Vicki Lane’s Signs in the Blood is the first book of several that follows Elizabeth Goodweather, a middle-aged woman who is a transplant to Appalachian life and culture. She lives a relatively content and peaceful life until after her husband dies in a plane crash. In Signs of the Blood, she becomes an amateur detective who investigates the death of her friend’s son, a “simple” man by the name of Cletus. Cletus is found dead in a river, though he had a strong fear of water. The Sheriff writes it off as an accidental drowning, but his mother, Birdie, isn’t satisfied, and asks Elizabeth for help.
Elizabeth’s investigation leads her to discover the underbelly of secluded mountain communities. There’s crazy right-wing militias, a cult compound, a snake-handling church, and more. While it may seem a bit much in this description, Lane makes it work. The situation doesn’t seem absurd and over-crazified.
At first, I wasn’t sure about the pace of the book, but it really picks up and becomes really interesting really fast. The descriptions are gorgeous, and being a southern-Appalachian girl myself, it invoked thoughts of home. It’s probably not a book for everyone, but people who like mysteries or Appalachian Lit should definitely check it out.
Note: I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Lane at this year’s Blue Ridge Mountain Writers’ Conference. Her keynote address was both entertaining and informative, and was one of the best presentations of the day.