“Parshall (Bleeding Through, 2012, etc.) expertly maintains the tension between warring factions until the surprising conclusion.”
“Farm families in southwestern Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains struggle to survive in Parshall’s strong sixth mystery featuring veterinarian Rachel Goddard (after 2012’s Bleeding Through). A large development company’s decision to build a resort in Rachel’s county divides the region between those anxious to accept generous checks and promises of new jobs and those who want no part of the scheme. When a well-liked couple is gunned down in their own backyard, the lines are drawn between the opposing factions. A third murder leads Rachel’s husband, the county sheriff, to question whether the murders may be motivated by drugs or old grudges, rather than the standoff over the proposed development. Parshall does a good job depicting the close-knit community and the strife that arises when the residents are pitted against each other in a depressed economy. A fast-paced plot with plenty of false leads keeps the reader turning the pages.”
“When a conflict over land development leads to murder, it’s up to veterinarian Rachel Goddard and her new husband, Sheriff Tom Bridger, to sort out the guilty from the innocent. Once again, Sandra Parshall delivers great characters and a twisty, suspenseful plot.”
—Dennis Palumbo, author of the Daniel Rinaldi Mysteries
“When veterinarian Rachel Goddard and her husband, Mason County Sheriff Tom Bridger, get caught up in a development tug-of-war over land and money, all sorts of buried secrets come to light. Parshall perfectly plumbs the well of humanity in a small town, where longstanding feuds and deep-seated jealousies drive dark deeds—from backstabbing and betrayal, all the way to bloody murder.”
—Erin Hart, author of the Nora Gavin/Cormac Maguire Mysteries
“In her sixth series appearance, Virginia veterinarian Rachel Goddard is one of the Mason County folks who oppose the Packard Company buying up land to build a fancy resort. When two of the project’s staunchest opponents are murdered on their farm, Rachel’s husband, Sheriff Tom Bridger, investigates. Did a greedy neighbor off the aging hippies in order to make sure the land deal went through? Or did one of the victims’ children need money so badly that they decided to accelerate their inheritance? Could the couple’s underground medical-marijuana exchange have angered some local drug dealers? Rachel is a likable amateur sleuth who displays genuine affection for her neighbors and the animals she treats. Readers will enjoy seeing series regulars appear throughout the story and appreciate a peek at how Rachel and Tom are getting along as newlyweds. A satisfying series addition.”
— Karen Keefe, Booklist
“This gripping mystery starts with a bang… Multi-layered characters and richly-textured setting details make the imagined community…entirely believable. Parshall keeps the reader guessing.”
—Elizabeth Varadan, San Francisco Book Review (5 stars)
“I really enjoyed this book and strongly recommend it. I struggle to come up with one feature that stood out as it is strong on so many different levels. The characters are complex and we continue to see the various layers evolve as the story progresses. The descriptive writing about the setting made me understand why people were so connected to the land. The plot was complex and surprising, keeping me guessing until the end.”
Five stars out of five.
—Lynn Farris, Examiner.com
It’s hard to say whether Poisoned Ground and earlier books in this series should be called mystery, suspense, police procedural or thriller because, in reality, none of those subgenres is inappropriate. There’s even a dash of cozy at times or perhaps traditional would be a more accurate term. That’s the beauty of Sandra Parshall‘s books—they appeal to a wide spectrum of crime fiction readers (although the hardcore cozy bunch might not find them entirely to their liking). All I know is, when I see Sandra Parshall‘s name on it, I’m quite sure this is a book I’m going to like and this latest entry is no exception…
Rachel and Tom are one of my very favorite crime fiction couples and the reasons are simple: they’re both very astute, they love and respect each other, they’re both good at their jobs and Rachel does not behave as though Tom is incapable of investigating the crimes that occur around them. Add to my affection for them the well-drawn, interesting people they live among, plots that are clever and full of puzzling leads and quality writing and, as I said before, each book is one I’m bound to like. Poisoned Ground by Sandra Parshall is the latest in a string of intelligent mysteries and I’m just sorry I now have to wait for the next one—but at least I don’t have to wonder if it’ll be good.
—Lelia Taylor, Buried Under Books
“Sandra Parshall is a brilliant mystery writer. She is also a master of psychological suspense, and POISONED GROUND is rich with Parshall’s talent.
“In rural Mason County the inhabitants discover that if money is the root of all evil, the perfect villain is mega-rich Packard development corporation, a company determined to shove its disruptive plans down the community’s throat. Some welcome the changes with open arms, anxious to sell their land and take the money, others fight to keep the beauty of land that’s been in their families for years.
“Shockingly, a couple resistant to the development is murdered. Is the company behind their deaths? Or could old family secrets and incidents from the past have played a part?
“Lawrence Archer of Packard Resorts is a character you will love to hate. Smooth, plastic, and a delicious slime bag. The townspeople are artfully drawn and so real you will feel like you’ve been there, like they are people you know. As the tension builds, inhabitants are torn apart. More murders occur, and the evil threatens to come between protagonist Rachel and her husband Tom, the sheriff of Mason County.
