Book Report: Shadow Valley by Alan Brown and Brian Brown (2021)

Book coverSo as I mentioned when I reported on Lake Honor and Gone in the Night, I was going to pick this book up next, which means I read all the books I bought from Brian Brown at his book signing in rather short order which is probably the best endorsement by my actions rather than quibbles I post in my book reports.

This book does without the frame story present in the other two books, where the authors insert themselves and listen to or work with Booger McClain to “solve” an unsolved mystery–but whose resolution is not actually the solution of the crimes, perhaps an allusion or a theory that cannot be acted on.

Instead, this is a more straightforward story: An old friend comes to Booger to find his estranged wife and daughter who were last known to have been living in a trailer park in Pea Ridge, Arkansas. So Booger and his new wife Rose move into the trailer park to figure out what’s going on. Well, Rose does: A couple of injuries land McClain in the local hospital, which takes him out of the action for much of the book, so he acts mostly as a sounding board for what Rose is doing and as comic relief. So Rose uncovers a prostitution ring running in the trailer park, and that the shadowy Branson organized crime types behind it are dealing with the introduction of cocaine trade in the same area. Two guys in a blue truck make shadowy appearances, including perhaps killing the wife and daughter, and the sheriff of Pea Ridge is one of McClain’s former deputies. So they manage to depose the sheriff and get him to turn state’s evidence, so they take out the drug ring. But they don’t really solve the case they started with except for allusions and some speculations, perhaps.

So maybe that’s thematic, then, and not just how a quickly written book turns out.

As with the previous two, this one could have used a copy edit to catch things like:

  • Again referring to the Sheriff of a town; McClain was sheriff of Branson, this book also mentions, and another town. But sheriffs are county officials and the law enforcement for unincorporated parts of a county. In cities and metropolitan areas with cities whose boundaries run right up to each other, such as the St. Louis area, the sheriffs and their deputies mostly serve papers. It’s probably no help that St. Louis County, where the Browns live, has a St. Louis County Police force which handles law enforcement and differs from the St. Louis County Sheriff.
  • Talk about the trailer park and living in a trailer. At one point, someone is a couple hundred yards away from a trailer; in general trailer park sizes, a couple hundred yards is clear on the other side of the trailer park. The lot sizes are not generous. The book mentions going into the cellar under a trailer; okay, that’s rare in a trailer park; sometimes you can put them on foundations, but that’s more permanent than a trailer park. But at the end of the book, the trailer is towed away, but when trailers are placed on foundations and can have cellars, the wheels are generally removed.
  • Rose goes to a neighbor’s trailer during a power outage; the trailer is lit with a lot of candles because the neighbor is used to this. Rose learns that the neighbor has security cameras, so they go back to another room to look at the computer monitors that show the view from the cameras. That would be a lot of batteries to power monitors.
  • The wife and daughter are named Tammy and Carly, and I had some trouble keeping them straight in my head. At one point, too, the book says Tammy sold her stocks and bonds and moved back to Little Rock–but that’s the daughter’s name, not the wife. So I was not the only one having trouble keeping the names straight!

I also flagged a couple of things to comment on:

  • At one point, while driving down to Pea Ridge, one of the characters said “Maybe we should have stopped in Berryville.” As you know, gentle reader, Berryville earlier this year, and I mentioned to my beautiful wife (but did not post on the blog) every time that I have seen Berryville mentioned in the news–although I think one of the other mentions of Berryville that I encountered might have been in Lake Honor.
  • Somebody calls the local paper the Tri-Lakes News; however, last year or the year before, the paper changed its masthead to emphasize it’s the Branson (Tri-Lakes) News. As I boasted recently, I get that paper twice a week.
  • At a wedding at the end of the book (See? It is a comedy!), they play a Shania Twain song (“You’re Still the One”). I can reveal to you, gentle reader, since it’s not the security question on any Web site that I am aware of, that at my wedding, our first dance as husband and beautiful wife was to a Shania Twain song–it was “From This Moment On”, and I forgot to get the CD back from Ernie, the owner of Occasions, when we left. When we were in town this summer, it looked like Occasions was still there and maybe open.

Also, it had typos and wrong word substitutions–instead of alter for altar which appeared in a couple of places in Lake Honor, we got conscience for conscious a couple of places here.

So it was a fun bit of reading that could have used a bit of copyediting. Kind of like Elton Gahr’s books. I’ll pick up more of them if I bump into Brown or Brown in person again, but they’re not so compelling that I’ll go out and order them. After all, I have many, many fine stacks of books to get to in the interim.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories