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Carolina Slade #1

Lowcountry Bribe

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“Terrific. Smart, knowing, clever . . . and completely original. A taut, high-tension page-turner—in a unique and fascinating setting. An absolute winner!” —Hank Phillippi Ryan, Agatha, Anthony and Macavity winning author

A bribery case gone wrong leads a woman into the deep, dank Carolina Lowcountry on a manhunt.

Carolina Slade, a by-the-book federal county manager in the coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina, reports an attempted bribe only to find herself a key player in a sting operation run by Senior Special Agent Wayne Largo from the IG Office in Atlanta.

However, the IG isn't telling Slade everything about this case or the disappearance-presumed-murder of Slade's boss the year before. When the sting blows up, both cases are put on hold and Wayne is yanked back to Atlanta, leaving Slade to fear not only for her life and job, but for her children’s safety.

Suddenly, operating by the book is no longer an option.

Author C. Hope Clark, an award-winning writer of two mystery series (Carolina Slade and the Edisto Island mysteries), founded FundsforWriters.com, which Writer's Digest has recognized in its annual 101 Best Web Sites for Writers for almost two decades. Hope is married to a 30-year veteran of federal law enforcement, a Senior Special Agent, now a private investigator. They live in South Carolina, on the banks of Lake Murray. Hope is hard at work on the next novel in her Carolina Slade Mystery Series. Visit her at chopeclark.com.

272 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2012

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About the author

C. Hope Clark

29 books569 followers
C. Hope Clark was born and reared in the South, from Mississippi to South Carolina with a few stints in Alabama and Georgia. The granddaughter of a Mississippi cotton farmer, Hope holds a B.S. in Agriculture with honors from Clemson University and 25 years’ experience with the U. S. Department of Agriculture to include awards for her management, all of which enable her to talk the talk of Carolina Slade, the protagonist in most of her novels. Her love of writing, however, carried her up the ranks to the ability to retire young, and she left USDA to pen her stories and freelance.

Lowcountry Bribe‘s won several awards to include finalist status of the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense sponsored by Romance Writers of America. The novel enjoyed semi-finalist status (top 100 out of 10,000) in the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. The book went on to win the 2012 Silver Falchion Award for Crime Fiction and the 2013 EPIC E-book Award for Best Mystery.

Tidewater Murder and Palmetto Poison followed close on Lowcountry's heels in the Carolina Slade series. Hope's recently released a new series, beginning with Murder on Edisto, of the Edisto Island Mysteries, followed by Edisto Jinx, with Echoes of Edisto and Affairs of Edisto forthcoming in 2016 and 2017..

Hope is married to a 30-year veteran of federal law enforcement, a Senior Special Agent, now a contract investigator. They met on a bribery investigation within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the basis for the opening scene to Lowcountry Bribe. Hope and her special agent live on the rural banks of Lake Murray outside of Chapin, South Carolina, forever spinning tales on their back porch, bourbon and coke in hand, when not tending a loveable flock of Orpington and Dominiquer hens.

She also currently manages FundsforWriters.com, a weekly newsletter service she founded that reaches almost 35,000 writers to include university professors, professional journalists and published mystery authors. Writer’s Digest has recognized the site in its annual 101 Best Web Sites for Writers for 16 years.

She’s published in The Writer Magazine, Writer’s Digest, Chicken Soup, Next Step Magazine, College Bound Teen, Voices of Youth Advocates (VOYA), TURF Magazine, Landscape Management and other trade and online publications. She speaks at several writers’ conferences a year. Hope is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, EPIC, International Thriller Writers, SE Writers Assoc. and MENSA.

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253 (35%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 131 reviews
Profile Image for Thomas.
728 reviews175 followers
March 20, 2016
This is an easy read(I read it in 2 days). Carolina Slade is a US Dept of Agriculture loan office manager, in Charleston County, South Carolina. She is holding down a full time job, parenting two children and married to a verbally abusive husband. She is offered a bribe by a farmer having difficulty making his payments. She notifies her superiors and soon two agents arrive to investigate. She realizes that she could be in danger once the farmer suspects that she informed on him.
In addition, she is romantically attracted to one of the two agents, Wayne Largo. I like the author's descriptions: Jesse Rawlings, bribe offering farmer: "Here stood a comedy of errors in fashion. He usually traipsed into the office in fresh denim overalls, a John Deere cap and a tan and black hounds tooth sport coat he'd inherited from his daddy." I give it 4 out of 5 stars.
Profile Image for Glen Allison.
Author 9 books9 followers
October 30, 2012
I started Lowcountry Bribe thinking it was a cozy. (I write action/suspense stuff. Cozies don't usually grab my attention.)

