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Cranford's imaginative, if rambling, first novel takes place in modern rural Georgia, with local college prof Leeman Truesdale and a ragtag assortment of local subluminaries competing to unravel the mystery surrounding a cache of stolen silver dollars. If Deputy Sheriff Buddy Crittenden hadn't been an animal lover, and Jerry Spivey hadn't run over a big snake with his beat-up old Pontiac, no one would have known about the money in the first place. Instead, Buddy and his sidekick Leeman, by pursuing coldhearted Jerry, precipitates a chain of events that rocks the little hamlet of Alachua right down to its roots. Jerry had almost learned the location of the hidden fortune when the thief befriended him, but sudden death kept it a secret. So he's compelled to search for it, and he's not afraid to use a heavy hand to gather information. Meanwhile, Buddy and Leeman are doing a little sleuthing on their own, although on a different tack, one that leads them to the Rattlesnake Master and his daughter--the tenders of a most unusual garden, which is the source of herbs for a tea that changes people's lives. It so happens that they're after the silver dollars as well, and the efforts of all interested parties are tumbled together to create an amusing morsel of a story. Leeman, ever the befuddled yet sensitive southern male, has enough on the ball to be the object of one woman's dreams, but he does need a helping hand to realize that. Everyone finds a measure of happiness in the end, not surprisingly, but no one will ever be the same. Predictable at times, but nevertheless an entertaining tale of small-town justice and folkways, with offbeat characters and a solid evocation of the swamps, forests, and fields of Georgia. A better-than-average contribution to the popular tradition of quixotic southern literature.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Available/Ballantine