36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
THE SALT MAIDEN by Colleen Thompson is riveting suspense with an emotionally satisfying romance. The finely detailed characterization combines with an eerie exquisitely written landscape to make this novel a reading and re-reading pleasure.
Dana Vanover needs to locate her sister Angie and time is of the essence. Nikki Harrison needs a bone marrow transplant to save her life. Dana and her mother, Nikki's grandmother, are not matches, so as her biological mother, Angie is Nikki's last hope. With urgency to save Nikki and please her mother, Dana travels to Devil's Claw, a desert in Rimrock County, Texas --- the last place Angie was located. The deeper Dana delves into her sister's life, the more danger she unearths... including a body preserved in salt. The town's residents were none to keen on Angie's eclectic ways or her interference in town affairs nor do they relish Dana's digging up the past. As soon as she arrives in Devil's Claw, danger lurks everywhere. Sheriff Jay Eversole is Dana's only ally in the small town but as a former desert warrior and war veteran, he is plagued by day time nightmares. Can Dana find her sister in time and is her growing attraction for Jay a threat to her safety? Will the sheriff's past come back to haunt their search, making him a threat?
Each chapter of THE SALT MAIDEN begins with either an entry from Angie's sobriety journal or a quote about salt, adding a suspenseful or reflective dimension to the novel. The desert wasteland haunts the landscape of this novel, creating an almost paranormal character in THE SALT MAIDEN. Colleen Thompson creates an intriguing landscape, not only of the natural world of the desert but also a landscape that extends into the daily life and dynamics of the community of Devil's Claw. The outer landscape becomes an internal landscape of her characters as Colleen Thompson reveals the vulnerabilities and inner psychological wasteland within Dana, Angie and Jay.
The suspense of THE SALT MAIDEN twists and turns as the motivations of different characters conflict and add new suspects. When one clue is solved, another even more intriguing mystery remains. Colleen Thompson creates fast-paced suspense where every second contains both danger and a pressing need to find answers. At the same time, Colleen Thompson creates a romance that is reflective in tone through her portrait of the wasteland, adding a fresh intriguing vision to the genre. As the desert warrior Jay and Dana work together, they are forced to reveal parts of their pasts that they have kept hidden. THE SALT MAIDEN is a romance that dares to look into the wasteland of the heart and heal wounded souls. Readers will appreciate THE SALT MAIDEN both for the immediate reading pleasure but also the mysteries and questions that remain afterwards. The almost mystical nature of salt and the salt maiden haunts even once the suspense resolves. THE SALT MAIDEN leaves the reader with a question that will make this book a re-reading or book club discussion delight: are some unforgivable acts redeemable?
42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2007
Colleen Thompson has risen to a new level of complexity in this amazing novel. Talented wordsmith that she is, Ms. Thompson has touched depths of characterization a lesser writer might fear with two strong, passionate people searching not only for necessary answers to a well-plotted mystery, but also for their own personal answers, perhaps the more painful of the two.
Dana Vanover's life has been a little rocky of late. Her small animal vet clinic is operating at a loss because of the time she had to take off for surgery. Oh, and speaking of the whole hysterectomy-at-thirty-one thing, she has not even had a chance to return all the wedding presents for which she was left responsible when her cowardly ex-fiancé dumped her by text message three months before.
She definitely is not going to get sucked into another of her big sister Angie's dramas.
But the niece Dana has never known because Angie placed the child for adoption at birth needs a bone marrow transplant as a last hope to beat the cancer slowly leaching the child's life away. So once again, Dana is off on a rescue mission chasing her dysfunctional, druggie sister, and this time to the very end of civilization, a miserable community called Devil's Claw, Texas.
Jay Eversole is back home, following in the footsteps of his uncle and his grandfather before him as sheriff of Rimrock County. That he has come back after being relieved of his law enforcement duties in Dallas because of PTSD - flashbacks to the nightmares he survived in Iraq - doesn't bother the small town folks who have known him all his life.
Now green-eyed Dana Vanover, as attractive as she is big in the trouble department, is stirring it up faster than he can take care of it. Within the first thirty minutes he knows her, she nearly passes out from the unrelenting temperature, then manages to get herself bit by a five-foot rattlesnake.
The shimmering heat of the surrounding area houses more scorpions and centipedes than it does humans. No one has seen Angie in two months, but a stubborn Dana believes her sister is still in the area. The only item sacred to Angie's sanity is the loom the artist uses to create her tapestries. Dana knows her sister wouldn't have abandoned it here had she moved on.