However ... BAM! Carolina Slade hides no flaws and pulls no punches on her way to bringing down a bad guy. Okay, there was a little romantic suspense and some kissing along the way. (I sounded like the kid on PRINCESS BRIDE just then, didn't I?) For my taste, it was tiny bit slow in the middle - and it's probably because of my male ADD - but the layers of conflict pulled me through.In the end, there's mud and blood and guts and tears and the kind of twists that make you fall off the back of the pickup truck.

Kudos, C. Hope Clark. (Dern you, now I have to be your fan and see what happens to the hard-headed Carolina Slade next.)

Profile Image for Kristine.
93 reviews
April 21, 2012
With Lowcountry Bribe, Hope Clark has proven herself a master storyteller. With her experience as a writer and former fed, she shines in understanding and then weaving this tale of bribery in government and the havoc it creates. She's created an interesting character and heroine in Carolina Slade, and I stayed up late every night reading just to see what would happen to her and Special Agent Largo. An enjoyable read--kudos to Hope.
26 reviews
June 23, 2012
First person narration is tricky business. To begin with, you forfeit the ability to view actions from multiple points of view. You cannot, for example, write about a lurking intruder, hidden behind the drapes, if your narrator doesn't know he (or she) is there, so you don't get to apply that sort of impending disaster feel to a scene. Many authors opt to italicize the script of scenes at which their first-person narrator is not present. Some don't even bother, switching between third person and first person narration without blinking an eye; hedging their multiple-points-of-view bets, as it were.
The other, arguably more significant issue with first-person narration is the necessity for a fully-realized character, with which a reading audience really wants to spend time. Readers have to like a first-person narrator right from the start. They can withhold judgement on third-person characters, because it will take a while for them to sort out who's who, what's what, and where their loyalties are going to be placed. You have to hit the ground running with characters talking right at you, employing the "I" pronoun every minute or so.
All this by way of explaining that a new character on the scene - one Carolina Slade, appearing in her debut novel, Lowcountry Bribe, by C. Hope Clark - is just such a fully realized character and from her opening sentence - "O-positive primer wasn't quite the color I had in mind for the small office, but Lucas Sherwood hadn't given the decor a second thought when he blew out the left side of his head with a .45." - it is very clear that you're in for a ride, and you better buckle up.
The genre is mystery, although at first glance, you find yourself wondering how a County Manager for the US Department of Agriculture qualifies as any sort of first-person narrator for such a thing. She's not a detective, by any means. She's not a bounty hunter and she isn't a crook. The first inkling you get that there is, as they say, "something rotten in Denmark" (Charleston County, SC actually) is, of course, the above-mentioned Lucas Sherwood's suicide. But that's over and done, and then, before you're even out of Chapter 1, a hog farmer offers her the titled lowcountry bribe. Even then, you might think, what's the big deal? Lady bean counter picks up the phone, reports the bribe, someone comes down on the farmer like a ton of bricks and you're back home in time for the 11 o'clock news.
You find soon enough that it isn't going to be that simple. And it isn't until the closing pages, that you learn everything about those opening chapter, seemingly unconnected events. Like most good mysteries, a good deal of what's about to unfold is the result of events that have occurred before the opening sentence. The characters become involved in the consequences, and it's up to those characters (and us, dear readers) to try and figure it all out before someone gets killed. Oftentimes (think Agatha Christie), someone does. In Lowcountry Bribe, it's more about the possibility of murder, and the almost daily threat of it that drops into Carolina Slade's life like a monster-in-law with three suitcases.
Author Clark puts pedal to the metal and keeps things moving at a steady clip. Before you're out of that first chapter, you're attuned to a lot of her sensibilities about everything from interoffice politics, questionable fashion, and the romantic inclinations of an aromatic hog farmer, who seems intent on directing conversation in directions other than the terms of his farm loan. You get to like her. You begin to trust her instincts; sharing some of them. But above all, you start listening intently, and if you pick this novel up for the first time just after dinner, you're likely to find yourself staying up way past your bedtime to find out what's going to happen next.
Clark brings 25 years of experience with the US Department of Agriculture to bear on the character of Carolina Slade, and the 'ins and outs' of USDA business. Slade's 'voice' is assured, which helps a lot, but beyond that, there is, too, a strong sense of separation. Knowing Clark personally, having met her, I didn't get the sense that she tried to put herself into the story. What she did was create a unique character, who happens to share selected aspects of her own personal history, but is, in every way, her own woman. Not easy to do, especially when first-person narration is selected. It requires diligence to keep your 'self' out of the way.
As that guy from the Gentleman's Warehouse says in his television commercials (paraphrasing), "You're gonna like (Slade), I guarantee it." And if you discover the same sense of camaraderie that I did, you'll be tapping your foot, awaiting publication of Book Two in the Carolina Slade mystery series.

