Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Wordcraft -- What evil lurks in a small Texas town?

As 2017 approaches, my blog will metamorphose into a more book review-oriented site. I've always been willing to share Wordcraft's space with current authors -- especially if they're from my home state of Texas. But never fear -- when significant literary events occur, including the ever-popular writing contests, I'll let readers know. Speaking of contests. . . Carve Magazine announces that the deadline for submissions to its premium Edition Contest for fiction, nonfiction and poetry has been extended to November 30. (Carve has a place in my heart because its editor is fellow Texan Matthew Limpede. See the site for details.)

Melissa Lenhardt
Today's post is a review of Stillwater, by Texas writer Melissa Lenhardt, who joined other members of the DFW Writers Workshop recently at the Dallas Public Library to discuss NaNoWriMo -- National Novel Writing Month. Through the end of November, members of the workshop will be available on Thursdays (except Thanksgiving) from 6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. in the third-floor Conference Room B of the library, at 1515 Young Street, Dallas, to assist NaNoWriMo-ers with questions about outlining, creating characters, finding time to write, and more. Participating writers must be at least 13 years old.

The following review has appeared also at Goodreads and Amazon.


A handsome stranger appears in a small Texas town just vacated by a corrupt law enforcement official. It's the classic Western scenario, updated for the 21st century in Texas author Melissa Lenhardt's Stillwater. But unlike the horse opera versions of the story, 

hero Jack McBride can't ride a horse, dislikes getting his city slicker shoes dirty, and has no patience for cows. And he comes with a load of modern-day angst -- a wife who disappeared under mysterious circumstances, a previous job he left under a cloud, and an angry teenage son.

An ex-FBI agent, McBride seems an unlikely pick for the small town's new chief of police. He thought the job in the town of Stillwater, Texas, where crime is seldom seen or heard, would be a welcome change from big city life. But his first day on the job he walks into a gruesome murder-suicide (or is it a double murder)? And then there's a long-cold case of a missing, possibly murdered wife, that parallels his own family's situation.

Fortunately, he's got the town's savvy mayor behind him, not to mention the mayor's winsome protege, Ellie Martin. But both mayor and Martin have angst of their own to fill a wagon train. Can McBride solve Stillwater's sudden crime spree before it kills him? And can he find true love to salve a heart broken by his missing wife ?

I sometimes found the romantic elements that envelope both McBride and his son distracting, but overall Lenhardt draws a well-nuanced picture of a small town and the even that can lurk within the hearts of her cast of characters. Maybe a tad too many characters -- I found myself flipping back through pages to remember who was who. But Lendhardt is leaving enough threads to fill a sequel (The Fisher King, out this month), perhaps even a series.

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