affairs told on the porch in the evening. But each moment and every scene is carefully crafted to come together as it builds towards its conclusion.

Smoke on the Mountains by Sam Knupp pulls very few of its punches, hitting the reader with the emotional gut punch that is life in which everything isn't so neatly packaged; and while the good guys don't always win and the bad guys don't always get their comeuppance, the scales of the universe still tip toward justice. A unique and evocative read.

Ray Simmons

Smoke On the Mountains by Sam Knupp is a sparkling little literary gem. It is a Southern literary gem and there have been a few of those. It is rich in the feel and the flavor of the South. I was raised in the deep South, so I get it. But I understand that someone not raised or acquainted with the Southern way of thinking, speaking, and living might find Smoke On the Mountains, a little hard to read. I hope not, because it is worth reading and should be read by as many people as possible. The first chapter hooked me. The terror and understated pain and horror of it could have been written by Stephen King…if he had been raised anywhere in the South, instead of Maine. Excuse me for repeatedly referencing the South in this review. This book can be read and enjoyed by anyone, anywhere, who loves the English language. But it is undeniably a Southern novel. And it is undeniably good.

Usually, the characters are what I like the most in a novel. And Smoke On the Mountains has some great characters. But they are trumped by the writing this time. There are so many great colloquialisms and folksy turns of speech in this book that I just couldn't stop reading. Sam Knupp can write, and he writes very well indeed. He also creates powerful, unique characters that stay with you long after you finish reading. Pepper Anne broke my heart. Marvel, the seeing eye blind man with the blind dog, amazed me. There are other great characters, major and minor, and Sam Knupp depicts all of them with the skill of a master. The setting is also described in unique language that you won’t forget. The literary style used here is unique and complex. Not everyone could pull it off. But Sam Knupp does.

Maria Beltran

Set in Timberville, Virginia, in the historically rich Shenandoah Valley, the heartland of the United States of America, Smoke On the Mountains by Sam Knupp is set in the present year but, as the story unravels, the ghosts of the past continuously haunt the place. A little local girl, Pepper Anne, and her dog disappear and the community is thrown into disarray and turmoil. Days later, both are found cruelly strangled to death and the search for the killer ensues, but this is no ordinary place and absolutely no ordinary people. There is Marvel for one, the pastor who mysteriously lost his sight in exchange for the life of a child. Together with his artist friend Buddy, he becomes so obsessed with finding the monster in their midst that, at the end, Timberville will never be the same again.

Sam Knupp's Smoke On the Mountains is a murder mystery novel that is both introspective and lyrical, one that poses a lot of important questions about life itself. Author Sam Knupp's creative writing style is urgently provocative and poetically introspective. Bordering on the philosophical, Smoke On the Mountains is in a creative league all of its own. Knupp presents his interesting characters in a playfully descriptive way and there are a number of them so that, at the end of the story, one not only imagines Timberville, its history and its environs, but also gets know its people intimately. And as the story progresses, it takes a number of unforeseen turns that are as unexpected as life itself. This book is a truly interesting read!

Lisa McCombs

“I won’t come home until I find him. I’ll never come home again if I can’t find the puppy. Rufus is coming home,” young Pepper Anne declares moments before she, like her dog, disappears from earth and existence. With her disappearance, the small community of Timberville is thrown into a search and rescue that spreads for miles, wide and far. Past sins are revealed, old loves unearthed, and proof of redemption made plain. As activists fall upon Timberville with the intent to tear down the center monument of Stonewall Jackson, residents gather more search volunteers, often confusing their main purpose. Marvel Goodman, blinded after witnessing an emotionally crippling accident, and his equally blind “seeing blind dog,” Wonder, seem to be the only constants in town. With his biblical presence as preacher at the Tastee-Freez church, Marvel makes it his passion to uncover the person responsible for the death of an innocent child.

Smoke On the Mountains by Sam Knupp is an unexpected surprise. As the author himself notes near the end of the manuscript, “This novel is a logical extension of that old cautionary tale of a nation conquered because a nail comes loose from a horse’s shoe: one small thing tied to other things … It is a cycle, and a spiral down.” Knupp’s use of colloquialisms common to Appalachia brings dialogue alive and makes descriptions colorful. As the narration supports one-liners (“He can argue the point off a pencil.”), the reader experiences the rich culture of the magic living in the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia. Fans of the 1996 crime film Fargo will appreciate the dry yet whimsical humor of Smoke On the Mountains.

Rabia Tanveer

Smoke On the Mountains by Sam Knupp is an amalgamation of time travel fiction with hints of religion and a huge dollop of murder mystery added for a twist. Set in a very interesting timeline, the novel is a pure literary gem that had me surprised and literally staggered. I was not expecting this novel to be of such caliber and the moment I started reading it, I was mad at myself for not picking this novel up sooner. I inhaled the story in just a few hours and I didn’t want it to end. On the surface, it is a whodunit murder mystery, but once you enter this whole universe, you realize that you are in for a surprisingly well-constructed, astonishingly creative and nail-biting ride.

The story begins with a little girl by the name of Pepper Anne, who walks out of the safety of her house to chase after her dog, only she never returns home. Innocent yet destructive, her disappearance makes Timberville even more intriguing. The town is on the cusp of a time warp, but it does not stop the people of this town living like any other small town. So when the little Pepper Anne disappears and never returns, she is thought dead. Now the chase to find the killer of the innocent girl begins, but nothing comes easy in Timberville. With the outside world crossing Timberville’s threshold, things become even more complicated. Can they find out how Pepper Anne vanished and why hasn’t she returned? Is she really dead and, if she is, who killed her?

The real hero of this novel was its narrative; smooth and evocative, it drew vivid imagery of a time long ago and kept the balance between present and past. Keeping the pace, the complexity of the narrative and the flow of the story intact might not have been easy for the author, but he managed to do it somehow and do it beautifully. From its dialogues to writing perfectly about two timelines, Sam Knupp did an amazing job at weaving something extraordinary so effortlessly together! Seamlessly created to leave a lasting impression on the reader, Smoke On the Mountains is aptly named. It stills the reader and makes them realize what a real treat this novel is.

Liz Konkel

Smoke On the Mountains by Sam Knupp is a emotional mystery story about the search for a missing girl. The search for Pepper Anne is at the heart of a civil war. Statues have been destroyed while the people of this community are feeling hopeless about a better tomorrow. The story weaves through time as the search for a killer has taken over everyone's thoughts. Various characters are introduced whose lives interconnect as this town rises up to find answers and to find a way forward. Smoke On the Mountains follows a town's response to fear and hopelessness while showing that hope can be found again.

Sam Knupp has an intriguing set up with chapters containing background information on various characters which pertains to important moments throughout. The background chapters help readers get a feel for these characters and this town where they live, their place in it and how they all connect. It almost feels timeless as some of the characters mentioned seem to be of the past and some of the present yet it's clear this is a modern story with real horrors and situations told with honesty and emotion. Knupp hits upon situations seen everywhere on the news and what it means to live in this darkness, losing hope. The story weaves through time with moments before Pepper Anne was killed, the search, and often speaking in a reflective tone looking back. At the heart of the story is the murder of Pepper Anne and the emotional turmoil of losing a child, the search for answers, and the horrors lurking.

This is a story that resonates with you with an emotional tone, a strong voice, and a writing style that is lyrical and poetic, with each chapter having a subtle rhythm. The tone often reads like a sermon or a philosophical approach to life and fear, loss and grief with hope and prayer rising out of the story. Smoke On the Mountains is a uniquely written mystery weaving through time and perspective with themes of murder, loss, grief, and hope.

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.