by Nancy Pickard
Ballantine Books Hardcover
Release Date: April 25, 2006
Available for purchase
Why did you choose this book? I discovered this author about a year ago when I read her ‘Scent of Rain and Lightning’. It was one of my best reads of 2010, so I wanted to try her again.
When did you read this book? October 2011
Who should read this book? readers who enjoyed ‘The Scent of Rain and Lightning’; lovers of suspense and murder-mysteries
Here is a synopsis of ‘The Virgin of Small Plains.' from Goodreads, where it rates 3.79 stars.
After more than a dozen novels, mystery and suspense author -- and longtime Kansan -- Nancy Pickard finally comes home to the Sunflower State in The Virgin of Small Plains, a hauntingly bittersweet story about the residents of a Kansas town and the grisly secrets some of them have kept buried for 17 years.
During a deadly blizzard in 1987, high school senior Rex Shellenberger and his older brother help their father search snow-covered pastures for newborn calves. What Rex finds instead is a breathtakingly beautiful young woman, completely naked and frozen to death, as if she just curled up and fallen asleep. The body is never identified and is eventually buried in an unmarked grave in the town cemetery. But even after 17 years, rumors still swirl around the girl and the mysterious events of that fateful night. How did she get there? Why did Mitch Newquist, the handsome son of the local judge, suddenly leave town -- and Abby, the love of his life -- never again to return? A growing number of people believe that visiting the unmarked grave will bring them miracles -- but there are those in the small town who know there is nothing inspirational about the legend of the Virgin of Small Plains. In fact, it's just the opposite.
This is a murder-mystery with a touch of romance, similar to the author’s ‘The Scent of Rain and Lightning’. The book was also set in Kansas, as was the previous book. The author did a wonderful job of describing the scenery of Kansas; quite a feat, since I’ve been through Kansas and was unimpressed with the scenery!
The main characters in this story are Abby, with daughter of a the local doctor; Mitch, the son of the judge, and Rex, the son of the sheriff. The alternates alternates between past and present. In the past, Mitch and Abby were an item, and Rex was Mitch’s best friend. One January night Rex, along with his father and brother, discover the body of a naked girl buried in the snow. The next day Mitch leaves town without an explanation to Abby or Rex and is not heard from for seventeen years. The unidentified girl is buried in the local cemetery and a legend springs up that a visit to her grave and can cure diseases.
Fast forward seventeen years. Rex is now the sheriff and Abby is involved with Mitch’s brother. Abby works to convince Rex that he should reopen the case in order to identify ‘The Virgin’. Meanwhile, Mitch’s mother has died and Mitch returns to the town to visit the grave, and remain anonymous while he does. Of course, this plan does not work and eventually both Abby and Rex know Mitch is back in town. As the story proceeds, we learn the truth about that January night and the Virgin and ‘whodunnit’. The story is full of twists and definitely kept me in suspense. It did not disappoint!
My Rating: ★★★★ 4 Stars