M.K. Preston

Chantalene Morrell - Amateur Sleuth in Tetumka, Oklahoma

"Perhaps She'll Die"

(Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer JAN 16, 2005)

“Among the crimes the convict admitted -- without prompting -- was the rape of a retarded girl near Tetumka twelve years ago.” She paused. “When you hanged my father, you murdered an innocent man.”

She drew a deep breath. “And I know who you are.”

Perhaps She'll Die by Marcia K. Preston

Even though Chantalene Morrell has been back for several months, the people of the small Oklahoma town of Tetumka have not warmed to her presence. They know why she’s there... to discover who was behind the lynching of her father. When she goes to a water-witching, a strange little ceremony that provides amble opportunity for people to socialize, Chantalene informs them that another man has confessed to the crime, and that they killed an innocent man. Her further declaration, that she knows who did it, is actually not true...but the more she investigates, the more she remembers of that horrible night, and the closer she gets to the truth. Shortly after this, a man calls her and tells her that he’ll tell her the truth, and when she goes in to meet him, finds him murdered. She runs for it...no one likes her much around there, and she’s got a troubled past with the authorities; but runs right into Drew Sander. Drew himself has returned to Tetumka, in the middle of a divorce, he has decided to renovate his childhood home to sell it. His attraction for and curiosity about Chantalene makes him decide to help her, even though she’s made herself a target for attacks.

It is a compelling story. You begin with the story of that night, which, until later on in the story, Chantalene doesn’t remember. We go into the main story knowing more than our heroine, even though the knowledge is trapped inside her subconscious and gives her startling, horrible dreams. You meet her mother (who has been missing for the last fifteen years), and feel her desperation to get her daughter somewhere safe. Her mother, a gypsy, is so well drawn even in the brief amount of time we see her, so much so that we hope that somehow, despite logic, she might be found alive. Her daughter is much like her...she comes back to town and takes up residence in the abandoned farm house, and starts farming the old fashioned way, by hand. Her transportation is the horse that her foster family and her mother’s closest friends kept for her while she was away at college. She’s very independent, she doesn’t trust easily, and she doesn’t care what people think of her. She only wants one thing -- the killers to be brought to justice. Well, that’s not quite true...she’d also like to know what happened to her mother, who influenced her greatly with her spirit and courage, and she feels cheated, not only because she lost her father, who really loved them both, but because she lost her mother, and the heritage she would have passed on to her.

Another thing Preston captures well is the setting. When I read, at the very end of the book, that she’d grown up on a wheat farm, I wasn’t surprised. While I didn’t grow up in Oklahoma, I grew up among farmers. When she describes how farmers crouch to discuss things, I knew that she really understood the world she was describing for us. The water-witching also fits into my memories perfectly. The way people in this type of setting act, the fields, the barns, all were well captured.

There is another book in the Chantalene series, Song of the Bones, which I plan to read soon.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 8 reviews

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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)

Chantalene Mysteries:



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About the Author:

Marcia K. PrestonMarcia K. Preston grew upon a wheat farm in Oklahoma, near a town not too different from the setting of her Chantalene mystery series. From her father she learned the art of storytelling; from her mother, a reverence for books; and from Oklahoma's red earth, a love of wildlife and the outdoors.

Preston earned degrees from University of Central Oklahoma, taught in public high schools for more than a decade, and worked for a time as PR and publications director for the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Currently, she edits and publishes ByLine, a small-press trade magazine for writers.

Perhaps She'll Die was a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark, Macavity and Barry Awarders. Her second novel Song of the Bones won the 2004 Mary Higgins Clark Award.

Preston lives with her husband (her childhood sweetheart) beside a creek in central Oklahoma.

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