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by Joyce and Jim Lavene
Avalon, October 2004
186 pages
ISBN: 0803496788

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Revisiting this series continues to be a treat for me. LAST RITES is the ninth book in the Sharyn Howard series. The location is Diamond Springs, North Carolina and this story begins when two cub scouts find a body inside a buried Mercedes. The scouts are earning their civic duty badge by cleaning up the cemetery area; certainly this discovery is not on anyone's program.

The man in the car has been dead for a long time. He was known as a womanizer. The long list of people who could have or wanted to kill him is astounding. Throughout the story, you may want to count the number of people and then choose who you think did the deed. This, though, is only one of the storylines. If you like tight writing and character-driven stories set in the south, this may be a series you'll want to read.

Of course, I am always curious to see where the sheriff and county medical examiner's relationship is. Sharyn and Nick have been seeing each other for a year. Their humor is natural and easy. Even though Sharyn has moved into her own apartment, their busy work life does not always cooperate fostering this liaison. Preparations for a romantic dinner are cut short when someone's death intervenes as a priority. Sharyn's investigative work is closely tied with Nick as well as with many other characters.

Ernie, one of the deputies, recently broke off marriage plans with Annie. This has not helped his disposition -- he can be bristly and grouchy. You will enjoy the interchange between Ernie and another employee regarding the office dress code. Having mentioned Ernie's temperamental side, he can also be the most loyal deputy on the earth. He was Sharyn's father's best friend. Sharyn's father was the sheriff before he was killed. When Sharyn receives word from one of the men who murdered him, the old anger returns. She had solved her father's murder case and the two men were sentenced to life in prison. Now, one of the men is asking for a deal. A tug of war also exists between the sheriff and Diamond Spring's chief of police. He and Sharyn spar regarding jurisdiction of cases.

Being the sheriff is not always easy. Sometimes, Sharyn wants to look the other way, especially when some of the incidents involve family and friends. Then she dismisses those fleeting thoughts and does her job Her tenacity and honesty is admirable.

The epilogue has me even more ready for number ten in this series. Do read these in order so you see the character development. This reader feels up close and personal with the daily happenings of Diamond Springs.

Reviewed by Rita Ratacheck, November 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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