Angela Spencer's Reviews > Nearly Departed in Deadwood

Nearly Departed in Deadwood by Ann Charles
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Feb 06, 12

I own a copy, read count: 1

(Originally written for Rise Reviews.)

In her debut novel, Nearly Departed in Deadwood, Ann Charles weaves a fun romp of humor, romance, mystery and the occult. The pages are brimming with eccentric small town characters that brought the setting to life. Though not quite as paranormal a romance/mystery as I had hoped it would be, I would gladly read more tales in her Deadwood Mystery series.

Violet Parker, the book's protagonist, is a single mother and struggling real estate agent trying to land her first sale before getting fired. But eccentric customers, haunted houses and workplace harassment all threaten to defeat her at every turn. On top of all this, girls have been disappearing from the town of Deadwood. And the girls all bear a striking resemblance to Violet's daughter. Afraid that her child could be next, Violet starts to play amateur sleuth to find the abductor.

I'd chosen to review this book for Rise Reviews because the author had billed it on a panel as being a blend of paranormal romance and mystery. And I could see it earning that label. But the paranormal elements seemed slow in coming and were carefully handled to seed doubt regarding whether something supernatural had actually occurred.

The presence of ghosts, and someone who claims to be able to sense them, is dismissed as absurd by Violet Parker. The book leaves room for doubt while also planting seeds for future supernatural weirdness. None of this affected my enjoyment of the book, but for those who are only interested in strong, overt paranormal elements I worry that this could prove a letdown.

I deeply loved Violet Parker as a protagonist. She proved very human and approachable, a long cry from the badass tramp-stamped katana carriers or shallow love slaves you might find in similar books. (Not that I mind either of those…) Instead she was someone I felt was easy to relate to because she was very much like someone I might know in real life, foibles and all.

The part I liked least about the book was, bizarrely, something Charles did very well: I got really upset by some of the injustices that Violet experienced. I don't know if this is just a cultural difference between Seattle and South Dakota, or perhaps a difference in how real estate works, but I was very dismayed by what Violet put up with in her work environment.

Her antagonistic co-worker is not subtle in his methods. This isn't hard-to-prove shenanigans. It's outright harassment. I liked Violet to such a degree that I became increasingly outraged on her behalf. "You don't need to sell a house," I thought to myself. "You need to tell your boss what's going on, then get a lawyer if it doesn't stop!" The author does such a good job at making this co-worker despicable that I just felt ill every time he showed up or did something to Violet. Kudos to Charles for making a protagonist that sympathetic, even if it spiked my blood pressure.

Otherwise, I found this to be a wonderful book to read. It sucked me in and kept me on the edge of my seat and left me excited to read more when I finally reached the end. This is a great book for those wanting something more down to earth and intimate instead of just saving the universe again.
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