Fowl Play by Patricia Tichenor Westfall

St. Martin’s (first), 1996

This first novel features a well-realized setting in the Appalachians of southern Ohio, deft characterizations and plenty of insights about rural society. The mystery, involving a woman killed in the back office of her agricultural supply business, isn’t too difficult to solve, but getting there passes the time pleasantly enough. Westfall covers lots of interesting subjects, including cockfighting, county fairs and Down syndrome, but often adopts a lecturing tone that distracts from her story. Occasionally the tone descends from lecture to propaganda, as in the following exposition: “Worldwide, experts on Down syndrome agree that early at-home care and teaching improves the potential of these children.” I have no quarrel with the substance of what Westfall writes, only with her blunt-force method of getting it across, which detracts from an otherwise quite readable novel. (Beth Thoenen)

Originally published in Issue # 145 – September/December 1996

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