Palmetto Poison is #3 in the Carolina Slade series by C. Hope Clark. I confess I have not read the previous installments, and almost opted not to review this book as I felt guilty for not starting at the beginning. After a bit more thought I decided to see if this book could stand alone. Palmetto_cvrMany novels in series leave a reader lost by references to events from the previous stories, or spend so much time bringing the reader up to speed that I get impatient and annoyed. I’m pleased to say C. Hope Clark did a great job writing this so it can stand on its own, but now that I’ve enjoyed it I want to go back and read the others.

Although most book reviews start with a summary, I’m going to bypass that as there are many summaries I will link to that you can read online (Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble). Per Clark’s website:

Lowcountry Bribe (Book one), Tidewater Murder (Two), and Palmetto Poison (Three) are part of the Carolina Slade Mystery Series by C. Hope Clark. Set in rural South Carolina, the series follows the adventures of Carolina Slade, a smart, focused, sometimes over-thinking woman who’s learned she’s more than a Federal bureaucrat. She likes justice, just her own way.”

So now, on to what I think of the book…

Main Character–Carolina Slade is a real woman. She’s not perfect, but she’s a well-rounded character and someone I could be friends with. She’s a single mother to thirteen year-old Ivy and eight year-old Zack who are both normal, mischievous kids. It’s nice to see a strong woman who doesn’t come across as Super Woman doing her best to manage her family, career, and personal life with all the good and bad that comes with it. She has moments of insecurity, bad attitude, and naïveté, but she uses her connections and smarts to rise to each challenge.

Language–This is something I tend to focus on and be a bit hyper-critical of. I hate for all my characters to sound alike. Clark did a great job of giving each character a distinctive voice, and making those voices ring true to their regional roots. I don’t mind reading with Google at hand, and I did look up some terms (note: the “lowcountry” refers to the coastal area of South Carolina’s SE border). Prior to reading this, I didn’t know the US Department of Agriculture had it’s own federal agents. Clark’s years with that agency provide a great background to the story. Additionally, I appreciate that there was very little profanity. The F-bomb was dropped once, but it was in the middle of a shoot-out, and honestly seemed appropriate.

Plot–The story kept moving and kept me turning pages. I love that I rarely saw the next scene coming. There was nothing predictable in this mystery. (OK, the romance part ended as expected, but that was a minor sub-plot in my opinion.)

Ending–This is always what makes or breaks a novel for me. Is the ending satisfying? Does it tie up all loose ends and sub-plots? Palmetto Poison had a number of seemingly disparate stories that all came together perfectly logically. Few characters or situations were as they first appeared, but it all made sense in the end. I was happy that everyone got what they deserved. I often finish a book thinking, “if only the author had…” That did not happen as I closed this book. Hope Clark resolved everything brilliantly.

Dislike–My only disappointment with this entertaining book was the one gratuitous sex scene. Every character, scene, and description in this novel served the greater good by either developing the action or character. In this case the scene in question did neither. Fortunately it was short and well written, but I think I would have been happier without it.

Recommendation–I thoroughly enjoyed Palmetto Poison and highly recommend it. I would give it 4.5 stars out of 5. Keep in mind it is a murder mystery/suspense novel, and would be rated PG-13 for language, violence, and adult topics if made into a movie. I look forward to reading more by C. Hope Clark. –By the way, it would make a great movie! I can already imagine which actors would play which parts.