The desert doesn't have anything on the steamy heat Dana and Jay generate as their attraction grows. Add the intrigue of small town politics, a questionable salt dome project and new clues unfolding in the mystery surrounding Angie's disappearance that lead to life-threatening danger, and you've got an amazing romantic suspense.
This thriller will keep you entranced until its very last secret is unveiled. This is Ms. Thompson's best ever.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Colleen Thompson is an author waiting to "happen". Oh, she has been out there, is well respected as a growing talent. She has a solid backlist of amazing tales; only, she just has that presence of an author ready to have that break out novel. The Salt Maiden is that book. Her skill and flow of the prose marks her as a master wordsmith. She weaves an intricate plot into this eerie, sinister tale that kept me spellbound. This simply is Colleen Thompson at her very best.
Dana Vanover is resolute to find her sister. Her determination takes her back to the desert town of Devil's Claw, where she encounters nothing but resistance to the answers she's come to find. The strongest stonewalling to her prodding and probing for an explanation about her sister's disappearance comes from Sheriff Jay Eversole. The sheriff makes no bones about it - he wants her gone for more reasons than one. However, Dana is not leaving without her sister. As she continues the hardheaded pursuit of the riddle of the mystery, Jay causes other problems - namely the passions he provokes in her. Lives are at peril in this deadly sinister story, and under the careful crafting of this very talented writer, the reader is guaranteed a tale that will keep them on the edge of the seat, with temperatures rising, as they turn page after page unable to put this novel down.
Very highly recommended.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
When her sister Angie disappears, veterinarian Dana Vanover leaves her practice to search for her sibling in her last known address, the desert town of Devil's Claw, Texas. No one in the isolated West Texas community wants her there, especially the politicians who fear their dirty secrets will be exposed and Rimrock County Sheriff Jay Eversole who fears for her safety.
Jay insists Dana go home and let law enforcement deal with the missing person's case; but she refuses as this missing person shares her blood. As Dana forces Jay to work with her, their attraction makes the temperature of the desert look like that of a tundra. However, someone watches both Jay and Dana with the understanding if they get to close they will find a permanent rest spot underneath the sands of the desert.
The key to this romantic suspense thriller is the depth of the cast including the references to the modern mummified title character. Dana is obstinate as she refuses to walk way without the truth while Jay is dedicated and caring in a town without pity. Readers will appreciate Colleen Thompson's tense tale as the strong characterizations and their interplay make the tension that much more vigorous and potent.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2007
What I love about Colleen's style is her knack for landscaping -- a powerful sense of place that makes the setting as vibrantly alive as the characters. Add to that a great story, zingy dialogue, and two engaging lead characters and you've got an all-nighter.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2009
Dana Vanover has come to Devil's Claw, Texas to look for her sister. It's important to find her or a little girl will lose her life. She does not only find her sister, she finds a mystery surrounding the salt domes of the region and the people of Devil's Claw. And now, it seems someone wants her dead.
Sheriff Jay Eversole has come home to Devil's Claw to hide, mostly from himself. He has come home fighting demons that no one else can see or hear. His time in Iraq was not kind to him. He knows that if his problems get out, the fine people of his hometown won't want him as their sheriff.
Then a body is found in the salt caves and both their lives are cast into the spotlight. There is a mystery surrounding the body and she is soon dubbed The Salt Maiden. Why is she there and who killed her? It's up to Jay and Dana to find out. The hard part will be keeping their hands off each other, while they follow the clues given to them, in order to keep anyone else from being killed.
The Salt Maidenis set up to keep you guessing. I love a puzzle paired with a hot romance. Dana and Jay need each other, only they don't know that. They both have emotional wounds that need healing. Watching them come to terms with their ghosts and admit they have fallen in love is all part of the intensity heaped into Ms Thompson's work. I really enjoyed the whole thing but the ending was my favorite part. I loved it.
Reviewed for Joyfully Reviewed
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2008
I have been avid reader since I could read. I tend to get interested in a particular genre and when I find an author I like, read everything. I've been reading "romance" after 40 years of fiction. Colleen Thompson is a very good writer. She offers a solid plot, well developed characters, and interesting context. In addition to the stories which have been consistently good romantic suspense, she is well informed about Latino activism, enviormental issues, and Texas. I am sorry she is not better recognized because she stands out. I wish I had read her books in order because she grows as a writer and each book gets better. Her publisher should look at her as a real talent.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 28, 2008
I'm so glad to be finally giving a 5 star review. I've recently tried 3 new authors (based on 5 star reviews) and have been sorely disappointed in two of them.
