Penny Pound, divorced mom, schoolteacher and church organist, gets caught up in the investigations that follow a deadly blaze at a student’s home in this first installment of a planned series.
Penny Pound is a third-grade teacher in Redfield, Ohio, in 1990. She also serves as organist at the nearby Episcopal church, led by the kindly Rev. Huddleston. Offbeat, yet deeply engaged with her students, Penny feels under scrutiny since she doesn’t always follow the school’s curriculum. It doesn’t help that her professor ex-husband convinced their 15-year-old son, Sam, to live with him and only visit her on weekends. Still, she has supportive friends—African-American school psychologist Glory, fellow newbie teacher Robin and choirmaster Andrew. Her retired cop father calls to tell her about a fire at the home of her student Keith. The circumstances are peculiar: Keith’s mother is acting strangely, her current boyfriend and ex-husband have criminal pasts, and Keith’s brother, who perished in the blaze, was drugged. A multilayered investigation ensues. Penny soon meets firefighter Jake Richards and experiences combustible attraction. Then her caring outreach to Keith prompts its own suspicions, leading to a final fiery showdown. First-time novelist Greenwood has created an appealing world that has elements of a cozy as well as the small-town charm and spirituality found in Jan Karon’s Mitford series. Keith’s home life proves to be quite dark and disturbing, which lends a somewhat jarring undertone to this largely folksy narrative. Greenwood addresses this issue squarely, providing several beautifully written, touching scenes that point the way, as do sprinklings of excerpts from prayers and hymns, to this planned series’ focus on redemption, hope and light. Overall, a skillful debut.
An accomplished launch of a promising new spirituality-focused small-town series.