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Ghost Riders    by Sharyn McCrumb order for
Ghost Riders
by Sharyn McCrumb
Order:  USA  Can
Signet, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

I don't know how I missed Ghost Riders when it was first released. I truly enjoy McCrumb's writing and know when I have a new one of hers, I'm in for a good read. I found Ghost Riders the best of her many books. But maybe, for me, that's because the action takes place on both sides of the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, an area I have occasion to visit and enjoy immensely.

The action takes place in the modern day, with Rattler as the storyteller. It then switches to the beginnings of the Civil War and Malinda Blalock takes her turn. Changing the point of view often like this is not confusing, but only helps to prove that what goes before us colors today's world. A small battalion of gray uniformed soldiers haunts the mountains in this area and Civil War reenactors might be responsible for their appearance. A bad feeling hovers in the air at their sightings.

Malinda Blalock, a main character in this absorbing tale, follows her husband to war as he is conscripted into the Confederate Army, disguising herself as a young boy. I learned more about the Civil War with this book than I ever have from other sources. The research shows the battles, both armies, the individuals involved, and conflicting feelings coursing through the whole area that are intensive and revealing. To have all this history at the readers' fingertips tied up in an emotional tale is exceptional. The real characters of Zebulon Vance and Malinda Blalock are finely drawn and carry the story in their own words. Action, as in any war, I would suppose, has either just happened, is happening, or is about to happen.

The whole mountainous area takes on a persona of its own and becomes as much a character as the players that populate the book. Hard feelings - bordering on rage - existed at the time as brothers, cousins, and neighbors fought on one side or the other. Hatred like this takes an eternity to die. Hatred of a government that brought brother to fight brother and destroyed whole families is understandable. Ghost Riders is a wondrous read and not to be missed.

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