I don't read mysteries or thrillers for the frantic pace. I read for character and plot, which is why I don't read many thrillers. But Deborah J. Ledfords' Snare offers a depth of character, and an eerie feeling of atmosphere that isn't always present in thrillers. It's tense, but, at the same time she allows the story to develop at a natural pace, without forcing the suspense. The book deserves its nomination for this year's Hillerman Sky Award.
From page one, we're drawn into the tragedy of young Katina Salvo's life as she listens to her mother's last fight with her abusive father. And, even at twenty-three, fifteen years later, she's fleeing from her past. It's no wonder the successful Native American singer/songwriter has never appeared in public. But, that's about to change, and her first concert will be in North Carolina, where Deputy Steven Hawk is charged with keeping her safe. It's too bad neither Hawk nor Katina know all the reasons someone might want her dead.
Despite all precautions, Katrina and Hawk are caught in a trap the night of the concert. When Hawk is seriously injured, something prevents a greater tragedy, a presence they both sense. While Hawk has to recover physically, Katrina has to recover emotionally from the events of that night. She turns to her past, her aunt's home on the Taos Pueblo Reservation in New Mexico for answers, and Hawk accompanies her, not knowing if he's looking for her father or a man from the reservation who comes and goes like a ghost. But, both of them sense that answers will only be found there.
Ledford's novel is so much more impressive than so many thrillers, with its depth of character. Hawk is fully developed as a black deputy, very much aware of some feelings against him in North Carolina. At the same time, his strong family ties gives him a grounding, a safety net in life that Katina lacks. It's Katina's story that slowly unfolds in the course of the story as the true tragedy of her life is told. Ledford even tells the parallel story of Katrina's father, an ex-con who only learns of his daughter's success after he's out of prison.
The story has an atmosphere of impending doom that hangs over the entire book. Some of that comes from the use of nature and symbols. Ledford shows a great respect for spiritual beliefs of Katina's people and Hawk's. Those beliefs are essential to the story, beliefs in spirits and their roles after death, beliefs in the messages sent by the birds and nature. The beauty of the two settings, North Carolina and the Taos Pueblo Reservation, are in stark contrast to the dark atmosphere hanging over Katina's life.
With its atmosphere and strong characters, Snare is a gripping story of a woman trapped by her past, and the past of her dead mother. It's also the story of a lawman who chose his profession to make a difference in his community. For once, he has to leave his life, to help a young woman survive, and find her own community.
Deborah J. Ledford's website is www.DeborahJLedford.com
Snare by Deborah J. Ledford. Second Wind Publishing, ©2010. ISBN 9781935171577 (paperback), 325p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The author gave me a copy of the book, in hopes I would review it.