Monday, August 16, 2010
Murder in a small Florida town...
Healing for two sisters that drifted apart...
It's hard to classify Ashes to Water by Irene Ziegler in just one category... I want to say it's a murder mystery/suspense thriller, but it's more than that... It's also literary fiction, written with a depth and caring towards her characters that might normally get overshadowed a bit by the action in a typical thriller. With a wonderful cast of small town characters, a mix of great narrative and a bit of wry humor, Ashes to Water proves to be a gem of a novel! I think Irene Ziegler will be making some "must read" lists once word gets around about this new author and her talent with the pen.
"Set in the 1980's, Ashes to Water is an atmospheric story of a small-town Florida murder and one young woman's reluctant involvement in its resolution..." inside book jacket
That reluctant woman is Annie Bartlett, who turned her back on her past and her father, and left that small Florida town years ago. And the murder is that of Annie Bartlett's estranged father. It's funny how other people perceived Ed Bartlett, Annie's father, as a "hell of a fisherman", handsome and a "ladies man". When Annie's mother drowned in Widow Lake, an apparent suicide, Annie's once tolerant view of Ed changed. That in part was due to her dead mother coming back to her and threatening to leave her if she didn't treat Ed the way he treated her... Yes, Annie has regular visits from her dead mother, but only her older sister Leigh knows... And Annie's complicated life doesn't stop with her murdered father and visits from her dead mother, Annie's sister Leigh, "the gorgeous one", is a drug addict, living off of booze, pills, and men. When Annie gets in contact with Leigh, at some bar Leigh hangs out in, to tell her of their fathers murder, the sisters are reunited in a story that delves deep in the heart of the small town lives that remained behind and the lives that the sisters thought they themselves left behind.
In the murder investigation, Irene Ziegler slowly lays out the pieces of the puzzle for us to put together. Ed's girlfriend Della Shiftlet is arrested and in jail for the murder, but there are just too many other questions that need to be answered in Annie Bartlett's mind before she's going to let the murder rest. In this small town there are motivations at work behind the scenes and the story weaves all of this together nicely. There are enough twists and turns (plus a pyromaniac on the loose), but what really makes this story shine is the way the author develops these characters (and there are a whole cast of them) so fully in addition to the great story itself. Annie is more than the dutiful daughter coming home to bury her father... Leigh is not just the junkie and loose woman we perceive... Meet the people of DeLeon where looks can be deceiving and coming home for the Bartlett girls proves healing and burying their father also helps bury some very open wounds...
Readers who enjoy character-driven novels, with murder & mayhem and a great portrayal of small town life will really enjoy Ashes to Water! Ashes to Water is Irene Ziegler's first "novel", but she has also published a short story collection called Rules of the Lake, which are 14 interconnected stories "chronicling the childhood and adolescence of Annie Bartlett from 1965 to 1972." Annie Bartlett is such a great character, that I look forward to reading Rules of the Lake to meet Annie as a young girl, and to see the origins of this complicated family.
About the Author... Irene is the author of Rules of the Lake and Ashes to Water, which are set in central Florida, where Irene grew up. Irene is also an actor. She has had recurring roles or guest starred in many notable TV series and films, and is probably the voice on your cell phone’s GPS, so kindly stop yelling at her. Among her plays are the staged adaptation of her first book, Rules of the Lake, and a comedy with music, Full Plate Collection. Irene is also a producer, and directs Virginia Arts & Letters LIVE, an annual event which features Virginia actors reading short stories by Virginia writers, accompanied by Virginia musicians. Irene lives on the James River in Virginia in a renovated English thrashing barn. She has one husband, one son and one wolf-dog. She was once yelled at by Anne Bancroft.
I want to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for inviting me to read Ashes to Water and being a tour host on Irene Ziegler's Book Tour! I thoroughly enjoyed both! You can find out more about Ashes to Water and the Tour Schedule at TLC Book Tours! You can also catch up with Irene at her blog, IreneZiegler.com