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Hilarious Ozark Intrigue
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Lori Copeland
A Case of Crooked Letters (Prince Frederick, Maryland:  Tyndale Publishing/Recorded Books, 2004.  Audiobook)

Original Print Version of this Audiobook

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Set in the community of Morning Shade, this humourous mystery focuses on an explosion of chain letters promising vast riches that have spread through the hamlet.  The characters in this story were hilariously realistic.  The story is set in the mountains of Northern Arkansas.

The Real Ozarks
A nearby town is Ash Flat, which is a real town not far from another actual Ozark town of Evening Shade.  You may remember the latter from the highly successful comedy series of the same name, starring Burt Reynolds.  Even though the TV show Evening Shade was enjoyable and culturally recognizable, I never even knew it was a real town.

I discovered that only when Edith and I were looking at the Arkansas map after hearing this audiobook.  So Morning Shade and a couple of other fictitious names appear to be based on the situations in the actual town of Evening Shade or a composite of similar Ozark mountain towns.  The author includes interesting, diverting and highly entertaining local colour, recognizable to those of us with some connections and acquaintances in that region.

Richly Crafted
The book is told from a dual point of view.  The primary vehicle is the reflections and concepts of a widowed writer Maureen, trying to make a living for the household of widows filled out by her daughter and mother-in-law.  An interesting literary device entails the story switching to the thoughts and perspective of the other two characters of this widowed trio.

It was so smoothly done, though, that I never felt jolted from perspective to perspective.  There was a bit of author narrative tying it all together, but I was impressed with the smooth flow of the whole story across the personalities.  Each person's character and concern was richly crafted.

Our Town
As this story develops, you will think you have actually seen these people talked with them, smelled the mountain air and the coffee-shop atmosphere of this funny collection of personalities.  You will think the author is describing your own local community church, because you will know these individuals and recognize the bossy pretentious woman who takes it upon herself to run everything in the church.

You will no doubt remember the events that occur as the annual Thanksgiving dinner is prepared, the icy roads introduce danger and uncertainty into the schedules, and the children promulgate their teen antics.  You will remember the new young preacher's family and recall the mischievous pastor's son and the tricks and treats that begin to happen.

Rich and Rising
This was my first Lori Copeland book, and I am amazed at the richness and depth of these characters and the rising suspense.  In this crazy mystery case, we are approaching the Christmas season, and everyone is hit by the financial downturn, wondering where they will get their living and holiday funds.  The chain letter caper arises with apparently several different perpetrators, unknown to each other.

Adding to the hilarity is the role of our protagonist's daughter as a mail carrier in this small burg where everyone knows everyone else and most of their business.  Everyone wants to know still more about their neighbour's business, and now no one can discern who might be behind this mail fraud.  Everyone has a view about this scandalous federal crime occurring in this sleepy little mountain town, but something is not right about this thing.

This audiobook had us in uproarious laughter for much of our cross-country trip.  I suggest you meet the interesting people of Morning Shade, Arkansas.  And while you are there take a quick drive over to Ash Flat, where the chain letters were mailed from.

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Initial review written 4 June 2010
Reviewed on Amazon and OJTR 30 June 2010

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2010 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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