Death Pans Out
by Ashna Graves
Hardcover, 288 pages,
from Poisoned Pen Press
Reporter Jeneva Leopold, faced with a life-altering decision, takes a leave of absence from her job to recover from surgery. Breast cancer has claimed part of her body and she wants time to recover in relative peace. Not just from the debilitating effects of the surgery itself, but she wants to be in a place where she can think about her life and her existence. This is a novel about an unusual woman with an unusual plan to rehabilitate herself.
There are great stories surrounding the searches for precious metals from
California, South America and the Yukon, as well as the production of gold
from less well-known regions, and this one takes its cue from those stories.
Fact or fiction, we are never quite sure, but here is a story which may well
become a part of that so interesting body of literature.
Jeneva’s family has long owned an idle gold mine in the mountains of
Southern Oregon, a harsh, vastly rural region of high deserts, mountains,
isolated communities, wild animals and, legends. One legend surrounds the
mysterious disappearance of Jeneva’s uncle, Mathew. Mathew disappeared one
night from the cabin at the mine almost twenty years before the story opens,
and his mining partner has retreated into a silent years from which he may
Jeneva takes a long leave of absence and moved to the cabin at the mine
where she intends to spend several months of the summer physically and
mentally recovering from her trauma.Almost immediately, a parade of
compelling characters begins to invade her peaceful existence, from a weird
self-styled “artifact hunter,” who insists that he always camps on Bureau of
Forestry land and visits the area regularly, to a hearty sheriff who seems
at times too good to be true,to a taciturn former model and beauty queen
turned rancher, to assorted miners, a tall funeral director and other
assorted characters.They all make for some fascinating scenes and while
the action is never of a high order, the rising tension and sense of danger
to Jeneva and her friends, is well-handled.
I enjoyed the story, learned some things about governmental land management
and local attitudes toward government, and found the ending quite a
surprise. If there are small problems with this debut novel, they stem from
an experienced reporter acting entirely too trusting and naive to serve the
story, and a couple of the rants are a little too long. That said, I look
forward to another adventure with Jeneva Leopold.
Case of the Greedy Lawyer, Devils Island,
Bloody Halls, more at Kindle & Smashwords!