Verdict: ORANGE GROVES is a riveting, Southern, small-town drama best indulged in on a lazy summer’s day, with a bourbon and coke in hand.
ORANGE GROVES is a story of murder and secrets in a small Southern town (fittingly named “Bedlam”) in Florida. The story begins with two good old boys, Glen Martin and Clay Augustine, digging for bodies in an orchard near the local high school. It seems Clay, in a jealous rage, murdered an ex-girlfriend and her new beau four decades ago; and with construction scheduled to begin in the orchard, he needs to get rid of the evidence.
Readers are then introduced to the story’s protagonist, teacher Josh Heaps, an out-of-towner who will always be an outsider in small town like Bedlam. Readers will readily appreciate the hero’s insights about the teaching profession, life at Orange Groves High School and Bedlam’s many mysteries, which make the place tick: “Then there are those secrets that forever haunt a place, intertwined with the soil, water and buildings, and sometimes, even a few wild orange groves.”
The gist of the rest of the story is secrets—the secrets that everyone has and tries to hides—and the unraveling of them. The author’s writing style is superb and the storyline and dialogue move along at a fast, oftentimes snarky, clip. Characterization is excellent and Peters does a great job of capturing the personality types and gossip-mongering found at a typical high school (and many other workplaces, for that matter). At times, the narrative seems a bit too long and hard to follow, which only reinforces the murky, hopeless drama that oftentimes characterizes small town and high school life.
ORANGE GROVES is a riveting, Southern, small-town drama best indulged in on a lazy summer’s day, with a bourbon and coke in hand.
Reviewed by Robin Carr for IndieReader