Profile Image for Sue.
Author 16 books29 followers
May 7, 2012
I know C. Hope Clark as the Funds for Writers lady. I had no idea she spent many years working for the Department of Agriculture in South Carolina, which gave her the background for this book, which she bills as the first in the Carolina Slade mystery series. If the USDA is really this crooked, God help us all, but we’ll assume this is fiction. It’s a good yarn. Slade handles loans for farmers. When one of them offers her a bribe for a deal on the abandoned Williams Ranch, she’s not sure what to do. Of course she rejects it, but should she report it? This good ol’ boy doesn’t seem like a criminal, but she values her job, and if anyone found out that she hadn’t reported it, she might get fired. She especially needs her job right now because her marriage is breaking up and she needs to support her children, Ivy and Zack. So she does report the bribe and winds up in a whole mess of trouble. Pretty soon people are threatening her and her kids, and there’s this handsome federal agent assigned to her case. She’s falling for him, but she’s not sure she can trust him either. The danger and suspense keep increasing to the very end. I read this in a weekend, couldn’t stop. To be honest, I’ve read stories like this before. We all have. The first-person viewpoint and folksy language bothered me in the beginning, but soon I became so immersed in the story that none of that mattered. I have no idea how this can turn into a series, but I’m looking forward to finding out.
Profile Image for Dona.
253 reviews8 followers
August 18, 2017
Carolina Slade Bridges, known as "Slade" is a woman who is not one to be trifled with. She is smart, efficient, and capable of handling whatever comes her way. Yet, she is caught in a loveless marriage of twelve years duration, with each is trying to out wait the other as to who files for divorce first. Despite the state of her marriage, she has two wonderful children for whom she'd do anything.
As a Manager for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, she enjoys her job of keeping farmers in business by coordinating federal loans that allow the farmers to purchase supplies, equipment and animals to keep the farms operational. Slade is respected by her supervisor because she is good at what she does. She plays by the rules. So when a pig farmer, Jesse Rawlings, offers her a bribe, her only recourse is to report it to her superiors. And that is when it really gets interesting!
Lowcountry bribe is well written, with fully developed characters, and a story line that will keep you turning the pages.
Profile Image for Lauren Panarello.
93 reviews4 followers
August 6, 2020
I loved this mystery and all the local connections to SC. I wish it had page numbers because I always plan my reading out by page numbers. I can’t wait to read the next one in this series.
Profile Image for Jen.
1,783 reviews58 followers
March 5, 2017
Slade lives with a man she hates for 12 years. Hmmm. It is one thing for a marriage to be unhappy or dull or failing, but to put up with the arguments and hateful sarcasm and continue to sleep in the same bed when she hates him for 12 years? Parts of the story were interesting, but the parts about almost everyone from the USDA to the IG to the police being dishonest, callous, or incompetent made it unrealistic. The quick romance didn't help, and Wayne's willingness to leave Slade hanging in dangerous situations didn't make her choices seem to be improving.
Profile Image for Malcolm.
Author 47 books86 followers
March 16, 2012
Authors often ask "What if" when they have an idea for a plot. When C. Hope Clark first thought about a civil servant at the Department of Agriculture reporting an attempted bribe by a farmer, she must have asked "what's the worst that can possibly happen?"

Carolina Slade (and you don't call her "Carolina" unless you're her mother) is a USDA official who plays by the rules. While others might have overlooked hog farmer Jesse Rawlings' offer of a bribe in hopes he would never bring up the matter again, Slade tells her superiors. After that, the dust never settles.

C . Hope Clark's protagonist in the dazzling debut mystery/thriller "Lowcountry Bribe," is a Charleston County manager who coordinates federal loans and their repayment by farmers. When she leaves her desk, it's to inspect a farm, not to carry a gun and catch bad guys. Yet, as a Cooperating Individual (CI) she has no choice but to help agents Wayne Largo and Eddie Childress prove Rawlings tried to bribe her.

The case is getting a lot of attention from Atlanta. Slade wonders why. Perhaps there's more to the bribe than she knows, a greater level of fraud that might implicate her former boss who disappeared last year or a co-worker who shot himself in the office last week. Slade can't even be sure Largo and Childress aren't investigating her. A supposedly easy "Get Jesse to repeat what he said Friday" turns into a dangerous crash course in crisis management where the stakes are much higher than missed loan payment or a reprimand from the boss.

