First Lines: "Targhee Falls, Idaho. 'Why are those dogs barking?' I pointed across the wooden picnic table toward two obviously upset canines yelping nearby."
Summary: Darby Graham is a forensic linguist. She has recently completed a program for law enforcement experiencing PTSD. Her first assignment on leaving the program sends her to a ranch in Idaho. She is given instructions to keep a low profile and see if she can learn something about the strange things going on there. And there are strange things going on - accidents, thefts, attempted poisoning, horse stampedes and eventually murder. Everyone at the ranch is a suspect and Darby will need to work with local law enforcement to discover what is going on before it is too late.
My thoughts: Carrie Stuart Parks is trained as a forensic artist and she always incorporates her expertise in her novels. This time the character is not a forensic artist, but a forensic linguist. Here is how Darby explains her job:
"'I examine words people use. What they write. What they say.'"
"'Okay, the easiest part of what I do is related to lying and deception.' 'Aren't those the same thing?' 'No. Most people don't lie, but they do deceive. A lie is false information. The reason most people don't lie is they can't remember what they said. People commonly do deceive. They'll stick to the truth as much as possible, just concealing one thing. So if you have, say, a case where an employee took some money from the boss's desk, the employee will keep to the real events and just leave out the theft.'"
"The truth will be full of detail - where they were, how they were feeling, what was going on around them. When they get to the deception, the story will be lean, little detail, and full of certain phrases like 'the next thing I knew,' or 'later on'. You want to listen to exactly what people say. You don't add to it or subtract from it.'"
Darby is an interesting, deep character with quite a past. She also has a sense of humor that lends a bit of levity to the story. She is an animal lover who takes in two abandoned dogs. The reader gets to know the dogs and watch them begin to trust Darby. I really liked that part of the storyline. In addition to Darby, the staff and guests at the ranch are equally interesting. In order to discover what is going on, Darby has to get to know each of them.
There are many pieces to this mysterious puzzle. Just when Darby thinks she might be on to the culprit, something else happens that doesn't fit. Fortunately, she is able to work with sheriff's deputy Bram White. The two of them have their work cut out for them as one murder follows another. I was glad they were on the case, because I couldn't figure out whodunit.
I also appreciated getting to experience a little of the rugged Idaho countryside, just a few miles from Yellowstone. The difficult terrain and the wildlife played a part in solving the mystery as well.
I can always count on Carrie Stuart Parks to give me a story with interesting characters and a good mystery. If that sounds up your alley, give Woman in Shadow a try.