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The Burning of Rachel Hayes (Five Star First Edition Mystery) Hardcover – November, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Fans of Edgar-winner Allyn's Dr. David Westbrook will be thrilled by this first novel to feature his short story hero. The troubled veterinarian has moved to a small town in northern Michigan to start a new life, but his past soon catches up with him. Despite his attempts to lie low, Westbrook rescues a young boy from a well and immediately finds himself in the spotlight, not to mention haunted by the bones he saw while saving the boy. Were the bones from a poacher who disappeared in the 1950s or from Rachel Hayes, a farm woman who vanished in 1871? Enter Megan Keyes, a hard-nosed reporter with her own baggage; Sheriff Wolinski, who can smell an ex-con a mile away; hard-living Uncle Bass, who despised his half-brother, Westbrook's father; Yvonne McCrae, a neighboring rancher who sends shivers up the country doc's spine; and a host of supporting characters, including animals, who complicate Westbrook's already precarious existence. Allyn deftly weaves greed, ambition, action, romance and tragedy in dueling mysteries set 133 years apart. Characters and plot are superior, but Allyn mesmerizes when describing Westbrook and a pack of abused greyhounds. How the vet earns their trust and devotion is poignant and unbelievably heart-wrenching, paralleling his own quest for redemption. Allyn deliver a first-class crime tale; readers will surely hope to see much more of Westbrook in his new, full-length incarnation. FYI:The Westbrook short stories have won the Ellery Queen Readers Award three times.
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From Booklist

On parole after two years in prison for assaulting a police officer, veterinarian Dr. David Westbrook moves to northern Michigan to make a fresh start. One day while renovating his new clinic, Westbrook answers a cry for help and rescues a young boy, in the process discovering the skeleton of a woman, Rachel Hayes, who died in the Great Fire of 1871. After the skeleton is recovered, mysterious fires begin, and a wave of accidents and deaths occur. Because of his past, Westbrook is the chief suspect in the suspicious fires and deaths. To clear himself, Westbrook and reporter Megan Keyes investigate. The prickly Westbrook is a complex character: a man with a past trying to make a new life for himself. The fast-paced story includes a frame of small-town life, a love interest, environmental issues, and touches of the supernatural. Westbrook, who has also appeared in several short stories, has the makings of a strong series hero. Sue O'Brien
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Series: Five Star First Edition Mystery
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Five Star (ME); 1st Edition - 2nd Printing edition (November 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1410402029
  • ISBN-13: 978-1410402028
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,317,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on October 31, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Veterinarian Dr. David Westbrook relocates to Algoma, Michigan after two years in prison for hitting a cop. David had been drinking away his sorrows over the death of his beloved child to Leukemia and ultimately his marriage when he lost it. Now he plans to start over in this remote northern community.

David hears a woman screaming for help;. He drives until he finds Brenda, whose eight year old son fell into a well. David convinces the much bigger and stronger Brenda to let him climb down while she anchors the tent nylon that he will use and eventually pull them up. He rescues Bobby, but saw a corpse in the well.

The official excavation at the well digs up the remains of a trapper and the fused skeletons of Rachel Hayes and her dog, who died in the Great Fire of 1871. Death and fire soon stalk David with the local sheriff suspecting him of every crime since the JFK assassination. David makes inquiries into Rachel's death as unexplained happenings seem to surround him including falling in love with an older woman.

Though David is a terrific center holding the mystery together, the women make this a . Besides the gender bender well rescue that shows how non-sexist the hero is, his relationships with a feisty reporter, the older Yvonne, and perhaps Rachel provide realism in a paranormal scenario. David ponders whether Rachel guides him so that history does not repeat itself with avarice destroying the land. Readers will enjoy this fabulous tale unless they are CEOs of the timber/development industries or employees of the misnamed EPA.

