by Doward Wilson
& J.R. Lindermuth
In honor of Earth Day we are featuring only EBOOKS in this issue. One of those ebooks also has an environmental slant to the plot-Shares the Darkness by J.R. Lindermuth, and J.R. has shared with us an interesting guest post on logging and the environment. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win an EBOOK copy of Shares the Darkness. We also have a link to order it from Amazon.
Shares the Darkness: by J.R. Lindermuth
Review by Doward Wilson
Flora Vastine is a police officer in the small town of Swatara, Pennsylvania. Her long time neighbor, Mrs. Kepler, stops her as she is leaving for work to ask for her help. Her daughter, Jan, had not returned from a birding outing the afternoon before. Jan is a local school teacher and had grown up and gone to school with Flora, but they had never really been friends. Jan’s only friend is Peg Peabody, a retired teacher and fellow birder who Jan assisted in conducting birding tours.
Police Chief Aaron Brubaker pulls in all his resources to start conducting a grid by grid search in the local woods, called the Preserve. All the auxiliary police, the local birders, and other volunteer groups start working the 900 plus acres of the Preserve. At the end of a long day, the only discovery made was Jan’s knapsack. Flora had found it by accident when she kicked it loose from the deep ground covering of leaves.
The next day starts with the discovery of Jan’s jeep, abandoned in the ditch not far from the preserve. Later that morning, Jan’s body is found by the footbridge that leads from the Preserve to the adjoining game lands owned by the state. Head trauma shows it was murder and now Flora has to explore every aspect of Jan’s life to find the motive and killer.
When the investigation stumbles upon an illegal timbering operation in the Preserve, the men involved become possible suspects in Jan’s death. Stretching the police force even further is the puzzling series of auto thefts involving both expensive late model vehicles and rust riddled old clunkers. When Flora’s friend is assaulted as she catches the thief stealing her car, they learn that there are at least two men involved.
To complicate things further, an old and despised classmate returns to town. Even though his physical appearance has changed drastically, Flora doesn’t believe his story that he is only there to make amends for his past sins and considers him as a possible murder suspect. Flora doggedly pursues the investigation clue by clue among a diverse suspect pool. Learning more about Jan’s life and discovering what obsessive love is capable of leads Flora to a surprising conclusion about the motive and the murderer.
This was a well written and intense story that gives us multiple crimes that are all intertwined with the murder investigation. I found the characters to be well developed and totally believable. This is the seventh book in the Daniel “Sticks” Hetrick Murder Mysteries series. This novella revolves around Flora even though “Sticks” is involved in a smaller role. He was the police chief before Aaron Brubaker and now serves as a consultant to the police force. I was able to read this story without any confusion because there is enough backstory to flesh out who the characters were and how they relate to each other.
Illegal Logging & the Environment
By J.R. Lindermuth
My victim in Shares The Darkness is interested in birding, which takes her into the forest where it’s discovered some illegal timbering has been going on.
Illegal logging is more prevalent and damaging in some other countries, though it continues to occur in the United States on a lesser scale. The practice contributes to deforestation and, thus, also to global warming as well as loss of habitat for nature’s other creatures. The U.S. has been a leader in response to illegal timbering through such measures as the Lacey Act which deals with import of unlawfully harvested plants and plant products.
The U.S. lumber industry began in Maine and progressed over a period of a hundred years through New England, New York, and Pennsylvania, thence to Michigan and Wisconsin, across the Rockies and on to the Pacific Coast. Lumbering has a checkered history of rapacious profiteering which subjugated concern for the welfare of its workers and the future for years before encountering a need for environmental protection.
As early as the 1790s, Moreau de St. Mery, a French visitor to Pennsylvania, observed that the populated areas of the state, particularly those near navigable rivers, had already been stripped of trees and that timber had become as rare and expensive as it was in Europe so that, “…the government has been forced to get its building wood from Georgia and Louisiana.”
He lamented that the destruction of forests was widespread and couldn’t be prevented for four reasons: “Because the government has no means of stopping it; because anyone can buy unlimited quantities of timberland in the back countries; because sawmills are speculative enterprises and have stripped river banks of all wood for as far as 120 leagues from their mouth; because the government never made any plans for reforestation.” Fortunately, government and concerned individuals have rectified some of those concerns in the interim.
Naturally, as in other crimes, profit is the prime motivator in illegal timbering. Prices for hardwoods such as cherry, maple, and oak for use in furniture making fluctuate with demand but can usually bring several hundred dollars per thousand board feet while even cordwood for burning in fireplaces and stoves can be worth a thief’s time if found in quantity and got with little more expense than labor.
Oregon, with more than 87,000 acres, and Washington, some 67,000 acres, are presently the most heavily forested U.S. states, closely followed by California with nearly 60,000. It may surprise the reader to learn Alaska with about 34,000 acres has less forested land than North Carolina, which has nearly 35,000 acres. Those numbers may seem like a lot of trees. But it should be remembered some 120 million hectares of forest land have been stripped of trees and converted to other use since 1630 when an estimated 70 percent of the country was forested.
Most legitimate lumber companies today do plant trees to replace those they harvest, though the varieties planted are not always as good a specie as those taken. When done properly, timber harvesting can be beneficial in maintaining a healthy and productive forest. Deforestation here is as detrimental to the environment as is the destruction of the tropical rainforests.
A tree is not just an ornament or a product. It is a living thing of beauty that contributes to the health of the planet. Like Thoreau, I say: “Let us have willows for spring, elms for summer, maples and walnuts and tupelos for autumn, evergreens for winter, and oaks for all seasons.”
To enter to win an EBOOK copy of Shares the Darkness, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “logging,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 22, 2017. US residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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