Monday, July 09, 2018

Countdown by Frederick Ramsay

Following Frederick Ramsay's death in 2017, Dana Stabenow polished the manuscript for his last mystery, Countdown. It's eight years after Jesse Sutherlin's return home to Virginia from the First World War, the story told in Copper Kettle. Jesse is married, with a family, working at the local sawmill. He doesn't expect another mystery in his life.

Jesse and Serena have been married for eight years. As much as Jesse loved Buffalo Mountain, Serena wanted the family moved into Floyd where the four kids could go to school for twelve years. She wanted "no more bumpkins in the family." Jesse may be the head of the household, but he knows how shrewd Serena is. Together, the two will deal with the latest family situation. David Privette, the new sheriff, tells them he's found the body of Jesse's father. Jesse doesn't believe him because in 1918, a stranger told them his father died of the Spanish flu in Norfolk, Virginia. But, the body was found in a local icehouse, and he's been dead about ten years. There's money on him, but there's an heirloom watch, "the Onion", missing. And, Jesse wants to track down that watch.

Countdown is a short novel. In timeframe, it's sandwiched between Copper Kettle and Ramsay's Ike Schwartz novels. It's a period piece, set during Prohibition when the mountain men, moonshiners, and law enforcement were in opposition. It's humorous at times, and the humor is often provided by the shrewd women in the family, Serena and Jesse's mother, Addie. They're no-nonsense, down-to-earth women who acknowledge the weakness of men. Serena refers to Jesse's "big heart and tiny brain".

Ramsay's final book reflects the mountain life and culture. Family life is strong, and people support each other. I was always a fan of the Ike Schwartz mysteries. With Copper Kettle and Countdown, there are even more reasons to miss the author of these books. Countdown is a slightly humorous, historical piece. Pick it up if you're a fan of Doris Casey's historical family mysteries set in Oklahoma.

Countdown by Frederick Ramsay. Poisoned Pen Press, 2018. ISBN 9781464210594 (paperback), 186p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

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