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If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O (Ballad, #1)
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If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O (Ballad #1)

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  2,530 ratings  ·  73 reviews
Sheriff Spencer Arrowood keeps the peace in his small Tennessee town most of the time. Every once in a while, though, something goes wrong. When 1960s folksinger Peggy Muryan moves to town seeking solitude and a career comeback, and she receives a postcard with a threatening message, her idyll is shattered. Then a local girl who looks like Peggy vanishes without a trace.
Paperback, 336 pages
Published August 13th 1991 by Fawcett (first published 1990)
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Cold Mountain by Charles FrazierChristy by Catherine MarshallProdigal Summer by Barbara KingsolverShe Walks These Hills by Sharyn McCrumbFair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith
Best Books Set in Appalachia
55th out of 392 books — 603 voters
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeAnne of Green Gables by L.M. MontgomeryThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson BurnettJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëWuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Best Books with Rural Settings
147th out of 873 books — 861 voters

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Community Reviews

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This is the first in the 'ballad' series of Appalachian novels by Sharyn McCrumb. I like this series so much, and I love that her recurring characters are more than just window-dressing, but are not the main focus of the books. This novel seems to take place in 1986, and it feels a bit dated, not only due to the lack of technology (no cell phones or computers, not even a fax machine in this tiny town) but also due to the interest in and latent advocacy for Vietnam veterans. Not to downplay the i ...more
Lissa Notreallywolf
I think highly of Sharyn McCrumb, partially because she writes about thinks I love in a voice I understand. This mystery novel is psychologically excruciating and funny at the same time, hallmarks of that dark voice she uses. Enter small town Sherriff Spencer Arrowood, a man trying to live with ghost of his older brother, the high-school football star killed in Vietnam. Spencer drives around town accompanied by his own mental jukebox which gives him insight into emotions he was trained never to ...more
L Greyfort
Outstanding start to an excellent series. McCrumb's Ballad series takes place in the mountains of eastern Tennessee; recurring characters include the local sheriff (good policeman, carrying a complex load of personal baggage), a Vietnam veteran deputy (ditto), and elderly mountain woman with a long memory and unusual abilities.

This series ranges back and forth in time, sometimes combining contemporary mysteries with historical fact. Not to be missed.
Jennifer Kleffner
I love all of the "ballad" mysteries. Learned about this author in 1998 when I was working in the mountains of Virginia, where she is a local hero of sorts, since she's from that area. She tells a great story, and there is a cast of characters you get to know. Some of the books tell the story from a previous characters perspective - new story, new voice, but familiar setting. Very well done, and a nice insight into appalacian culture.
Flat, two-dimensional characters + Easily identified "bad" guy + Uninteresting, unresolved subplots= a book I wish I hadn't wasted my time reading.
If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O is Sharyn McCrumb’s first book in the Ballad series and I enjoyed it mostly for a) the setting in a small town in Tennessee and b) for its male characters. Sheriff Spencer Arrowood and deputy Joe Ledonne are indeed amazingly well-crafted characters. Men with plenty of history and depth, and who do their job sagely. The female characters were less compelling, in my opinion. Martha, or Tyndall, or Sally, or even Peggy: there was something about those women that fel ...more
If Ever I return, Pretty Peggy-O by Sharyn McCrumb is a mystery set in 1980s Appalachia, with a cast of baby boomers still haunted by the shadows of Vietnam and the ghosts of high school. Retired folk singer Peggy Muryan has moved to the little, rural town and is soon being stalked by an increasingly violent veteran. Sheriff Spencer Arrowood is investigating, besides dealing with his own painful memories as well as his upcoming Class of 1966 reunion. Several storylines are intercut together with ...more
In the small town of Hamelin, Tennessee two classmates are putting together the class reunion of 1966. One of the classmates is a folksinger named Peggy Muryan. Peggy becomes uneasy and things start to happen and peoples past become exposed. I had a hard time getting into the book and I found myself skimming the chapters. Just not my type of read and not into school reunions, that was a turn off for me.
Connie N.
#1 in the Ballad mystery series

This book started out slowly, moving quietly and subtly, much like the small 1980's town it was set in. The whole story is focused on 20 years earlier, for many reasons. We get to know local sheriff Spencer, who is trying to live up to the memory of his brother killed in Vietnam. Peggy, a semi-famous folk singer from the 60's has purchased a house in town and is becoming part of the community. Plus Martha, Spencer's dispatcher, is planning their 20th high school re
McCrumb may be more widely known as the author of lighter fare (also mysteries), but the "Ballad Series" is her best work. They are all set in a fictional county in eastern Tennessee, not far from her homeplace in western North Carolina, and they are deeply rooted in mountain culture as well as mountain music. Sheriff Spencer Arrowood (pronounced "Arrwood," in case you're not from around there and didn't know)is a great character -- a deeply compassionate man who still is able to feel for all co ...more
Sarah Haman
Interesting read about a folk singer who moves to a small town and begins being stalked. It gives a good idea of what it's like in a small southern town. The book also has a lot of reference to Vietnam vets and what they had to go through on returning to the states.
Astrid Neumeier
Of the Ballad series, don't read this one first. Read "Ghost Riders" or "She Walks These Hills" or "The Rosewood Casket." Or all of them. Then come back to this one. Sharyn McCrumb is most definitely a gifted writer, but quite a few of the other Ballad books are better than this one. Read the others and then come back to this one. McCrumb's Ballad series is probably one of my favorites in current fiction. If I had read this one first, though, I might not have been interested enough to continue - ...more
Debbie Maskus
This is one of the earlier novels of Sharyn McCrumb, and she has not fine-tuned her approach to writing. McCrumb utilizes folk songs of yore to enhance the story. The main elements of the story are the twenty-year high school reunion, the plight of Viet Nam veterans, and the appearance of a popular folk singer. McCrumb portrays the veteran as if she actually served a tour of duty in Viet Nam. I am not sure that I really like Sheriff Spencer Arrowood. He seems weak and beset with demons. His life ...more
I really enjoyed this, both for the story and for the style. Lovely images, fun references, moody and a little dark. Very satisfying character development. I want to read more.
A friend recommended this author, who writes of Appalachian life, so I searched this particular story out because it was the first in a series. (The Grateful Dead reference in the title was an added bonus) It was a good story, with good believable characters.
I'd pretend to be branching out and reading a non-fantasy novel, but I think people would catch on after the next book.

