Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard

Abby and Mitch, high school sweethearts devoted to one another, were about to take a very big step in their relationship when the fates intervened, altering their lives forever. While heading downstairs to Abby's father's medical office for some protection, Mitch witnesses Abby's father, a respected doctor, and his best friend's father, the sheriff, bring in the frozen young body of a beautiful young woman. Before he can recover from the shock of what he sees, he is further traumatized when he witnesses Abby's dad covering the girl's face with some plastic bags and battering it with a baseball bat. The next morning, Mitch has unexpectedly left town, leaving Abby and his best friend, Rex, hurt, confused and dealing with his unexplained absence.

Fast-forward 18 years: Abby is a small-business owner, still single, and still affected by Mitch's disappearance all those years ago. She is dating Rex's n'er-do-well brother, Patrick, who may be responsible for the Virgin's death. Rex has taken over as the sheriff of the county, his father's old job, and is also still at a loss over Mitch's absence. The body of the young girl whom Mitch had seen at Abby's house was never claimed, but the town raised enough money to bury her with a large headstone. Over the years, she became known as the "Virgin" around town, and was even rumored to perform miracles for people from beyond the grave. With the advent of the internet, the "Virgin's" reputation has grown, and people come from all over to ask the deceased woman for help.

After all the years of the mystery of the Virgin simmering just under the town's surface, Abby, Rex, and Mitch are about to be reunited to discover the truth of the crime once and for all. What they discover shocks and sickens them and the entire town of Small Plains. Will anyone else have to die in order to keep the secret of the Virgin safe?

Nancy Pickard tells an intriguing tale of suspense in this quick read. Although some of the plot seems a bit contrived and hard to fathom, I was still into the book enough to stick with it through the end. The story begs the question of how far one will go to protect a friendship, a family and a town. The use of miracles in the book illustrates how one person's miracle is another person's tragedy, and how, in the end, people will reap what they sow.

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