Guest Post:CROW MOUNTAIN CROWS by Rebecca Lee Smith

Emory must discover what her family has that someone would kill for– The House on Crow Mountain @rbeccaleesmith



God, I love them.

In my newest mystery, The House on Crow Mountain, crows don’t have a leading role. They barely have a walk-on. In fact, during the first couple of drafts, the western North Carolina mountain in The House on Crow Mountain wasn’t called Crow at all, even though the birds are very prevalent in that part of the state. But somehow, crows kept showing up, hovering in the background, fighting each other for an abandoned burrito on the ground, cawing and clicking in the trees, flying in circles across the meadow. They seemed to want to be a part of the story, so I took the hint and made them a permanent fixture.

Not everyone is crazy about the shiny black birds. Some people think they bring good luck, but others consider them a bad omen. I’ve always thought they were intelligent and soulful. The kind of birds who are smart enough to steal sunflower seeds out of a backyard feeder while the blue jays and robins have their backs turned. The kind of birds who will wink and grin when they see you, but don’t take crap off any of their winged brothers and sisters.  

I read once that crows can recognize human faces, and when one of their own dies, the others gather around the dead crow to stand silently and pay their respects. They make and use tools, fashioning tiny hooks from flexible twigs to extricate insects from fissures and cracks. Mark Mancini states in his wonderful article “12 Fascinating Facts About Crows” that “the birds use cars like oversized nutcrackers. They have learned to put walnuts—a favorite treat—onto the pavement, then wait for a passing vehicle to smash the nut, after which they will swoop down and eat the delicious interior.” 

Then, of course, there’s the fact that three or more crows is called a murder. A murder of crows. How could anyone, especially a mystery writer, not love that? 

Here’s a very crow-y excerpt from The House on Crow Mountain: 

I wrapped my good arm around the wooden porch post and gazed across the meadow at the brilliant azure sky. One lone crow soared overhead. A harbinger of death or a good luck sign? Its glossy black feathers reflected off the sun. The bird dipped across the horizon, leading with its sharp pointed beak, riding the breeze up and down before disappearing behind the woods I had run for my life in the night before. In the morning light, the deadly thistles were invisible, blending in with the tall grass to cunningly disguise their razor-sharp leaves.

James climbed the steps and stood beside me. “Are you ready for this?”

“As I’ll ever be.”

I raked my fingers through my short curls, the same curls he had washed so carefully in the sink at the Thompson Motor Lodge. He held out his bandaged hand, blistered to the bone from holding Daisy’s rope, and I took it.

Sheriff Riley rounded the corner of the house. “We’ve found something.”

The House on Crow Mountain is probably the most uncozy-like cozy I have ever read. Don’t get me wrong it totally adheres to all the cozy rules; no graphic language, sex, or violence. It also follows the popular cozy tropes;  a small town, a broken-hearted woman who returns home to make a new start, clever pets, etc. It is just I consider cozy to be a light afternoon read. More fluff than serious. I mean no disrespect to the books and authors I have read to date, some are among my all-time favorites.

This book from the first sentence to the last pulled me into a hard mystery thriller that just happened to follow cozy rules.  It has everything; gripping suspense, a leading lady wracked with grief and guilt, and a possible love interest trying to redeem himself from a tragic mistake, or was it? There are far-reaching family secrets, menacing red herrings, and a sinister plot. There was no guessing whodunnit before the reveal. I really (I mean really) did not like the person, but there were so many other people to not like, to suspect, to think about that it barely registered. I could not put this book down as the story unfolded and the floating, maybe relevant plotlines merged bringing the story to its climax. 

I seriously hope for this to be a series as there are characters that I would love to learn more about, but I tell you, I would be okay with this being a one-off. The story as it stands has mostly been told and it is that good.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I received an advance review copy for free through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, and I am leaving this review voluntarily

Could it be something of Kent’s they were after? Something he’d kept hidden? He was good at keeping secrets. In fact, he’d been a master at it. After his death, I’d packed the few possessions he hadn’t moved out of the apartment and sent them to his parents. I’d kept nothing except the gold wedding band he’d thrown at me from across the room and his cell phone.

Kent’s death.

Hard to even think those words, much less say them out loud. It was all still so surreal.

Maybe everything that had happened in Bitter Ridge was karma. Maybe the Universe was finally giving me exactly what I deserved. Kent’s death had been my fault. And no matter how much he had deceived me, or betrayed me, or reduced my sad little trusting heart to shrapnel, I could never forgive myself.

I laid my head on my knees and closed my eyes. I rocked my body back and forth, like a child trying to soothe itself when sleep will not come. Then at last, in the cool dark shadows of the night, I began to cry.

Oh, God, I am so sorry.

I hadn’t loved Kent for a long time. At the end of our marriage, I hadn’t even liked him. But I had never wished him dead.

When her aunt suffers a stroke, New York portrait artist Emory Austen returns home to the North Carolina mountains to mend fences and deal with the guilt over her husband’s senseless death. But that won’t be as easy as she hoped.

Someone in the quirky little town doesn’t like Emory. Is it the sexy architect who needs the Austen land to redeem himself? The untrustworthy matriarch? The grudge-bearing local bad boy? Or the teenage bombshell who has raised snooping to an art form? Even the local evangelist has something to hide. Who wrote the cryptic note warning her to “Give it back or you’ll be dead? And what is ‘it’? As the clues pile up and secrets are exposed, Emory must discover what her family has that someone would kill for.

Purchase Links – Amazon – B & N

Rebecca lives with her husband and a dog named Wilbur in the beautiful misty mountains of East Tennessee, where the people are charming, soulful, and just a little bit crazy. She’s been everything from a tax collector to a stay-at-home-mom to an award-winning professional actress and director. When she’s not churning out small-town cozy-ish mysteries, she loves to travel the world, go to the Outer Banks for her ocean fix, watch old movies, and make her day complete by answering the Final Jeopardy! question. Her Southern roots and the affectionate appreciation she has for the rural towns she lives near inspire the settings and characters she writes about.

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