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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)

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  2,866 Ratings  ·  92 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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Donna Hendricks I don't think they need to be read in order. Each story is wonderful, in my opinion.

Community Reviews

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Mar 07, 2010 Melissa rated it really liked it
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
McCrumb does a good job of describing scenery & setting and of capturing snapshots of southern Appalachia and its idiosyncratic characters. Rather than using dialect and accent to give her characters a distinctly Southern voice, however, she uses omniscient narration to reveal their rural, socially stratified, and geographically-defined thoughts and attitudes about their lives, environment, and neighbors. But if you subscribe to professor Jerry Leath Mills' (late of UNC-Chapel Hill) "Dead Mu ...more
Jun 02, 2017 Rona rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
This series has promise.
Setting, lovely. Characters, yet to be fully developed. Mystery, too easy -- I knew who was doing the deeds as soon as the person stepped on stage.
Story of the divorced, lonely, sheriff. He's got a boring job in a tiny Appalachian town. Then a stranger comes to town and is threatened by a mad-man.
Dennis Fischman
Jun 11, 2017 Dennis Fischman rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, mystery
Wonderful writing, sense of place, and characters: I will come back to this series just to visit them again. Unlike other readers, I didn't spot the murderer, and the motive still seems far-fetched...but so much related to America's misbegotten war in Vietnam did and still does.
Lissa Notreallywolf
May 25, 2015 Lissa Notreallywolf rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
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 Sheriff 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
Jennifer Kleffner
Sep 25, 2012 Jennifer Kleffner rated it really liked it
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.
L Greyfort
Jul 20, 2011 L Greyfort rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery, fiction
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. Heart-stopping ending -- Not to be missed.
Jun 11, 2014 Lori rated it did not like it
Shelves: mystery-crime
Flat, two-dimensional characters + Easily identified "bad" guy + Uninteresting, unresolved subplots= a book I wish I hadn't wasted my time reading.
May 29, 2017 Bev rated it liked it
Sharyn McCrumb's If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O (1990) is set in the small Appalachian town of Hamelin, Tennessee where Spencer Arrowood is the Sheriff who keeps the peace. It's not a difficult job most of the time--an occasional run-away or teenage boy with excess energy stepping out of line; a few drunk and disorderlies...that's pretty much it. Then Peggy Muryan purchases the old Dandridge home. The moderately popular folksinger from the '60s is looking for a quiet place to compose new songs ...more
May 15, 2017 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I loved this reading experience that transported me to another time and place very different from my own. It was so good that I would even pedal a few extra minutes on my exercise bike to finish the chapter! The context of my favorite quote is a mother who desires to update her kitchen to suit herself now she finds herself alone. She lost her eldest son to the Vietnam War and is a widow with one son remaining: "This was the home of his childhood, and while he wouldn't want to live here anymore, ...more
Feb 22, 2017 EileenNH rated it liked it
Interesting but predictable. I felt it was good, but sure did miss the mysticism.
Peggy Brown
Sep 16, 2016 Peggy Brown rated it really liked it
I have been reading Sharyn McCrumb books in order and have grown to know the characters like family. Great mystery......full of twist and turns.
Jan 24, 2016 Beverly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, feb-book-count
Another winner for Sharyn McCrumb. This is the first book in her Ballad series. Having already read the 3rd book, it was fun to see some of the same characters prior to what I'd learned about them by reading out of order. In this story, a folk singer from the 60's has moved to Hamelin, Tennessee trying to regroup and come up with some new music to possibly revive her career. Meanwhile, a few of the series regulars from this small Appalachian town are discussing the possibility of having a 20th h ...more
Oct 03, 2012 Marleen rated it liked it
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
Barbara M
It is 1986 and there is going to be a 20th class reunion in the Appalachian mountain town of Hamelin. Sheriff Spencer Arrowood and his receptionist/dispatcher Martha are members of the class of '66. Martha is the coordinator for the events that will be held in August. Former folksinger Peggy Muryan has moved into town and is working toward a comeback. Her music was popular when they were in school.

Even without the reunion, people are still affected by their memories of Vietnam. The Sheriff and
Jun 18, 2011 Caroline rated it liked it
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
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
Apr 21, 2012 Cynthia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: keepers
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
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
Dec 18, 2015 Marge rated it it was ok
This book received awards when it first came out in 1990 but I didn't know how it would read 25 years later. It actually works well if you substitute recent veterans for the Vietnam veterans in the novel.
The sheriff is someone whose older brother was killed in Vietnam, and his deputy is a veteran who understands the post traumatic stress that affects veterans, possibly the killer. When animals and then a human are killed and carved up, they suspect it might be a returned veteran. Then a woman wh
Jul 15, 2013 Lois rated it really liked it
I find it compelling to read a novel where the characters are age-mates of mine and are responding on a personal level to the major events of our common life time. (Wally Lamb does this for me every time). I wasn't expecting this from McCrumb and was so pleasantly surprised. Major themes: the shifting role/status of women, the impact of high school and aging, and most notably- the impact of the War in Vietnam on the traumatized souls of our generation. So this is not simply an Appalachian myster ...more
Jan 12, 2011 Melanti rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery, 2011, appalachia
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
Holly Morey
Jul 02, 2012 Holly Morey rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 28, 2010 Janice rated it liked it
Shelves: mysteries
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
Apr 29, 2015 SouthWestZippy rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
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.
Jul 10, 2010 Theresa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
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.
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.
Jan 02, 2014 Rae rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, 2014
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.
Aug 10, 2008 Cdh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 29, 2008 Cher rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
Small town mystery-- chockablock with quirky characters --that deals with a murdered girl, Vietnam vets, romantic grief and frustration. Some say they figured out the murderer and his/her motivation right away, but I didn't (which is unusual for me.) Very interesting novel that transcends the mystery formula it dwells within.
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    Sharyn McCrumb, an award-winning Southern writer, is best known for her Appalachian “Ballad” novels, including the New York Times best sellers The Ballad of Tom Dooley, The Ballad of Frankie Silver, and The Songcatcher. Ghost Riders, which won the Wilma Dykeman Award for Literature from the East Tennessee Historical Society and the national Audie Award for Best Recorded Books. The Unquiet Gra
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)
  • Prayers the Devil Answers

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