“Deep Down” by Karen Harper
Rating: 4 WaterTowers (loved the setting and characters)
Genre: Romantic Suspense
“Deep Down” is an ARC sent to me by Karen Harper. It should be in stores now.
The small town of “Deep Down” is located in the Eastern Hills of Kentucky. Those hills provide the perfect combination of soil, water, cool air, and shade for the growth of a valuable wild plant….ginseng.
Ginseng is a slow growing herb with a root shaped like man (the origin of the word jen shen, or “man root” in Chinese) that is valued by many cultures as an aphrodisiac, stimulant, treatment for diabetes, and to treat sexual dysfunction in men (gee, just like in the commercials). A single, well developed, wild ginseng root can fetch six figures in the Asian market. Ginseng can also be farmed, but, the quality does not match that of the wild root.
Dr. Jessie Lockwood is a “Deep Down” native researching possible cures for cancer using ginsenosides, a compound found in ginseng. Jessie’s mother, Mariah, is a wildcrafter taking yearly counts of the wild ginseng in “Deep Down”. If her count is low, the exports of ginseng from the area may cease, if it is high then ginseng can continue to be harvested much to the chagrin of some people. Either way the count goes, Mariah has people with a lot at stake wanting the count to go the other way.
One evening as Mariah was finishing her daily counting activities she is attacked by an unusually large and hairy “monster”.
When Mariah does not come back home, new Sheriff Drew Webb puts together a search party and calls Jessie, who is in Hong Kong at a conference, to inform her that her mom is missing and that she may want to come home as soon as possible. Oh, just so you know, Drew and Jessie had a thing for each other years ago before Jessie was sent away to live with someone in Lexington.
When Jessie arrives home, the mutual attraction is instantaneous, but, any feelings have to be put on hold until Mariah is found.
Unfortunately, Jessie and Drew find Mariah’s body shortly thereafter huddled in a hollowed out opening of a large tree, that the native Cherokees revere as a “grandfather tree”, and is covered with ginseng leaves. She has three claw marks in her face. Mariah was murdered.
The list of suspects, and murdered women, grows as Drew, Jessie, and Cassie (Jessica’s best friend) try to solve Mariah’s murder.
Seth Bearclaw is Cherokee and was against harvesting and wanted the count to be low so harvesting would stop. The evidence Drew uncovers leads to Seth’s guilt, but, Drew likes Seth and trusts him, and feels the evidence pointing to him is manufactured.
Peter Sung could lose tons of money if the count is low since he buys the sang from Vern Tarver (who also wants a high count) and sells it for a tidy profit on the Asian market.
Junior Semple is a ginseng farmer of virtually wild ginseng with a wild unpredictable nature.
Other people drift into “Deep Down”, each with their own possible motives: Beth Brazzo is marketing a ginseng power drink, Ryan Buford is a surveyor who may have ties to Cassie, and Tyler Finch a photographer who has taken a shine to Cassie and her daughter Pearl. He also snapped a picture of what looks like Bigfoot…the possible murderer.
Who is the murderer? I the murderer human or is it Bigfoot (or a Bigfoot relative)? Why? Will Jessica and Drew get back together? You are just going to have the read the book to find out.
Although “Deep Down” is a romantic suspense, I found it to be more suspense than romance which, for me, the great romantic, is a good thing.
I thouroughly enjoyed “Deep Down” and especially liked the descriptions of the area around “Deep Down”. An excellent fast read that I’m sure you will enjoy.
Oh yeah…how funny is this: My daughter, several months ago, downloaded a Jeffrey Steele CD for me which includes a song “Hillbillies at Work”. That song includes lyrics about ginseng farmers! How interesting that I have now read a book about ginseng. My worlds collide. 🙂