Trust southern mountain folk to offer a unique brand of hospitality. When Fever Devilin quits academia and returns to his family cabin in the Georgia woods, the welcome left on his porch is a dead body who looks remarkably like him. And if that’s not traumatic enough, there’s a quick hail of bullets aimed at him and Deputy Skidmore Needle, his old buddy. Fever, a folklorist and mandolin player, can’t figure out why someone wants him dead, even after talking it over with Shoo, a carver, Carson, a fiddler, and Hezekiah, a charismatic preacher. In this pocket of southern backwoods, however, the answer clearly lies deep in his family history, which includes a play-around mom, a couple of half-brothers, and some dispute over his daddy’s identity—possibly the Rev. Coombs, who preceded Hezekiah as custodian of the church’s relic, a valuable Serpent Bowl of Celtic origins; possibly Dr. Bishop, Fever’s university mentor, who discovered that bowl years back. But Winton Andrews, like his pal Fever a Burrison University scholar, insists the bowl is a fake, thereby setting the stage for more deaths, several surprise appearances of persons long thought dead, and a confrontation on Blue Mountain’s Devil’s Hearth that will explain all, including Fever’s parentage.
Like most southern storytellers, DePoy (the Flap Tucker series, not reviewed) believes the best route between two plot points slithers up one digression and down another, and his asides are more arresting than his conclusion. So-so as a mystery, then, but exquisite as a portrait of mountain folk.