Cosy mysteries aren't my normal reading material, but I enjoyed The Songcatcher last year, so I thought I'd give the series a try from start to finish. I really liked how the ballad fragments worked their way into the plots - that very much is my normal reading material, and it the entire reason I started this series in the first place.

The ballad in question is called "Little Ma
Mary D
Good mystery. I liked the Appalatian setting and the time period -- everything low- tech. Surprise ending!
A somewhat famous folksinger moves to a small town to work on her comeback only to face her past in a very real way.

Somehow I missed reading this first title in the author's Ballad series. It's a marvelous read with delightful Appalachian characters. I was so caught up in the people that I was blindsided by the mystery a bit, which was fun.

A good read.

Favorite line: Vernon Woolwine was a welfare-funded exercise in street theater.
The heart breaking back story to an older popular song may leave you thinking.
Holly Morey
The best part of this book is not so much the mystery, but the artful way the author brings the characters to life. The effect of the Viet Nam war on it's participants is still being felt today. This is the first book that I have read by Sharyn McCrumb and I look forward to reading more of the ballad series. I felt that the letters from Travis were very realistic. Although it was easy to figure out who was the murderer, there was an unexpected twist at the end. I liked that the novel took place ...more
First of McCrumb's Ballad novels. Introduces you to many of the reoccurring characters, including Spencer Arrowood, a sheriff that all could take lessons from. Nora Bonesteel (my favorite character from this series) does not appear. Folk singer comes to town hoping to revive career. Spencer becomes interested in the lady, but this budding romance hits snag as she seems to threatened by stalker from vietnam era. Spencer and several other characters reflect on that time thanks to the crime and an ...more
Terry Webb
My favorite author
A little mystery with interesting characters that might be found in any small southern town. Interesting characters, a tie to events 20 years old, a class reunion, and small town crimes. A good read.

The female characters could be better created, but the main male characters are interesting. The narrative is set in the mid 1980s but refers to events of the mid 1960s and the Vietnam War.

I listened to it on audible. The narrator was pretty good.
I actually would've given this a 3.5 if that was an option. Set in a small town in the Appalachian mountains, this book concerns a high school reunion, the remnants of Vietnam, and the violence towards a sort of famous folk singer who just moved into town. It was actually quite depressing in many ways; not your average small-town everything is peachy type of tale. I enjoyed it and it made for a good mystery/thriller.
Airplane flights are the main things that make me turn to mysteries (other than Sayers or Tey) and/or chick lit. One novel is rarely enough for a cross-country voyage, although I seem to remember Dickens lasting once.

Peggy Muryan, aging folk singer, moves into a small Appalachian town only to find herself haunted by her early singing partner Travis, who went missing in Vietnam. Entertaining.
I enjoyed this book, which seemed to have the right amount of suspense to make it interesting but not so much to be super creepy. The mystery wasn't difficult to figure out, but that didn't spoil the book. I liked the originality of the story and the varied characters seemed realistic and interesting. The book does have minimal language and sex - probably rate this a PG-13 for content.
It was dated, but considering it came out when I was 6 years old.... This is the third book by Sharyn I have read, loved one, barely made it through the other two, so I think I am done with her books unless her newer ones have a better pace.
*This was actually the FOURTH book I had read by her but I am guessing that one made no impression, good or bad, on me.*
Many of Sharyn McCrumb's mysteries are light and silly (such Bimbos of the Death Sun). This mystery is more serious, and many characters really are emotionally damaged. Maybe it wasn't what I expected, but this tone and the characters weren't very convincing. (The characteracters in her silly mysteries aren't convincing either, but they're supposed to be exaggerations.)

I really like the author Sharyn McCrumb. I have read several of her books and think she is a very good writer. This book, although well written, was not one of her best. It was very slow paced, and too easy to figure out who the killer was. I never really cared that much about any of the characters. There was some beginning romances that never really went anywhere.
I enjoyed reading the book, but I didn't like the ending. I don't think it gives anything away to say that the main character's choice at the end seemed (to me, anyway) uncharacteristic. It would have been nice to have some explanation as to why he decided to do what he did. But as with McCrumb's other books, I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere/setting.
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Sharyn McCrumb is an American writer whose books celebrate the history and folklore of Appalachia. Educated at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Virginia Tech, she has also taught Appalachian studies. She is married to David McCrumb, a corporate environmental director, and has two children, Laura and Spencer.
More about Sharyn McCrumb...

Other Books in the Series

Ballad (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter (Ballad, #2)
  • She Walks These Hills (Ballad, #3)
  • The Rosewood Casket (Ballad, #4)
  • The Ballad of Frankie Silver (Ballad, #5)
  • The Songcatcher (Ballad, #6)
  • Ghost Riders (Ballad, #7)
  • The Devil Amongst the Lawyers (Ballad, #8)
  • The Ballad of Tom Dooley (Ballad, #9)
  • King's Mountain (Ballad, #10)
  • Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past : A Ballad novella (Ballad, #11)

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