Category Archives: Jackson


C. J. Lyons. Black Sheep. New York: St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 2013.

Black SheepCaitlyn Tierney likes to keep her enemies closer than her friends. In fact, she doesn’t like to be close to her friends at all. A skilled FBI agent, Tierney is a loner by choice. She pushes away well-meaning coworkers trying to bond and casual boyfriends interested in getting serious. Caitlyn isn’t much of a rule-follower. Sometimes her unorthodox approach ruffles the attitudes of more rigid agents. She suspects they would like to goad her into quitting. Tierney doesn’t have total contempt for standard regulations and textbook procedures though. She just recognizes that bad guys don’t play by the rules, so occasionally the good guys can’t either, not if they want to win.

Without friendships, Tierney’s life is her work, and she feels no regrets for committing herself fully to her job, even though it has nearly killed her twice. She is dedicated to her career despite recent difficulty that has left her scarred, literally and figuratively. However, Caitlyn is no stranger to trauma. And regardless of the physical danger and the strict protocol, she loves teaching fledgling officers. Also, her work fulfills her beloved, deceased father’s unrealized aspiration of joining the FBI.

Caitlyn grew up in the fictional mountain town of Evergreen, North Carolina. Her father, Sean, dreamed of joining the FBI, but once he met Caitlyn’s mother, Jessalyn, he abandoned his goals and became a sheriff’s deputy instead. Love overruled his ambitions. Although Sean found contentment in a future different from his initial life plan, Jessalyn never seemed satisfied with their lives. The Tierney family’s farmhouse and their small-town disappointed Jessalyn. She juggled two jobs and strove to improve their standing. When Caitlyn decided to join the FBI, Jessalyn did not approve of her only child’s career choice. Rather, Jessalyn considered it a waste of all her effort to improve the family’s stature. Needless to say, Caitlyn and Jessalyn’s relationship is strained.

But mysterious circumstances surrounding Caitlyn’s father, Sean, and her childhood friend Vonnie’s father, Eli Hale is the major source of strain within the Tierney family. After Eli was accused of murdering a Cherokee tribal elder, Sean was forced to arrest him. Like Caitlyn and Vonnie, Sean and Eli were close friends, so the arrest disturbed Sean. He argued in defense of Eli and believed firmly in his friend’s innocence. Sean’s persistence came close to costing him his job. More unfortunately however, it cost him his life. After the toll of sticking up for Eli, Sean committed suicide. Eli was convicted. And Caitlyn carried indelible scars into her future.

Now, twenty-six years later, the man Tierney holds responsible for her father’s death attempts to contact her. Eli’s youngest daughter Lena has gone missing and he begs Caitlyn to help look for her. At first, Caitlyn refuses to listen to Eli’s desperate request. Strong, unsettled memories of the past draw her into the case. Before she went missing, Lena was rooting around for evidence to verify her father’s innocence. During the unofficial manhunt, Tierney runs across a distinctive collection of clues–zoo animals, a casino, and a motorcycle club–that relate to Lena’s disappearance and her father’s strange suicide.

Before she started writing, novelist C.J. Lyons was a pediatric ER doctor. This is her second novel focused on FBI agent Caitlyn Tierney, yet it could be read easily as a stand-alone story. Lyons’ first Caitlyn Tierney novel was Hollow Bones. Black Sheep packs a surprising ending that might hoodwink even the best armchair mystery detectives.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Granville, Jackson, Lyons, C. J., Mountains, Piedmont

Cleveland Jones. The Firescalds Road to the Sky. Summerville, SC: Holy Fire Publishing, 2009.

The Firescalds Road to the Sky is the life story of a young boy, called simply RC, growing up during the 1950s and ’60s. As a small child, RC lives happily on his family’s farm in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains. But when hard times come to the farm, RC’s father EC has to go back to work building ships in Newport News, Virginia. Getting by but unhappy at being separated, the family relies on hard work and their Christian faith, somehow finding a way to survive and be together. RC does his part, too: hauling groceries, mowing lawns, delivering papers, and anything else he can for his mother, sisters, and at times faraway father. He even has a furry, fierce companion for a few years: a spirited Airedale named Bobby. But the evils of the world are constantly at hand, and RC must remind himself to follow what he has been taught in order to stay safe and true to his faith. RC’s story is a successful one: he leads an upright, Christian life, and goes to college all the way in California. In the end, though, he returns to his roots in the Appalachians, where he finds what he has somehow always known: his family farm is the true road to Heaven.

