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Secrets    by Frederick Ramsey order for
by Frederick Ramsey
Order:  USA  Can
Poisoned Pen, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

After reading Artscape, the first book by retired Episcopal priest Frederick Ramsey, I looked forward to the second of his series featuring Sheriff Ike Schwartz of Picketsville, Virginia. The long wait is over.

Two murders and an attempted murder baffle the country sheriff, who is definitely not a country bumbler. Ike Schwartz is smart but laid back, willing to spend long hours when the occasion demands. He reads his suspects' motives clearly and is not averse to using the federally gathered information system for the benefit of his community. His computer skills are below average almost non-existent but new hire, Samantha Ryder, makes up for his deficiencies in that department.

The new pastor at the Stonewall Jackson Episcopal Church questions his own motivations as he tries to bring his congregation together. Being shot does not increase his feeling of security as he muddles through his sermons. The action in Secrets starts almost on the first page, when the church organist is killed. It picks up from there, and runs away with the story. The bucolic setting of the village of Picketsville belies the violence that lurks its dark streets.

I like Ike Schwartz. He's got a flinty exterior and a heart with room for soft thoughts. He does what needs to be done without questioning his own actions. He's not quick to make a commitment which adds to the piquancy of his relationship with the local college president. Frederick Ramsey writes knowingly about the new churchman in town - short sections of some of his sermons gave me food for thought. Secrets is exciting as well as fun, an all round good read. The wait was worth it.

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