Some publishers would have categorized "Lowcountry Bribe" as a mystery/thriller/romance because the novel includes romantic elements as well as Slade's feelings of approach/avoid, trust/distrust insofar as agent Largo and his motives are concerned. Regardless of the book's official genre(s), the danger and intrigue Slade is drawn into are industrial strength, requiring a CI who is tough enough to view blood on an office wall as "O-positive primer," savvy enough to think like a federal agent and experienced enough to apply humor and sarcasm to methods and practices that don't measure up to her high standards.

Clark knows the territory. She lives in South Carolina, has a degree in agriculture, has worked with the USDA for 25 years, and is married to a former federal agent. This information appears on the novel's back cover. By the time readers finish the novel and find out the worst that can possibly happen, they will have discovered that Clark also knows the territory of deftly plotted fiction, realistic dialogue and place settings, and how to tell a story that burns like a stiff drink with a touch of sugar.

Clark is now writing the next novel in the Carolina Slade Mystery Series. For readers who like great storytelling, that’s the best that can possibly happen.
Profile Image for Sharon.
Author 2 books72 followers
March 10, 2012
Rules were absolute; that’s the way she was raised. If she followed the rules, she’d be just fine…

Uh-uh, honey. Not this time. Not for Carolina Slade, County Manager, United States Department of Agriculture. Slade's professional life has blitzed from the structured normalcy of bailing out farmers with federal loans to head-spinning chaos faster than a filibustering politician can shout “pork barrel spending.” From the splatter of employee Lucas Sherwood’s O-positive blood on his office wall—an apparent suicide—to pig farmer Jesse Rawlings with his unabashed bribe to gain possession of an adjacent farm, author C. Hope Clark will have readers fretting over and cheering for her gutsy protagonist in LOWCOUNTRY BRIBE.

Doesn’t sound like enough conflict for you die-hard mystery devotees yet? Turn another page. With the deftness of an all-star hitter, Ms. Clark brings in the bickering, grudge-holding, soon-to-be-ex husband and a couple of gotta love’ em kids inching their way into puberty.

Oh, and let’s not discount Senior Special Agent Wayne Largo, who arrives in his white Impala toting a big Smith and Wesson .357 and even bigger government credentials. Did I say white Impala? Dark hair, broad shoulders, trim waist? A drawl that has Georgia peaches dropping from the trees?

Yep. That’s him. Sigh.

Murder, kidnapping, edge-of-your-seat mayhem and sizzling romance done Southern style, C. Hope Clark’s debut novel packs it all into 272 pages. And then some. This author drops readers straight into the story’s heart with her wonderfully painted visuals of the South Carolina coast, her smart and snappy dialogue, in-depth characterizations, and infinite plot twists and turns. Protagonist Slade loses ground and gains it back again and again in LOWCOUNTRY BRIBE, but she never stops trying—and she never loses the stranglehold on integrity that’s helped her succeed in a man’s world. In a word, she's likeable. (I guess that’s two words.)

This is a good one, folks. I’d tout LOWCOUNTRY BRIBE as a page-turner, but readers will recognize this after the first chapter. I’m giving Ms. Clark’s effort five sterling stars, and you can bet I’ll be watching eagerly for the second installment in her Carolina Slade mystery series. Maybe a third installment, a fourth?
Profile Image for Cindy Huff.
Author 7 books43 followers
May 19, 2012
Low Country Bribe is the debut novel of C Hope Clark. Book one in the Carolina Slade Mysteries set in South Carolina in the midst of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s bureaucracy. Carolina Slade loves her job with the bureau and has worked hard to achieve manager. Her job seems routine enough until a hog farmer offers her a bribe. Ever vigilante to play by the rules, she reports Jessie Rawlings bribe. Before she can step back and take a breath, Senior Special Agent Wayne Largo from the Inspector General office and his partner appear in her office. Following the rules has repercussions she never expected. Soon she is the bait to catch Jessie giving her money. As the IG investigates a connection between the bribe and the death of her manager last year things heat up. When the sting falls apart and the investigation is halted, her fear of a deeper motive is confirmed. Slade feels more than betrayed. Her fear of losing her job or possibly her life pales in comparison to keeping her children safe.
I must say I hated Slade at page one. She reminded me of women who irritate me. Her acid tongue and sometimes masculine bravado bugged me. Slade’s easy flow of colorful metaphors made her character harsher. That said, I loved her focused determination and protective instincts toward her children. Slade’s need to control made her so believable. Hope caught me up in Slade’s world. Watching Slade’s life crumbling made me care about her. I found myself saying “I don’t believe you did that.” Or “Oh no, that’s a bad idea.”
Growing up in urban settings, I was intrigued by all that went on in South Carolina’s rural farming communities. The artful way Clark layered her plot, adding unexpected twists, kept me right there with Slade as she conquered her demons, overcame her fears, and succumbed to her weaknesses. I am looking forward to the sequels; there are many questions I still want answered.

