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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Deep Down by Karen Harper

Deep Down by Karen Harper
Publisher: Mira Books
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense
Length: Full (343 pages)
Heat: Sweet
Rating: 4 Books
Reviewed by Camellia

As a child, Jessie Lockwood spent many hours helping her mother, Mariah, count the endangered ginseng plants hidden in the local woods of Deep Down, Kentucky. There she learned to appreciate the tiny Appalachian town—and ginseng's healing powers. Now a PhD, she's made her home in Lexington, even though that meant leaving Deep Down and her beloved mother—and Sheriff Drew Webb, the man she secretly loved.

When Jessie is notified that her mother never returned from her last walk in the woods, she comes home to Deep Down—and to Drew. As Jessie and Drew race to find her mother, several suspects emerge: an agent for those who market the herb for its life-giving properties; Mariah's disgruntled suitor; and an old Cherokee desperate to protect the sacred tribal herb.

In the mist of legend and fear, only two things make sense to Jessie. At any cost, she is desperate to find her mother. And she can't help falling desperately in love with Drew all over again.

Childhood experiences, both good and bad, influence the adult characters’ actions and reactions in DEEP DOWN.

Set in the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky, this story is fraught with legends and superstitions of long standing, but it deals with a modern society so full of greed that it seems to run roughshod over the quiet desires of a segment of society that still craves subsistence living without the constraints of government and outside interests. Finding a balance for these two forces puts a strain on people caught in the middle—people that see and understand both sides of the society.

The wild Ginseng that grows in the forest around the town of Deep Down fuels a ‘range war’ as real as those of the old West. However, this war is being fought on many levels and often clandestinely.

Dr. Jessica Lockwood and Sheriff Drew Webb find themselves back in Deep Down after twelve years of separation. Their relationship cut short before it could be explored way back when Jessica was sixteen years old, lives just below the surface as the two of them deal with her mother’s disappearance and with the perverse, secretive dealings of powerful and greedy outside entities that would exploit the area and its people.

The secondary characters flesh out a plot that is full of suspense and mystery. Each of the characters has his or her unique goal. Murder, bribery, and threats bring terror and heartbreak to the people of Deep Down.

The experience Sheriff Drew Webb and Dr. Jessica Lockwood gained during the twelve years they were apart, serve them well as they work to bring evil forces down and restore peace to their childhood community. All the while, a love never-explored puts down deep roots and matures to a “deep down satisfaction” that gives the reader that “all-is-well” feeling.

Karen Harper’s writing style with imagery that ebbs and flows at times then jars the senses at other times creates scenes that linger in the mind in vivid relief. The foreshadowing gives the reader that feeling of being on the inside track of what is happening. Of course, surprises come along that make the reader think, “I should have known that was coming”.

This is a love story that made me feel good.