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By Jim Davidson

IR Rating:
Jim Davidson’s stylish prose carries his dependable hero through another adventure. SNOWFALL IN VIRGINIA is a solid modern mystery—a casual, comfy read.
The second book in the Chris Hamilton mystery series finds the protagonist in the winter chill of Virginia as secrets from the past slowly begin to be revealed.

After his Texas-set escapades in Jim Davidson’s debut mystery novel Tree of Redemption, Chris Hamilton heads back to his home state of Virginia. He thinks he’s sitting pretty with a beautiful girlfriend and a magnificent home. Dark secrets are buried behind him and the hard-earned reward from his previous adventure is now there to be enjoyed. But, somehow, somebody out there knows his every move. Cryptic messages in the form of haiku are delivered, and Hamilton realizes that his Texas woes are far from over. Who’d have imagined that treasure, millions of dollars, and bad karma could cause so much trouble?

Though new readers may take a while to get up to speed with Davidson’s narrative, there are more than enough call-backs and recapitulations to allow SNOWFALL IN VIRGINIA to work as a stand-alone novel. The book is populated by familiar mystery characters: the disingenuous friend, the untrustworthy lover, the mysterious stranger. That said, Hamilton’s characterization is strong, helped by a good ear for spare, efficient dialogue. And though the pace can be languid at times, he has fun moving his cast around with just enough tension and drama to pull his readers along with him.

The haiku gimmick is a good one. Mysterious messages, inscrutable texts. One step up from the usual blackmail notes. It’s a classy touch that brings intrigue and novelty to the otherwise quite uniform plotting. Davidson’s sense of place is very good, too. The descriptions of the Virginia countryside are evocative, and the peace and quiet of recently fallen snow provides an atmospheric backdrop as the novel gradually quickens its pace.

There’s no great poetic flare in the prose, but Davidson adds just enough detail to elevate it above the ordinary with shoppers “running around like squirrels to hide their recently discovered nuts,” and a mutt in a storm “trying to bite at the snowflakes like they were dog treats from heaven.” In fact, Davidson’s easy style is so assured that the occasional misstep (for instance, the artist Jackson Pollock is called Jason Pollack) is surprising. Also, after taking such care in its narrative pacing, the novel seems just a touch too hurried in its denouement. However, most readers will forgive such minor quibbles.

Jim Davidson’s stylish prose carries his dependable hero through another adventure. SNOWFALL IN VIRGINIA is a solid modern mystery—a casual, comfy read.

~Kent Lane for IndieReader

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