Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Low Country Bribe by C. Hope Clark

Reviewed by Jeanne

When the hog farmer suggests it might be worth her while to fudge some paperwork, Carolina Slade thinks he’s joking.  Surely he knows it’s illegal to offer a bribe to a Department of Agriculture employee.  At first she’s inclined to brush it off, but what if someone else heard and thinks Jesse was serious?  They’d both be up on charges, so Slade grits her teeth and calls in a report. The next thing she knows, an agent is in investigating her as well as the farmer.

Lowcountry Bribe  by C. Hope Clark is a South Carolina mystery with a feisty female detective but Carolina Slade is no simpering Southern belle.  Instead, she’s an honest civil servant whose life falls apart when she tries to do the right thing.  In short order, her shaky marriage falls apart, her job is in jeopardy, and she’s afraid not only for her own life but for the lives of her kids. 

I picked this up because two different patrons brought the book up in conversation as being one very good first mystery.  Clark writes very well, avoiding clich├ęs of all sorts, and really knows her territory, both geographically and governmentally. She’s also good at keeping up the tension as the plot unfolds, revealing corruption and murder.  Slade is a tough cookie but she’s also a real woman who loves her kids, cooks dinner, and is afraid at appropriate moments—true courage not false bravado.   

And I think one of the things I liked most is that this book portrays a hard-working civil servant who is trying to do the right thing. That's a bit of a rarity.  It's easy to portray government workers as slackers, too bound up in bureaucracy to be of any real help-- anyone who's had to wait in line at the DMV would instantly relate-- but to show someone in what's usually regarded as an unsympathetic occupation as being dedicated, honest and admirable.

In short, this is one nifty little mystery.  The second book in the series is Tidewater Murder.

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