“Parshall’s wonderfully complicated plot and building psychological tension will keep you whipping through the pages to find out who or what is really behind these heinous murders.”
—Sasscer Hill, author of The Sea Horse Trade and other Nikki Latrelle mysteries
In Poisoned Ground, Parshall cranks up the tension as the story drives forward through a twisted series of revelations.
Parshall’s work combines features of several mystery genres. Her sleuth Rachel Goddard is a modern version of the independent-minded women who solve the mysteries in classic “cozies.” Such characters are typically well-educated and have jobs that bring them into frequent contact with others in the community; Rachel is a veterinarian, who would be expected to have a contact on the police force; plus, she is married to the sheriff.
However, cozies are often populated with eccentric or comic characters, and Parshall’s work is not. Her characters are vividly drawn and clearly recognizable as real human beings, with serious thoughts and complex concerns. She also brings into play the fascinating psychological probing characteristic of dark mysteries, as well as the larger issues typical of thrillers. In Poisoned Ground, residents of fictitious Mason County face a complex question that many in Appalachia do today: should they let a large developer take over land their families may have owned for generations, in exchange for what might be greater prosperity, but which might in fact be less-than-subsistence level jobs? Conflict over such issues has degenerated into violence more than once.
Parshall flavors her storytelling with long-running social issues; for example, several of her characters, including Sheriff Bridger, are identified as Melungeon, a multiracial group of mysterious origin living in the mountains of Virginia and Tennessee. (Their ancestry is the subject of recent DNA research.)
Poisoned Ground is the sixth of Sandra Parshall’s Rachel Goddard mysteries, the first of which won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Her central characters keep growing and changing, and Mason County’s complexity keeps building, even as she maintains the tension and unpredictability of her plots. An engaging read for Rachel Goddard fans, Poisoned Ground is also fertile ground for the growing number of new devotees.
— Susan Storer Clark, Washington Independent Review of Books
Veterinarian Rachel Goddard is drawn into the fray when a large developer tries to buy up local farms in her rural Virginia county to build a major resort. Feelings run high, because unless everyone agrees to sell, no sale will go through. Not surprisingly, vandalism and violence erupt, creating problems for Tom Bridger, Rachel’s husband and the new sheriff. This series (this is No. 6) has gotten better over time. The economic issues, the complex network of history and resentments among residents and the growth of Rachel and Tom’s relationship are all explored in an explosive story that will keep readers turning pages.
— Roberta Alexander, San Jose Mercury News
Poisoned Ground by Sandra Parshall proves to be a very captivating mystery that kept me on the alert from first page to last. I felt a part of the beautiful countryside of Virginia and truly cared what would become of its residents. Five previous Rachel Goddard mysteries are well worth a read also.
— Mary Ann Smyth, Bookloons.com
Although Sandra Parshall is an Agatha-award winning author, she exemplifies how much mystery writing has evolved since Ms. Christie penned her characters Miss Marple and Hercules Poirot. The lines between mystery, thriller, and suspense have blurred, not only in more hard-core police procedurals but also in books that focus on the quiet, rural violence so prevalent in Ms. Christie’s books.
Dr. Rachel Goddard, veterinarian and protagonist in the author’s series, belongs to that old class of sleuths, neither cop nor agent but concerned citizen. All the action takes place in a rural mountain community in Virginia, but this book has plenty of action and misdirects to keep any reader of the mystery genre intrigued and entertained. Goddard is married to Sheriff Tom Bridger, and the two form a mystery-solving power couple.
Chapter 1 starts with not one but two murders. An old couple resisting a resort development that wants their land are shot in their own backyard. The woman owning a nearby horse farm, the key piece of land for the developers, is threatened by pro-development residents who see only the promise of new jobs. Events spiral out of control as people choose sides. Yet, when a pro-development landowner willing to sell is also murdered, nothing seems to make sense.
The theme here is a favorite of mine. All too often development is identified with progress. It brings new jobs to the local construction industry and to fill personnel requirements afterwards. Those positives have to be weighed against the emotional distress of property owners who, in many cases, have a long-time emotional attachment to their homes, and leaving some pristine lands for our children and grandchildren.
An interesting and important subtheme also occurs in this book: how grownups can influence the younger generation. Sometimes that influence is negative. As we age, we should always consider how we’re molding that younger generation, given that we pay any attention to them at all. I mention this only as a heads-up to readers: there’s more to this book than meets the eye. You’re duly warned.
I’ll avoid spoilers by ending my erratic summary here. As in all good mysteries, the twists and turns in plot and the finely drawn character studies—some characters with dark pasts to hide—will heighten your reading pleasure. Readers who know my own work might be surprised that I’m a fan of this author, but I also read Mary Higgins Clark and Carla Neggers, who are better known. Parshall’s books match the best of theirs, though, so this one belongs on your to-read list.
—Steven M. Moore, Bookpleasures.com