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ASHES IN THE PINES by Chad Alan  Gibbs


by Chad Alan Gibbs

Pub Date: May 22nd, 2023
ISBN: 9798985675757
Publisher: Borne Back Books

Teenage detective Izzy Brown and her sidekick Elton Jones-Davies are back, investigating a cold-case murder in small-town North Carolina.

It’s 2009, and 16-year-old Izzy, her mother, and her brother have moved yet again—this time from Florida to Ashes in the Pines, a touristy locale in the North Carolina mountains. There, Izzy’s twin sibling, Axl, can take advantage of a prep school football scholarship. “The truth was,” narrates snarky Izzy, “we’d just moved our poverty north a few hundred miles to a milder climate.” Izzy gets a kitchen job at Fuller Farms, a summer camp catering to the very rich. Soon, her best friend unexpectedly shows up: Elton, a brilliant teen with autism. Back in 1992, Vance Fuller, the scion of the wealthy Fuller family, was killed—shot full of arrows. His father, Wellington, knows Izzy’s amazing reputation for crime-solving, so he hires her to find his son’s killer; he’s even arranged for Elton to join her. Specifically, he wants them to confirm that archery instructor Buster McClellan was the murderer. It turns out that there’s a plethora of other colorful suspects. Readers learn over time that Fuller Farms, a redoubt of Christian values, may not be what it appears to be. Izzy, as a character, is a wonderfully conflicted creation and not a Nancy Drew clone. For one thing, she has an opioid problem, facilitated by her mother’s shady boyfriend, Lenny Roach, and she’s constantly fighting to keep it under control. Suspects spring up like weeds after a rain, including three campers with whom Vance was entrusted before his death. The plot is truly dizzying; every time Izzy thinks she’s found the culprit, another pops up in their place. The real killer is found, of course, in a nail-biting conclusion. Gibbs is clearly having great fun, and Izzy is a wonderful teen curmudgeon (“Never mind…my father remains useless”). Another Izzy and Elton adventure is planned.

A thoroughly enjoyable mystery with a wonderfully engaging protagonist.