Deborah Coates' Wide Open is the best debut novel I've read this year. She brings the prairies of South Dakota vividly to life in a story dependent on atmosphere and weather. Her heroine is a strong, independent woman, a veteran of Afghanistan, determined to stand alone if she needs to against the trouble in her hometown. Oh, and she also sees ghosts.
Sergeant Hallie Michaels arrived in Rapid City, South Dakota's airport after a long flight, with only ten days of compassionate leave following her sister's death. She thought she might have left the ghost of Eddie Serrano behind, but she saw him, just before she saw the ghost of her sister, Dell. And, the friends that met her at the airport did their best to say they didn't believe her sister would have committed suicide, although her car was wrapped around a tree out on Seven Mile Creek. Hallie hadn't even known how her sister died, so she was angry and upset when the car had a flat, and the other two women seemed incapable of dealing with it. When Deputy Boyd Davies stopped to help, she took all her frustration out on him. Hallie knew she would have to handle all the arrangements since her father couldn't, but she didn't know she'd also have to deal with ghosts, and eventually her own investigation into Dell's death. And, she would also have to deal with Deputy Davies, who seemed to appear out of nowhere every time she turned around.
As Hallie dug into Dell's life, she uncovered a story of a flourishing community that was also dealing with unusual weather, a period of lightning strikes and unexpected storms. Dell had worked for a company called Uka-Weber, encouraging local residents to invest in the company that was bringing wind turbines and weather equipment to the prairie. Hallie only had those ten days to find answers, and all of her questions seemed to stir up trouble, leading back again and again to Uka-Weber. And, as she searched for the truth, more ghosts of young women showed up, following Hallie. She was haunted by Deputy Davies almost as much as she was haunted by the ghosts. And, she didn't know if Davies or the ghosts would actually help her if she had to face down someone who was disturbing the atmosphere.
Wide Open introduces two fascinating characters in Hallie Michaels and Boyd Davies, troubled, gritty, determined people. And, Coates tantalizes readers with the possibility of additional stories to come. The two characters, the ghostly storyline, and the unusual treatment of weather combine for an intriguing, riveting novel. If you liked Melissa Marr's Graveminder, you might want to try Wide Open. It's another story of ordinary people with extraordinary abilities. Highly recommended for anyone who appreciates the combination of mystery and fantasy. It's a winner.
Wide Open by Deborah Coates. TOR. 2012. ISBN 9780765328984 (hardcover), 304p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.
I have been a library manager/administrator for over 30 years, in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and, now, Indiana. Winner of the 2011 Arizona Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award. I am a contributing Book Reviewer for Library Journal, Mystery Readers Journal, ReadertoReader.com and VibrantNation.com. Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Reviewer. First Fan Guest of Honor for Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Write Now! Conference.
It's an honor to be asked to review books, and I'm grateful to all the publishers, publicists, and authors who send me books. Thank you. Reviews will appear on my blog if I've had a chance to read, and finish, the book. If I do not finish a book, I won't review it, and I will not respond to emails asking when, or if, I'll be reviewing a book.
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