(Reviewed by Clint Hunter SEP 16, 2007)
“The body at the river…was Chris.”
“Who? Edelson popped out of his chair like a startled bird. “Who’s calling?”
Being the new guy in town can sometimes lead to unexpected complications. It’s even more likely if you happen to be the new sheriff of Mineral County, Montana. Finding your way around, establishing your authority, getting to know who can be trusted and who can’t, and earning the respect of the county town folks can be a daunting task. Sheriff Kip Edelson found this out early in his new assignment. But, as he was to discover, the task becomes even more difficult when one has to deal with a personal problem such as a failing marriage in addition to investigating a newly discovered murder.
Ten-year-old Gray Dausman, motherless and being raised by his spiteful and uncaring father, loves two activities in his life - reading and poking around the Clark Fork River. While passing the time doing the latter, he finds the skeletal remains of a young woman. Unsure whether the young woman’s death was the result of an accident or murder, Edelson begins his quest to find who she might be. But the investigation runs into dead end after dead end until a cryptic telephone call provides the sheriff with a major clue to the victim’s identity. Now certain that he is dealing with a murder and not an accident, he begins a county-wide search to verify the identity of the murdered woman and to find her killer.
The clue and his subsequent investigation ultimately take the sheriff into the dark side of Mineral County where drug dealing and murder are no strangers. A confrontation with a local marijuana supplier results in a quick shootout which leaves Edelson unharmed and the assailant dead. Shaken by the incident, he re-doubles his resolve to solve the mystery of the unknown victim.
Inevitably Edelson befriends the young Gray Dausman and decides to become his unofficial guardian until a suitable and permanent solution can be found. The relationship between the two forms the foundation for a poignant and nicely written sub-plot to the novel.
That Sharfeddin is a talented writer is beyond debate. Her first novel, Blackbelly, received enthusiastically positive reviews by publications such as the Chicago Tribune and Library Journal, and was honored as one of the five best novels of 2005 by the Portsmouth Herald. Mineral Spirits is a worthy follow-up to such a distinguished debut.
- Amazon readers rating: from 4 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
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- Official website for the Heather Sharfeddin
- Sherwood Gazette interview with Heather Sharfeddin
- New West article by Heather Sharfeddin
- Backstory on Blackbelly
- News Review on Blackbelly
- Portsmouth Herald review of Blackbelly
- SanDiego.com review of Blackbelly
- lection review of Mineral Spirits
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About the Author:
Heather (Mason) Sharfeddin was born in Rosebud County, Montana to a forester father and an artist mother. In 1968, the Mason family moved to Riggins, Idaho on the Salmon River and later to nearby Lucile, where they lived in the remodeled Cow Creek pioneer schoolhouse. In those early years Sharfeddin and her two sisters enjoyed the remote Idaho back-country, collecting Indian artifacts and roughing it with local ranch kids. Sharfeddin remembers visiting such legendary places on the Salmon River (also known as "The River of No Return") as the Shepp Ranch and the Polly Bemis home, which were inaccessible by automobile.
In 1979 the family moved to Missoula, Montana. Sharfeddin attended Hellgate Junior High and Big Sky High School, graduating in 1984. She then moved to Portland, Oregon in 1986 where she was trained as an illustrator and met her husband, Salem Sharfeddin. They were married in 1991.
Sharfeddin has called her work "contemporary western", which she defines as stories about the rural west that take place during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Heather and her family currently live in Sherwood, Oregon.