Profile Image for Stacie.
Author 6 books100 followers
August 24, 2012
Lowcountry Bribe by C. Hope Clark is a gut-wrenching, nail-biting suspense novel that will leave you on edge until the very end.


Threats, a missing boss, a very dead co-worker, a high-level investigation and a sinister hog farmer: Lowcountry Ag Department manager Carolina Slade is a bean-counting civil servant in hot water.

Carolina Slade is a by-the-book county manager for the Department of Agriculture—a civil servant who coordinates federal loans for farmers in the coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina. When one of her clients, a hog farmer named Jessie Rawlings, offers her a bribe, Slade reports Jessie to her superiors. The next thing she knows, she’s besieged by Resident Agent-In-Charge, now a Contract Investigator, Wayne Largo from the Feds’ IG Office in Atlanta. He and his partner have come to investigate Slade’s accusations, and if possible catch Jessie in the act of handing over money.

However, the IG isn't telling Slade everything. The agents are also investigating the disappearance of Slade's boss the year before in connection to possible land fraud. And when the sting on Jessie goes bad, the case is put on hold and Wayne is called back to Atlanta, leaving Slade to fear not only for her life and job, but for her children’s safety.

C. Hope Clark creates a genuinely heroic main character, Carolyn Slade, which female readers will have no trouble identifying with. Carolyn Slade is feisty enough to hold her own against any man yet is a gentle and loving mother who will stop at nothing to protect her children.

Lowcountry Bribe is filled to the brim with suspenseful action. Just when you think you have it all figured out C. Hope Clark delivers a twist you never saw coming.

I definitely recommend reading Lowcountry Bribe.
Profile Image for Bob Mustin.
Author 21 books25 followers
June 8, 2012
I claim to be a Southern writer, but I’ve found a lot of modern Southern writing in the past was either boring, not well developed, or affectatious. But with the advent of small publishers, the great trove of Southern writers that have gone begging for recognition are seeing the light of day.

One such is Hope Clark, and I admit to having read this book faster than most – so I could find out what was on the next page - after page. The story: Carolina Slade is a middle manager in the Department of Agriculture living in South Carolina (not your average role for a suspense/crime protagonist, is she?). She’s offered a bribe on a land deal by a local farmer, and then her whole life falls apart, including a divorce from a loveless marriage.

Two things Clark does here that are unique in first novels of this genre:

She gives the reader a most intimate view on divorce, and even rape, from a woman’s point of view.

Instead of using glamorous, sexy people, or high-placed rich and governmental power players, she weaves a spellbinding crime story from the meat-and-potatoes viewpoint of common rural folk.

Both are characteristics the genre desperately needs.

There are some problems with the book: it suffers from a lack of editing, and character and plot inconsistencies toward the book’s end, but these problems are mild and in no way take from the impact of Clark’s work here.

Small-time publishing will be the place to be in the future, despite the relative lack of attention money-strapped publishers on this strain can muster. And look for more great writing from master storyteller C. Hope Clark.
Profile Image for Bella South.
116 reviews1 follower
September 30, 2014
The only reason I read this book is because the setting is here in my hometown - the Lowcountry of Charleston, SC. I almost gave up a few times, but I've been giving up on so many books lately, I hung in there with this one. Apparently I'm in the minority of readers who did not love this novel.

I didn't like the protagonist, Carolina Slade, for one thing - kind of a big factor in enjoying a novel. She was annoying and unlikable. I don't know why authors feel in order to portray female lead characters as strong, independent, and successful, they have to be stubborn, mouthy, argumentative, and "un-feminine." I mean, I would HATE working with a woman like this. And who feeds their children Lucky Charms and pancakes soaked in syrup for breakfast every morning? Not to mention this woman lives on a diet of convenience-store junk food. Yuck!

Another problem for me was the ever-important first paragraph. Any novel that starts with a disturbing and flippant description of a tragic suicide sets off alarm bells. I could have done without that image. I also found myself skimming over the Department of Agriculture administrative talk and the discussions of land values.