This book was excellent! The detail of the author's writing was tremendous - one could actually picture what she was describing. Very few authors have that capability so Kudos! to Ms. Thompson. I also liked the originality of the story. Jay and Dana seemed like "real people in real situations" so the reader wasn't asked to suspend reality. I've read too many books where the author writes some unbelievable, unrealistic heroics even for a romance book.
Anyway, wonderful book going on my keeper shelf.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2013
"In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter--bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
"Because it is bitter,
"And because it is my heart." Stephen Crane, "The Black Riders and Other Lines"
This quote from Stephen Crane very much describes the ancient tale of the Salt Woman and, as such, the tale of "The Salt Maiden." The desert of West Texas is a land of crushing poverty and blinding heat, a land with a brutal past filled with death and deprivation. It is a savage landscape, cruel in its very uncaring nature, a land with no pity. In this place of hardship and want, only the strongest and most ferocious survive. And hopes of redemption may only be a wanderers dream.
It is to this unforgiving landscape that Angie Vanover flees. A 'spoiled little rich girl' with few ties to anyone or anything, Angie is that familiar "Black Sheep" character, striving to find herself through drugs and booze. On the other hand her sister, Dana Vanover, is the 'Good Girl" her wilder sister deplores, a stable, focused veterinarian with her own practice and a 'real life.' While these could be cardboard cutout characters, Ms. Thompson does her normal exceptional job of making the characters more than what they would be in less skilled hands.
Angie had a child when she was young, who was given up for adoption. Now, that child is desperate for a bone marrow transplant and only the wild and carefree Angie may be a proper donor. And Dana has been pressed by her mother, a cold an apparently unfeeling woman, to travel to the harsh deserts of West Texas to find the missing Angie. What transpires is a mystery within a riddle, a layered tale of bitterness, betrayal and generations of hatreds all balanced upon a razors edge of secrets and lies.
The lifestyles and psychology of the people who call West Texas home felt incredibly realistic. I am well aware of their various foibles having been married to one of them for many years and spending much time there. It is a whole different world there, one Ms. Thompson portrays with a deft and knowledgeable hand. The mystery, as well as the interactions between characters, kept me reading well into time when I should have been doing other things.
One of the things I really like about Ms. Thompsons' writing is her ability to meld different genres in her writing. The mystery and suspense is what I go for in a book, but I do enjoy some romance woven within the story. Fory my tastes the romance should never overwhelm the story and in this case it does not. Ms. Thompson does an exceptional job of portraying the male lead as a returning Iraq war veteran with a bad case of PTSD--as well as a bad case of "real men don't get counseling." A real problem with a lot of returning veterans who have been taught that soldiers don't ask for help. Ms. Thompson portrays the problem in a chillingly realistic manner (I hope those who read the book will understand and appreciate the pain of returning veterans and what it does to them as well as their friends and family.) I was thrilled with the portrayal of the problem and how it was handled. That, in itself, puts Ms. Thompson on my 'must-read' list.
The intricate detail of the book, the wealth of research, the three-dimensional characters and the ability Ms. Thompson shows in creating a world that draws you in and keeps your attention makes this required reading for anyone who enjoys a well-crafted tale of suspense and mystery (with a little romance thrown in on the side.)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2013
I bought this book for my phone using the Kindle App and one of those book deals.
Normally I don't like romance but they can be fun to read on occasion. Combined with a mystery, I had very low expectations. It was just something to read.
Boy was I in for a shock. Right away I was caught by the inter-weaving of journal entries, quotes and letters that marked each chapter. I felt for our heroine who, despite being a privileged heiress, is believable in her quest to do the right thing and find her sister. Even the leading man, with his PTSD raw and open, felt real.
This is a book that can reach many genres. It is not a typical romance where every chapter has sex in it. It is not a common mystery of who-dunnit when the crimes committed are simple and to the point. It is raw and dirty and complicated.
Good Guys - I give a B, no one is perfect
Bad Guys - I give a C, there was a little too much predictability and anyone can turn bad with the right motivation, or turn good.