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If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O by Sharyn…

If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O (1990)

by Sharyn McCrumb

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5931025,957 (3.63)29
From the author of She Walks These Hills, this is the story of Peggy Muryan, once a famous folk singer, who lives in a town in Tennessee. Someone is trying to frighten her, someone from her past. And Sheriff Spencer Arrowood is frightened too.



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I really like the author Sharyn McCrumb. I have read several of her books and think she is a very good writer. This book, although well written, was not one of her best. It was very slow paced, and too easy to figure out who the killer was. I never really cared that much about any of the characters. There was some beginning romances that never really went anywhere. ( )
  readingover50 | Jun 11, 2019 |
In the small town of Hamelin in East Tennessee, plans are underway for the 20th reunion of the high school class of 1966. Sheriff Spencer Arrowood, his dispatcher Martha Ayers, and a few others remain in the old home town, but most of their classmates moved away. Gathering them back is stirring up memories that are not always pleasant---cliques and lost loves, boys who didn't make it back from Vietnam, and men who did. There have been the usual number of marriages and divorces, successes and failures, but not necessarily in the combinations that might have been predicted. And to complicate matters, someone is threatening a once-famous folksinger who has come to live quietly in Appalachia to try to write some new songs, and rejuvenate her career. At first the threats are subtle, and meaningful only to her, but they soon escalate in very ugly ways, culminating in the murder and mutilation of a local teenager. The music of the '60's, especially the folk music based on the Childe ballads, threads its way through the novel, cleverly informing the story line. This is the first of McCrumb's "ballad novels", and it was a dilly, with a nifty twist at the end that topped it all off. I've read a couple of these before, without realizing that they were a true series, with overlapping characters and all. I remember enjoying the others, but they didn't grab me the way this one did. I intend to re-read both of those, in order, as I proceed with the series; I suspect I'll like them better for that. McCrumb is promising to fill in the void that will be left when I've finished all of Margaret Maron's Deborah Knott novels, which strum the same reading chords for me. ( )
  laytonwoman3rd | May 10, 2017 |
McCrumb is one of my favorite mystery writers, and I love her "Ballad" series because of their evocation of traditional music in a modern setting, which is what gives her novels their characteristic flair.
She write a workman-like mystery, with the clues fairly laid, although the solution in this one is fallen over by the characters, rather than deduced in a Holmesian fashion (she does more ratiocination in later books).
Her forte is delineating personalities and archetypical characters with individualistic appeal.
This particular novel draws heavily on the 1960s and will be a nostalgia trip for older readers (good or bad?).
I confess to having been in the Sixties but not of the Sixties, and recognize most references by name but not by experience (with some exceptions), enough to enjoy the trip.

The messages to me were (1) don't make stereotyped generalizations about people based on what you think their experiences should have done to influence their behavior; and (2) old folk songs tell the same stories today that they have in the past.

There are some rough violence and sexual passages, not too graphic, but suitable only for older teens.
SPOILER about the ending: the killing of the murderer is understandable in equity (and even traditional, in some ways, in the genre), although definitely flouting the law; but, rationally speaking, the Sheriff only has the lady's word that the perp confessed to her and thus deserved to die (it's true, but he shouldn't be so quick to believe her on rather short acquaintance, or even if he had known her longer). ( )
  librisissimo | Mar 30, 2016 |
Very dark mystery concerning Vietnam vet obsessive killer. Kept you guessing all the way thru. Not really my cup of tea. ( )
  lhaines56 | Dec 22, 2014 |
This is one of the earlier novels of Sharyn McCrumb, and she has not fine-tuned her approach to writing. McCrumb utilizes folk songs of yore to enhance the story. The main elements of the story are the twenty-year high school reunion, the plight of Viet Nam veterans, and the appearance of a popular folk singer. McCrumb portrays the veteran as if she actually served a tour of duty in Viet Nam. I am not sure that I really like Sheriff Spencer Arrowood. He seems weak and beset with demons. His life is a refrain of old songs from the 1960's and 1970's. This story does not have the extensive casts of players and seen in later novels. The quirky mountain people are absent from this work. ( )
  delphimo | Nov 23, 2011 |
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