The Drop Edge of Yonder
The engaging Oklahoma farm wife and mother of ten, Alafair Tucker (The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, Hornswoggled), is back for a welcome third adventure. August 1914’s pleasant family outing proves fatal to a young brother-in-law and devastating to his brutalized fiancée and wounded niece Mary, the most lighthearted of Alafair and Shaw’s children.
The killer is hell-bent on covering tracks with additional mayhem, so in the middle of their grief the Tuckers and their close extended family go into detective mode to discover the bushwhacker in their midst. Interwoven in the storyline is Mary’s journal entries, in which she tries to pull from her mind how the horrible crimes and the Fourth of July are connected. Neighbors begin to suspect neighbors, families their hired men, and racial prejudice surfaces, heightening the tension. Her mother’s hovering shortens Mary’s temper, but also proves to be life-saving. And intrepid Alafair plumbs every lead including gossip, the “underground network… often much more informative than the official sources.”
Casey provides another excellent mystery, enhanced by telling details of farm life – where animals greet masters by shaking their entire hindquarters and the road to solving a murder is interrupted when a first grandchild must be helped into the world. Though the viewpoint shifts seemed at times disconcerting and unnecessary, this outing is also enhanced by a deft portrayal of trauma, and a pure, homegrown magical realism nested nicely beside Alafair’s recipes for fried okra, cornmeal dumplings and peach ice cream.