Countdown (Jesse Sutherlin Mysteries)

Written by Frederick Ramsay
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

It’s 1928, and Jesse Sutherlin, a survivor of the Great War, and his wife are living in Floyd, Virginia. Formerly of the Buffalo Mountain clan, Jesse works for JG Edwards’ sawmill. A body is discovered in a local ice house and, based upon identification, the corpse is determined to be Jesse’s father. In 1918, Jesse was notified by a stranger that his father had died of the Spanish flu while working in Norfolk, Virginia. The mystery of his father’s death causes Jesse to search for the truth, but the local police refuse to reopen the case because it left no clues. His investigation forces him to talk with men who travel by rail (hobos), the local citizens of Floyd, and the folks living on Buffalo Mountain.

This novel is a sequel to Ramsey’s mystery Copper Kettle and occurs eight years later. The country is now booming, but according to experts, the economy is heading for a crash. I was impressed how the author described the different culture between the “backwoods” folk and the people living in the town of Floyd. He brings his characters to life while providing a rich and thorough picture of the pre-Depression years and a masterful command of the social customs and history of the era. This well-researched novel is lavished in historical detail. The mystery of Jesse’s father’s death is not disclosed until this novel’s climax, which made the book a page-turner until the end.