This book promotes a strong Christian view of modern society and history and is filled with direct quotations from the Bible. It offers an inspiring story of a young man who pulled himself up by his bootstraps and found comfort in both the strength of his family and his religion.

Check for this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill library catalog. 


Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Jackson, Jones, Cleveland, Mountains, Religious/Inspirational

Lawrence Thackston. The Devil’s Courthouse. Baltimore: PublishAmerica, 2010.

“I’m telling ya, there’s something screwy going on in our little corner of the wild kingdom.”

These words, from forest ranger Lem Astin, are a light-hearted understatement.  In the spring of 1974 several grizzly murders occur in Great Smoky Mountains.  The bodies are so horribly mutilated that police and locals initially believe that bears are responsible for the attacks.  As the body count rises, authorities take ever more extreme measures–killing bears within thirty miles of camp sites, closing the national park, shutting down a section of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and mishandling an attack on Cherokee lands.

Park rangers Nic Turner and Cole Whitman are skeptical of the bear theory.  So too are some older members of the Cherokee community.  Cherokee elders know the story of Tsul-kalu, a ferocious giant who lives in a cave on top of the Devil’s Courthouse, a rock formation in Transylvania County.  Cole’s skepticism is based on something more personal–a family tragedy and the torment he carries within himself.  It will be locals, not outside authorities, who are able to stop the killings.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Jackson, Mitchell, Mountains, Suspense/Thriller, Swain, Thackston, Lawrence, Transylvania

Melissa Hardy. Broken Road. Holstein, ON: Exile Editions, 2009.

Cherokee mythology includes the legend of the ulunsuti, the powerful transparent stone taken from the forehead of an enormous horned serpent, an uktena. Anyone in possession of the ulunsuti has vast power, enjoys great strength, and can find unknown, beautiful places; however, custody of the magical crystal can be both a blessing and a curse. Keepers of the stones are expected to pass them down to members of their families, keeping the whereabouts of the stones a secret.

In Broken Road Melissa Hardy follows the story of the individuals who possess the ulunsuti in Qualla, which is located in southwest North Carolina near the Great Smokey Mountains. Starting with Groundhog’s Mother, members of his family find the benefits and troubles associated with the ulunsuti. For example, his descendants who hold the stone find great business success when they use practices of the white traders. However, there is also much heartbreak within their families, and many of the men turn to alcohol.

One feature of possessing the ulunsuti is being able to see into the future, which means anticipating the violent relocation of the Cherokee people to Oklahoma in 1838. As the ulunsuti is passed down generations, relationships evolve with white individuals such as Miss Sawyer, a schoolteacher whose Christian beliefs are challenged when she decides to move to Qualla and is given the stone. Although the Cherokee are forced to leave their homes, their traditions remain in tact and they stay true to Eloheh, their word for land, history, culture, and religion.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Hardy, Melissa, Historical, Jackson, Mountains, Swain

Bob Terrell. Get Rufus! Alexander, NC: Land of the Sky Books, 2008.

Rufus Raby was an easy-going mountain lad until his friend Sid Hollifield was murdered.  Rufus is a good tracker, helping Sheriff Clure find people missing in the mountains of Jackson County.  (In return, the sheriff overlooks Rufus’s moonshining.)  Seeing Sid’s battered and snake-bitten body changes Rufus.  Finding Sid’s killer becomes his mission, but the search is also a journey for Rufus.  As his heart warms to Sid’s widow, he learns to read and write, control his impulse for revenge, and combine his new knowledge of town ways with his backwoods talents.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Jackson, Mountains, Terrell, Bob

Jack Riggs. The Fireman’s Wife. New York: Ballantine Books, 2008.

Cassie, a preacher’s daughter, grew up in the N.C. mountains and planned to go to college, but her unplanned pregnancy and subsequent marriage to Peck Johnson put an end to those dreams. Now it is fifteen years later and she still hasn’t found her way. She is having an affair with her husband’s friend, her marriage is crumbling, and she doesn’t quite know what to do with her sullen teenage daughter. As her fire-chief husband fights fires on the South Carolina lowlands, she flees to the mountains. While much of the action in the book takes place in South Carolina, several North Carolina places loom large in the story. Especially important are Cullowhee and Whiteside Mountain, where Cassie grew up and to which she eventually returns. The book’s narration switches between the perspectives of Peck and Cassie over a month-long period in 1970.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Jackson, Mountains, Riggs, Jack