I DID enjoy descriptions of our beautiful rural areas. I wish there had been more of that - along with mention of our delicious cuisine. Something other than soda and junk food.

Having said all this, there were a few suspenseful moments, and a satisfying conclusion was my reward for finishing the book, but I won't read another one by this author.

Profile Image for Sarah Joyce Bryant.
68 reviews7 followers
October 19, 2014
Lowcountry Bribe by C. Hope Clark is the perfect fall read. It is the kind of book you curl up with for a weekend along with your coffee and a warm blanket. But be warned! It is hard to put down once you start reading. I finished it in two sittings. Lowcountry Bribe is a fast-paced mystery with an amazing protagonist, Carolina Slade. First, I love her name! Second, she is a great protagonist. She is not Ms. Perfect. She is flawed in her own unique ways and that is refreshing. She makes mistakes and poor judgments (as we all do) and we get to witness the consequences for the choices that she makes. Carolina Slade isn’t the only loveable character. There is also Wayne, the hunky but somewhat troubled investigator who often butts heads with Carolina Slade, and Carolina’s quirky and energetic best friend Savvy. In addition to these loveable characters, C. Hope Clark gives us plenty of unlikeable and suspicious characters, enough to make us wonder who the guilty party really is all the way until the end.

Besides the great cast of characters, I also loved the fast pace of Lowcountry Bribe and how C. Hope Clark ended each chapter in such a way that it was nearly impossible to put the book down without reading just…one…more…chapter. The development of the characters was done really well, too. Even though I feel like I was given a satisfactory ending to the book, I can’t wait to read the next two books in the Carolina Slade Mystery series to see where she takes the characters.
Profile Image for Janet.
Author 1 book14 followers
June 3, 2012
Warning: Do not attempt to read a few pages of this book with your morning coffee. You will become so engrossed that it will make you late to work!

There are more twists and turns in "Lowcountry Bribe" than there are switchbacks and hairpin turns on Rocky Mountain highways. Clark lays out a gripping mystery full of Southern charm and redneck seediness as the female protagonist, Carolina Slade, sinks deeper and deeper into a quagmire of conspiracy, shady land deals, kidnapping, murder and more...all because she tried to do the right thing. Who would have expected the life of a rural agricultural agent to be so dangerous?

The descriptive writing is colorful and peppered with updated versions of down-home sayings that give the reader a sense of the Southern dialect without being cliche-riddled. This sentence from the book sums up its pace perfectly: "I shot down Savannah Highway, driving like a bootlegger with badge heat on his bumper."

The ending tied up the critical loose ends, but left me looking for a sequel. Smart writing! I need to know where Slade's life will go next, if Wayne, the hunky lawman protagonist, will find his endangered sister, and if the two will join forces to unravel more mysteries.

Attention: C. Hope Clark - Could I have some more, please?

Profile Image for Zoë.
Author 17 books47 followers
May 5, 2012
I read a lot of mysteries, and I really enjoyed this one. There were a few things which were rather fresh and new about the mystery format here. Imagine a version of Paretsky's VI Warshawski or Cornwell's Scarpetta, but with the narrative set in South Carolina and the heroine having a Southern twist. I also liked the fact that unlike many hard-boiled heroines, Slade has children to protect. This complicates the narrative and creates new sources of tension.

The plot concerning a bribe begins in quite a mundane way, but it feels very authentic. I was impressed by the fact that the story is based on a real incident when C. Hope Clark was working for the US Department of Agriculture. It was also during this time when Clark met her husband who was a federal agent. Much of the momentum in the plot comes from Slade's sparky relationship with the fictional agent, Wayne.

I also liked the fact that Clark uses the plot to deal with a lot of important women's issues, such as domestic violence, sexual harassment and sexual violence. The villains of the book are haters of women and are sinister enough to make the book extremely compelling.
31 reviews
May 26, 2012
Having subscribed to the author's FUNDS FOR WRITERS e-zine for years, I'd followed Clark and the tweaking and marketing of this mystery. I did not know what to expect, having only read the ezine previously, but was anxious to support her.

Set in the Charleston, SC, the protagonist, Carolina Slade, is an agricultural agent struggling with a failing marriage. Facing a bribe from a farmer she serves, Slade must battle corruption and danger to save herself and her children.

As is typical in mysteries, Slade cheats death several times before putting things to rights and moving forward to a happier future.

Favorite Line [paraphrased]: ...it was like learning your church-going mama liked her bourbon straight and sex on top.