Harriet Klausner
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By JAMES AGNEW on February 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The take-no-prisoners style of Doug Allyn has returned in a tight, waste no words novel set in Michigan and drawing heavily on Michigan history and geography. It's far from dull though - I don't think Allyn is capable of being dull - and the geography lesson is nicely incorporated when the central character, Dr. David Westbrook, hears a cry, and upon invesigating finds an hysterical mother whose child has fallen down a long abandoned and neglected well. The resulting resuce sequence is practically a primer on how to write action - the overlay of emotion is almost a bonus. Think Nevada Barr on steroids. The plot centers around the doubt the authorities have when dealing with David - he is a recently released prisoner, as well as a veternarian - and his growing ties to the community in the form of both his landlady and a local newspaper reporter who is writing about Rachel Hayes, whose skeleton was discovered in the abandoned well after the rescue, and whose land David is renting. Her spirit haunts the book, but in a very low key (though sometimes creepy) way. Don't read this book if you are expecting Allyn to shield you form any kind of violence that, based on well built characters in his part, becomes all the more disturbing. This is not the work of a sentimental author - regardless of the fact that the book made me cry - but rather the work of a writer who can tell an interesting and compelling story in a straightforward manner.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By L. J. Roberts VINE VOICE on April 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
First Sentence: A cold finger brushed Rachel's throat, jolting her out of a dream.

Veterinarian David Westbrook, released after 2 years in prison, has rented a barn to rebuild his practice and his life. He hears a woman's screams and rescues her son who'd fallen in an old well. But he also discovers the remains of a woman, Rachel Hayes, who had died in a firestorm in the 1870's. But once her remains are found, fires and deaths begin.

Allyn starts us off with a dramatic prologue which clearly has a purpose and makes us want to know more. It establishes themes which run through the entire story.

The author has a wonderful voice and writes great dialogue..."One last question," she said," a medial one. Are you a good vet?" "I try to be. I was tops in my class at State. My patients bark at me sometimes, but they never write nasty letters." "You have a strange sense of humor." "Thank you."

The characters are fully-dimensional. Each has a past they are trying to overcome and with objectives for their futures. They are real; they are alive and you feel their pain. You find yourself empathizing with Westbrook. You want to pull him back when he's about to do something stupid and are very relieved when he doesn't.

Even the four-legged creatures become very real to us. Allyn's descriptions and understanding of the animals is wonderful. I shall caution that there are animals harmed in this book, but it was relevant to the plot and done with a purpose. The protagonist is a vet and a rescuer. It helps to keep that in mind.

"The Burning of Rachel Hayes" is a gripping read with an underlying element of the Gothic and a bit of "something wicked this way comes" feel. It is not a typical ghost story.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Dr. David Westbrook has just moved to a small town in Michigan. While Westbrook is beginning to remodel the barn that he will turn into an animal clinic, he hears a cry for help. Flinging the paint can away from him (accidently), Westbrook rushes about ten miles over to where he spots a woman digging frantically into the dirt. Her boy has fallen down a hole in the ground (Westbrook is not first sure if it is a sinkhole or a well). While rescuing the boy, Westbrook spots a skeleton. The authorities rush to the scene (Westbrook had called 911 prior to attempting the rescue, the boy was in freezing water and he figured he couldn't wait for the official rescue squad), and Westbrook makes note of the skeleton. The skeleton is brought up, and then strange occurrences begin.

This is the first book I've read by Allyn (who also writes under the name Kenneth Shepherd), though I've read many of his short stories and consider him to be one of the best short stories writers around. Unfortunately, Allyn's seven novels are hard to find, and I've previously only found the second novel in the Michelle Mitchell series (and that's a character I don't recall ever meeting in short story form; I've been trying to find the first book in that series before I begin it). Allyn is a very good writer, and one who I would tell to give up his day job (he is a member of a music group, which I, probably incorrectly, assume is his "day job" (the author information says a rock band, Devil's Triangle Rock Group - Co-Leader, singer/guitarist; though I thought that he also did Renaissance music)).
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