South Carolina

“Palmetto Poison” by C. Hope Clark

 

Book Cover - Palmetto Poison

 

Carolina Slade is back in “Palmetto Poison” and feistier than ever, as a Special Projects Investigator for the South Carolina Department of Agriculture. Sounds like a dull job with a lot of pencil pushing, right? HA! Slade is anything but dull and in her job, she’s more likely to push the envelope than a pencil on any given day. She’s been promoted because of her death dodging, investigative work in an earlier case, and she has the scars to prove it.

 

Slade’s promotion sends her to Columbia, SC where she has built a house on a lake with her crooked dead husband’s insurance money. She still has a thing going with Wayne Largo, a Special Agent for the Office of the Inspector General. That off again, on again relationship has potential, but each of them has trust issues, more fully explored in “Palmetto Poison.”

 

Slade’s old job focused on chasing down “bad farm loans and crooked farmers,” but her new boss gets Slade involved in State House politics, big money, drug thefts, and old romantic scandals intertwined with possible deadly peanut mold toxins. An overlapping case (that pulls in Largo) centers on a notorious drug dealer, a witness who refuses to testify, and the obsessive behavior of a tenacious federal agent. It seems as if everybody is using Slade for his or her own benefit – she is a crack investigator after all – but trying to question everyone may get her fired…or dead.

 

Her flighty sister, Allegra Jo arrives, having been thrown out by their mother who needed a break from her continuing free-wheeling attitude. Slade doesn’t know whether to give her a ‘Best Aunt of the Year Award,’ strangle her, or throw Ally out for being more popular than she is with her own kids.

 

Yup, Slade has a problem with jealousy and not just over family matters. Largo’s ex-wife Pam, a DEA agent, is in town and working on a case that of course, must involve them both. Arghhhh…why does she have to be so cute…and capable? Slade is turning greener than the lush Carolina countryside and can’t keep her mouth shut.

 

A multi-layered “Palmetto Poison” subplot focuses on family issues and the complexities of those relationships. What happens when the normal day-to-day routines are disrupted and impacted by a parent’s demanding work schedule? Can the job be too dangerous if it places the family in harm’s way, even accidentally? Clark gives us an insight into teenaged dumb choices and adult sibling responsibility, and you’ll be reminded of why you love (or hate) your assorted wacky in-laws and why you probably would not trade them (as infuriating as they are) for anything. Even if they do test the boundaries of your commitment to your spouse.

 

In “Palmetto Poison,” Clark has delivered realistic chase scenes and shootouts, smart dialogue, a nudist resort, convincing family drama, romance, and juicy politics, all against the backdrop of steamy South Carolina. Clark keeps getting better and her fans will love this third title in the series.

 

For more information about C. Hope Clark’s award winning writing and her highly respected site, FundsforWriters.com, please visit www.chopeclark.com

 

To read my review of the first book in the Carolina Slade series, “Lowcountry Bribe,” go here.

 

 

“Lowcountry Bribe” by C. Hope Clark

 

Book Cover - LowCountry Bribe

 

Seeing blood splattered all over the office is not the way I’d like to start the business day, but that’s exactly what Carolina Slade, Federal Agent for the Department of Agriculture near Charleston, South Carolina, encounters one morning. A co-worker, Lucas Sherwood, has committed suicide and Slade’s life is about to take a drastic turn for the worse as well.

 

Just when the business of giving loans to the local farmers seems to fall back into the normal routine, a hog farmer, Jesse Rawlings, arrives with a truckload of smelly, dead hogs, and attempts to bribe Ms. Slade into helping him get title to a farm in the area. In exchange for $10,000 and maybe a little action on the side. She’s not interested in either and it doesn’t take too long for her to report the attempted bribe to her boss. Her husband disagrees with her decision, is anything but supportive and constantly demonstrates why their marriage is on the rocks.

 

Enter Wayne Largo, Senior Special Agent, who arrives to investigate the incident. Mr. Largo and his partner, Eddie, feel that Slade needs to go undercover in order to nail Jesse for what he has done.

 

Slade never hesitates about reporting the bribe, but is surprised by the fallout. She is implicated as complicit in the very charges she has reported, and nobody is happy about the charges except the investigators. Even they seem to stop believing her version of the events. And the hog farmer knows where she lives.

 

C. Hope Clark delivers a story that includes corruption and greed, a scheme much broader in scope than a mere bribery attempt, kidnapping, tacky affairs, real estate fraud, and renewed interest in the case of Mickey Wilder, another co-worker who had disappeared the year before. Supposed friends turn out to be foes and the office is a hostile environment. Yup, Ms. Slade’s life is rapidly unraveling.

 

Slade’s bad marriage plays a twisty role in the story, not just as background for the character, but along the way brings a serious ring of truth to her inner thoughts. We see Slade shift realistically between hate, anger, disappointment, and frustration over the love that faded long before. We feel her pain at having/needing to end the marriage in order to move into happier/healthier direction. In one of the many moments of clarity about divorce she says, “Nobody wins.”

 

Carolina Slade is a bright, feisty, strong character who is up to everything thrown at her, and C. Hope Clark has wisely written Slade with a bit of vulnerability to soften the snarky retorts that slip out. At one point, her car is rear-ended twice by someone, but she has no proof, did not see the license and she dismisses the federal agents concern with, “Murder? We shared paint. Cut the dramatics.” And yet, her hand is shaking when she tries to use her key.

 

There are several great supporting characters. The bad guys are slimy, nasty and cold to the bone, but we also know that her dad and her best friend will always be there for her. The relationship that develops between Slade and Largo is an interesting one and fun to read as the two people grapple with their emotions.

 

The area of South Carolina in “Lowcountry Bribe” appears desolate, maybe even a bit creepy, at times. What came to mind was how easily somebody could get lost forever, without ever a possibility of being found. Terrific setting for this story.

 

The book is based in part on an actual bribery case in the author’s personal experience, although Ms. Clark has insisted the murders in the novel are fictional.

 

“Lowcountry Bribe” won the Silver Falchion Award at Killer Nashville in 2012 as well as the EPIC award for best mystery.

To read my review of the third book in the Carolina Slade series, "Palmetto Poison," go here.

For more information about C. Hope Clark, her books, and her marvelous Funds for Writers, please visit www.chopeclark.com