Enjoyable read, with an insider's look at some realities of contemporary US agriculture.
Profile Image for Valley Brown.
Author 2 books6 followers
August 20, 2012
(As posted to Amazon by Valley Brown)

Hope Clark, the wit and wisdom behind the highly acclaimed site
"Funds For Writers," gives us an earthy glimpse into what we
all thought was a mundane world of government forms and livestock
management. Pulling from her personal stint in an identical job,
Ms. Clark brings an eclectic mix of characters into full,
believable focus, and delivers a lush image of the sultry
Lowcountry landscape, where people hide secrets that are as thick
as flies at a Fourth of July picnic.

Lowcountry Bribe is a deliciously well-crafted suspense that
should not be missed.

Valley Brown
Profile Image for Marji.
112 reviews3 followers
April 1, 2015
It appears that I am in the minority here, as I did not like this book at all. I listened to it on audio, and after the first hour knew it was going to be a long slog as I found the narrators voice to be like nails on a chalkboard. Significantly annoying were her renditions of the children's voices.
Aside from that, I found the main character Slade to simply be an unlikeable character. It's difficult to have much empathy for a character you can't like. And I found the whole law enforcement approach to finding kidnapped children unbelievable.
Sadly, I can't recommend this book and I won't be reading/listening to any more by this author and narrator.
Profile Image for Jodi Sway.
6 reviews
July 26, 2012
I absolutely LOVE C. Hope Clark's first novel in her new series. Her main character, Carolina Slade, is gutsy, no nonsense, and all about doing what has to be done. Dry, on-point humor is peppered in all the right places. Hope makes the settings throughout South Carolina come to life, weaving in all the senses, making you feel you're there with Slade as she fights to find out...I don't want to give too much away. This mystery hits all the notes of suspense, and is a page-turner from beginning to end. Nicely done, and I can't wait for the second book to come out.
Profile Image for Mary Kenyon.
Author 15 books115 followers
March 25, 2017
I can't believe I waited so long to read this author's fiction series. I have been an avid follower and fan of her Funds For Writers newsletter for many years, and loved her non-fiction, "Shy Writer Reborn," but hesitated at picking up her mystery, fearful her non-fiction writing talent might not transfer to fiction. I was wrong. I read this book in an afternoon, and am eager to pick up the next one in the series. I love a well-written mystery with a plot twist, and was not disappointed with "Lowcountry Bribe."
Profile Image for Diana.
11 reviews1 follower
December 28, 2012
I began reading this book about an unhappily married woman and after about 100 pages I was wondering why I had even started it. Then I remembered. The author had been compared to Flannary O'Connor. Let me tell you that there is no comparison unless you say that both authors had protagonists that were difficult to like. I finished the book with no enthusiasm and was simply glad when it ended. 'Nuf said.
Profile Image for Charlotte Ehney.
Author 3 books15 followers
June 25, 2016
Carolina Slade Bridges (Slade) is a tough woman with a tough problem. She's a manager with the Department of Agriculture - a federal employee - and she has just been offered a bribe. Slade plays by the rules and reports the bribe. Now everything is falling apart at work and at home. Suddenly, Slade is being looked at for being crooked, perhaps even the instigator of this bribe. Trouble is, Slade suspects two people have already died because of this bribe. Could she be next?

Profile Image for Chris.
38 reviews
May 17, 2012
I'm not a big mystery reader, but I've really enjoyed Lowcountry Bribe. Each page is jam-packed with conflict, and in Carolina Slade, author Clark has a main character who will make you wonder when the next book is coming out.
Profile Image for Mary Ann.
339 reviews
September 26, 2012
I am a reader, not a writer. I enjoy a good mystery, and this was that, keeps you guessing, and changing your mind about the direction it is taking you. I had to pace myself, as when reading a good story I want it to last!
Profile Image for Jeanette.
73 reviews1 follower
February 4, 2021

I really enjoyed this book because the plot and setting were unusual to me and because Slade wasn't a simpering female character. There were so many variables in play that I was unable to figure out the mystery. I look forward to another book with Spade in it.
2 reviews2 followers
May 19, 2012
Great read! Enjoyed it from Cover to cover! So excited for the next Carolina Slade novel to come around!
Profile Image for Sue Em.
1,191 reviews51 followers
May 24, 2020
5 star mystery all the way. Impeccable plotting, and achingly real characters. Read it in one sitting...just couldn't put it down.
Profile Image for Valerie.
9 reviews7 followers
January 2, 2013

