Friday, December 7, 2007

Review: Bluegrass Peril

Everyone has their own favorite genre when selecting reading material. For me, it's Southern fiction, preferably written by a woman and preferably not of the syrupy "still reliving the War of Northern Aggression" variety. But, because I love books--all kinds of books--I like to vary my diet from time to time. I was in just such a mood when I picked up Bluegrass Peril, by Virginia Smith.

The categories on the spine weren't encouraging to my discerning literary palate: Inspirational. Romance. Suspense.

Immediately, I thought, "What have I gotten myself into?" I settled down to read with about as much enthusiasm as I could muster. I admit, it wasn't much.

To my surprise, there were a few things that I liked about Bluegrass Peril. First and foremost, as one who has deep ties to the Bluegrass State, I was relieved to see that Smith chose to concentrate the bulk of her prose on the finer points of Kentucky color instead of denigrating an entire state based on a few stereotypical people or places. The Kentucky of Smith's novel is a fantasy place, to be sure, but it's a place that almost feels familiar. And that familiarity is not bad.

While many of Smith's characters feel wooden, heroine Becky Dennison--a woman who finds herself at the scene of a recent murder just a few pages into the book--has a strength that's very real, and her dialogue is convincing without resorting to a lot of the lukewarm catch-phrases that one expects in a paperback mystery.

Coupled with Becky is Scott Lewis, a handsome figure from a nearby horse farm who--oh, you get the picture.

Added into the predictable mix of "whodunnit" fiction is the horse racing industry and its prestigious animals. Players in their own right in this tale, it's a mix that nonetheless adds some depth to an another-wise reheated plot line.

Bluegrass Peril is exactly what it says it is: inspirational, romantic and suspenseful. It's not deep, thought-provoking fiction; neither is is horrid bubble-gum fluff. Smith's book lands somewhere right in the middle--exactly where it was intended to fall.

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