Bantam, Jun 22 2010, $15.00
In Sweetwater, Idaho, introspective fortyish sheep rancher Chas McPherson prefers being left alone caring for his blackbellies. However, when his dying father Franklin, a fiery brimstone preacher no longer can take care of himself due to advanced Parkinson, Chas places an ad for home care help. Nurse, Mattie Holden responds willing to arrive from Spokane in two days and even help with the cooking.
A petition circulates to change the Christmas gala at the public school to an inclusive holiday celebration. Soon afterward, the townsfolk accuse taciturn Chas, as a chip off his dad’s burn in hell preaching, of arson because the victims, the Teleghanis, are the only Muslim family in Sweetwater. His refusal to acknowledge the accusations except with the sheriff add to fuel of those who believe he did the deed. Meanwhile, Mattie makes the ranch more humanly livable with small feminine mystiques; she struggles with addiction and her growing fear that her patient can look deep inside a person’s soul to witness their sins. As the sheep rancher and the nurse find succor and perhaps love with one another, a reckoning is coming to Sweetwater.
This is a strong character driven psychological thriller with a slight flavoring pinch of the paranormal. The story line focuses on the remote locale with readers feeling a strong sense of being in Sweetwater especially at the ranch as Heather Sharfeddin gets inside the minds of the locals after the arson occurs. Although the loving affair between the rancher and the nurse is well written, it seems a forced requirement that subtracts from the lonely existence of ranching in Idaho. Still overall Sweetwater Burning is a powerful rural small town suspense thriller as the sins of the father are bestowed on the son.