Written by C. Hope Clark, Lowcountry Bribe isn't just any novel by a modern woman for modern women. It has a strong woman as the main character who has struggles with marriage, family, and career that many women can relate to. If you are a reader looking for pages of titillating romance scenes, you will not find them here. If however you enjoy a good mystery, love, romance, and a realistic view of how our emotions entangle the messy parts of our lives, keep us from maintaining control, and potentially make us less or more than we can be, you will enjoy this book.
Carolina Slade Bridges chooses to go by her maiden name, Slade. Her husband and two children, while not the center to the main conflict, affect the progression of the story. As the relationships with her family members confuse Slade's relationships at work and unexpectedly enter the conflict.
The story begins with finding her supervisor's dead body after an apparent suicide. Back-story shows another supervisor disappeared a few weeks earlier. Now, Slade moves into the position of County Manager, United States Department of Agriculture, Charleston County, South Carolina, which is a responsibility she takes seriously. She believes it is important to help farmers secure low interest government loans to make it through hard times, unpredictable disasters, and the difficulty of farming in the landscape of that part of the state.
Most of this story takes place in rural Charleston County, South Carolina. Slade's office of the Department of Agriculture, Slade's home, and the marshes and farmland are the main backdrop for Lowcountry Bribe. The reader gets a feel for the autumn, the character's dress and lives, and the vegetation. Readers who are northerners may be surprised at the description of cool temperatures. Readers also hear the drawl of the farmer's language and experience their way of life, their culture. The landscape and people are integral parts of the story.
When Slade receives a bribe, she is shocked and confused. Slade, wanting to perform her job competently, in the interests of the farmers, and according to government regulations, wrestles with herself about the next action to take. Does she report the bribe? Who does she trust with the information? The reader has a gut feeling about who might behind the bribe from the beginning of the story. Doubt is cast, however, as other evidence points in other directions.
Her husband Allen accuses Slade of being too ambitious and enjoying her career too much. Slade chooses to ignore Allen’s discouragement. She decides instead to keep her career moving forward, her conscience clear, and her reputation clean, which means she has to report the bribe. An investigation ensues.
The story structure is like searching for a document in every conceivable place, needing it before a deadline, looking in those same places over and over, and finally finding it where you looked several times already, but running five minutes late. There is tension, frustration, release, and more tension.
The plot moves along briskly. Investigators Wayne Largo and Eddie Childress play key roles in the investigation, the increasing conflict, and helping Slade to close the investigation. It seems almost as if the criminal will be caught early and the story will be over when things go terribly wrong; the attempt at getting a confession is snagged, and investigators have to leave the scene for a time. The chase scenes build up the tension; the possibility of a new love relationship makes the reader pull for Slade. Danger to her family makes Slade fight harder.
Slade turns to her friend who works the same job in a different county. Her friend and mentor fulfills the archetypal role of the wise sage. Clark shows this role does not have to be filled by a man, a religious figure, or a person many years senior to the main character. Savannah (Savvy) is down to earth - both loving and forceful. She knows just what to do to help Slade find calm and focus, but there is nothing mystical about her approach. She is the best friend who gives encouragement, watches the children, and pours the drinks.
No Superman comes to rescue Slade. Because of her independence, she wouldn't have it that way. In fact, Slade often pushes people away with negativity, frustration, anger, and self-reliance. No superhero is required. Slade can do this.
Because Slade tells the story from her first person point of view, the reader must stay alert to distinguish between narration and Slade's internal thoughts. It can be a difficult read at times. Sometimes it is necessary to read a passage again. Once the reader recognizes when Slade is talking to the reader or thinking through circumstances, she can fully immerse herself in the story and connect with it emotionally.
Many women today face similar problems in their work and professional lives. Lowcountry Bribe, based in reality, can give women encouragement and hope. The struggles Slade faces offer a picture that life is full of struggles. No matter how hard people try to avoid trouble, it finds them. Slade overcomes that trouble, but her work and family relationships are changed. Slade herself is not the same person anymore. The important people in Slade's life give her more respect.
Slade agonized over whether or not to report the bribe. There were many times after she did that she regretted the decision. Danger came too close to home. Most women struggle with the decisions they make. For example, most women wrestle with the decision whether or not to have a job or career after having children. No matter which choice she makes, a woman is not sure she made the right one.
We all find that change is a given in life. It changes us. The change in Lowcountry Bribe comes on like a flood with the potential to drown Slade. Slade comes out stronger than ever. Slade also wrestles throughout about how she behaves toward other people. Guilt feelings plague all of us. No one conducts herself admirably at all times. Critical decisions and crucial events tend to upset our life balance. We must learn to forgive ourselves, accept change, and determine to become stronger.
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