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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Where the River Runs Deep by Lynne Handy is a psychological thriller that plays out in a deeply conservative, rural North Carolina town. When Professor Maria Pell’s partner of eleven years cheats on her, she feels betrayed and the need to get away from him for a while. With the university summer vacation approaching, Maria accepts an invitation to be a guest poetry lecturer at a summer retreat in isolated Cherapee on the North Carolina outer banks. As well as being a noted poetry expert, Maria is also a psychic and has been visited by spirits since she was a little girl. On arriving in Cherapee, she is astounded to realize that this is the hometown of one of the inmates from her prison poetry outreach. Amen Hotep Jones had impressed Maria with both his poetry and his demeanor and she had been saddened and shocked to learn he had been stabbed in prison and had died just prior to her trip. She determined to find out more about Amen whilst she was in Cherapee and perhaps locate some of his family. But from virtually the first day of her arrival, Maria finds herself caught up in a series of murder mysteries that seem to revolve around the aristocracy of Cherapee, North Carolina; the descendants of Peter Creighton who first established a plantation on this land in the 1700s. Maria will need all her intelligence, psychic abilities, and courage to unravel this mystery and find out who is killing the Creightons.
Where the River Runs Deep is a short, easy read that will appeal to those who enjoy a good murder mystery, with a dollop of romance and paranormal activity thrown in for good measure. Author Lynne Handy has done a fine job creating a lead character in Maria Pell who is strong, independent, and successful yet still vulnerable enough to be seeking love and romance, now that her relationship with Mathieu has gone sour. What the author does so well is to expose the underlying racism and hatred that is sometimes taught to young southerners at their parents’ feet. She does an exceptional job of exposing the reality that not a lot has actually changed in the intervening years since slavery was an accepted part of southern life. Although on the surface, race relations may not seem as big a deal as they were in slavery days, it is clear that if you scratch the surface of the veneer of equality, you will find minds still rooted in the idea that somehow African-American equates to something “less than”. I particularly appreciated that the author beautifully used the vehicle of poetry to convey this deep-seated weight of injustice that so many people of color felt. The author’s fulsome and descriptive passages, setting the scenes of the forests and sea that surround the North Carolina Outer Bank, certainly allow the reader to feel part of this often foreboding atmosphere. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and can highly recommend it.