Merrimon Book Reviews

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The Salt Maiden
Salt Maiden
by Colleen Thompson

   5 Hearts
Romantic Suspense in an outer and inner desert wasteland.

Publisher: Dorchester (November 2007)
THE SALT MAIDEN by Colleen Thompson is riveting suspense with an emotionally satisfying romance. The finely detailed characterization combines with an eerie exquisitely written landscape to make this novel a reading and re-reading pleasure.

Dana Vanover needs to locate her sister Angie and time is of the essence. Nikki Harrison needs a bone marrow transplant to save her life. Dana and her mother, Nikki's grandmother, are not matches, so as her biological mother, Angie is Nikki's last hope. With urgency to save Nikki and please her mother, Dana travels to Devil's Claw, a desert in Rimrock County, Texas --- the last place Angie was located. The deeper Dana delves into her sister's life, the more danger she unearths... including a body preserved in salt. The town's residents were none to keen on Angie's eclectic ways or her interference in town affairs nor do they relish Dana's digging up the past. As soon as she arrives in Devil's Claw, danger lurks everywhere. Sheriff Jay Eversole is Dana's only ally in the small town but as a former desert warrior and war veteran, he is plagued by day time nightmares. Can Dana find her sister in time and is her growing attraction for Jay a threat to her safety? Will the sheriff's past come back to haunt their search, making him a threat?

Each chapter of THE SALT MAIDEN begins with either an entry from Angie's sobriety journal or a quote about salt, adding a suspenseful or reflective dimension to the novel. The desert wasteland haunts the landscape of this novel, creating an almost paranormal character in THE SALT MAIDEN. Colleen Thompson creates an intriguing landscape, not only of the natural world of the desert but also a landscape that extends into the daily life and dynamics of the community of Devil's Claw. The outer landscape becomes an internal landscape of her characters as Colleen Thompson reveals the vulnerabilities and inner psychological wasteland within Dana, Angie and Jay.

The suspense of THE SALT MAIDEN twists and turns as the motivations of different characters conflict and add new suspects. When one clue is solved, another even more intriguing mystery remains. Colleen Thompson creates fast-paced suspense where every second contains both danger and a pressing need to find answers. At the same time, Colleen Thompson creates a romance that is reflective in tone through her portrait of the wasteland, adding a fresh intriguing vision to the genre. As the desert warrior Jay and Dana work together, they are forced to reveal parts of their pasts that they have kept hidden. THE SALT MAIDEN is a romance that dares to look into the wasteland of the heart and heal wounded souls. Readers will appreciate THE SALT MAIDEN both for the immediate reading pleasure but also the mysteries and questions that remain afterwards. The almost mystical nature of salt and the salt maiden haunts even once the suspense resolves. THE SALT MAIDEN leaves the reader with a question that will make this book a re-reading or book club discussion delight: are some unforgivable acts redeemable?

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews

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