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Disturbing the Dead
Rachel Goddard series, No. 2

by Sandra Parshall

      Dr. Rachel Goddard’s story begins in The Heat of the Moon, and it is retold here well enough to catch us up on her fears and state of mind. Since fear and judgment are not the best of friends it is no surprise that Rachel isn’t the most rational of people, but it is what makes her a whole person instead of words on paper.

Rachel is a veterinarian with a strong sense of what is right and what has to be done to make it so. She survives the horrors of The Heat of the Moon, breaks up with her fiancé and moves from just south of the DC beltway to the rural Virginia mountains to run her own clinic. Here she meets the handsome and romantic Deputy Tom Bridger, who is of Melungeon ancestry, and is frightened by her cheerful reaction to his friendly advances.

While I enjoyed the story the first time, there was something that bothered me about it so I read it again. The book opens with the search for a murdered Melungeon woman’s bones. Bridger chases several Melungeon suspects to solve a 20-year old Melungeon murder. Rachel befriends and hires a Melungeon girl for her clinic and they both become the target of violence from Melungeons for her actions.

If you think I overdid it with the Melungeons in this review it is to demonstrate how much I think the author overdid it in the book, and that was my hang-up. The Melungeons are depicted as hillbillies like the folklore of the Hatfield and McCoys, afraid of outsiders and afraid of each other; unable to break the cycle of ignorance and poverty. They are the good guys and the bad guys, the mystery and the answer in Disturbing the Dead. I can see the over emphasis of cultural pride and prejudice laying the groundwork for Tom Bridger’s characterization in the rest of the series (which I do want to read), but isolationism is not the Melungeon cultural norm in the 21st century as can be seen by looking at the list of educated and successful people communicating on the web about their Melungeon heritage.

The Book

Poisoned Pen Press
March 9, 2007
Mystery and Thrillers
More at
NOTE: Racism Violence "the N-word"

The Reviewer

Beth E. McKenzie
Reviewed 2006
© 2006