A gray calf's birth foreshadows evil days. . . . Bad luck breaks out and its most serious manifestation is the severe illness of the hero's mother. . . . Its source is traced to the mandrake root which mute Sorrow has buried, as promised, with her just-deceased father. . . . The buried root becomes a bush overnight. . . . And to save the town, and especially his mother, the young hero and his friend, the remorseful Sorrow, must uproot the deadly mandrake where grownups fear to tread. Callen has concocted as eerie a plot as the next one, but what gives this its special flavor is the same bayou characters and setting that vitalized the author's shorter, simpler Pinch (1976). And it's not just the scenery and accents that color the tale; from the earliest evidence of things gone wrong (slippery Mr. John Barrow's chicken takes to crowing) to Callen's master stroke, the gray cow's ultimate disposal of the evil root, none of this could happen anywhere but in Four Corners. Cracking good fun.