Rev Harvey Ashe

(creator: Charles M Poore)

Death at Briar Ridge cover
Reverend Harvey Ashe is the 47-year-old pastor of a small Baptist Church in Laurel Springs, Georgia, where he had been for two years and hoped to stay for the rest of his life. He had previously been a big-city cop, a homicide detective. "Then Harvey felt called to the ministry. And for twelve years, since his graduation from seminary college at thirty-five, Harvey had been chasing souls instead of criminals". He was happily married to Sarah and they had raised "three wonderful children". But "his age showed. His face was weathered, more like a soldier than a country preacher. His hair was getting gray like the winter sky, his bristly mustache still showing remnants of the black hair he once knew. His build was still muscular and fit, as the old cop inside demanded. Despite his tough exterior, Harvey's heart had been softened over the years by his ministry and the love of his lifelong companion."

Charles M Poore (1959 - ) was, when the book was published, a ministry student and a deacon in his local church. He lives in Dallas, Georgia, with his wife, and has a grown-up son. He has been a devoted fan of mysteries, science fiction and thrillers since childhood. Death at Briar Ridge was his first book, but he is currently (April 2011) updating it and hopes other books in the series will follow. At the start of it he acknowledges the help of Jesus Christ ("Apart from Him, I can do nothing') and his ninth-grade English teacher.

Death at Briar Ridge (1999)
Death at Briar Ridge starts in a blizzard which has made roads impassable. The invited guests at the Briar Ridge Lodge are cut off from the rest of the world when the owner, John Galen, is found dead by the woodshed. Galen had invited all the community leaders of Laurel Springs, Georgia, to stay in his mountainside hotel in order to tell them of its impending sale. Somebody doesn't want the hotel to be sold. Former homicide detective Reverend Harvey Ashe, the pastor of the local Baptist church, realises he must take charge - then a second murder occurs. It is up to Harvey to protect his wife, Sarah and the other guests and unmask the murderer before an ingenious killer strikes a third time.

It is a story of some interest even if it is written in a rather naive way, as when, after two violent deaths, Sarah with "a worried look on her face", says, "Harvey, I think we've gotten ourselves in the middle of something very strange." Or as Harvey put it, "This is a trying situation. We are cut off, isolated. There is likely a murderer among us, who may strike again. We tend to panic in these situations .... However natural that may be in trying times, we have to keep our heads. We cannot let emotions cloud our judgement or allow us to carelessly overlook something. This could be deadly, you understand."

Harvey, who still carries a pistol about with him, is kept busy both trying to console the distraught and investigate the crimes, a clergyman and policeman combined into one. It is all brisk moving (even if parts as when Harvey and Sarah get locked into a walk-in freezer are a bit predictatable), but the book is a short one and holds the interest. It may be rather light-weight but it is easy to read.

The publishers, Avalon, concentrate on the library market, and lay down stringent rules for their authors to follow. For example, "Every Avalon heroine should be an independent young woman with an interesting profession or career. She is equal to the stresses of today's world and can take care of herself." And "Avalon heroes should be warm, likeable, realistic, sympathetic, understanding men who treat the heroine as an equal, with respect for her intelligence and individuality, and with courtesy." There must be no explicit sex but "It is the author's responsibility to heighten the romantic atmosphere by developing love scenes with tenderness, emotion, and perception". This book adheres to these guidelines - but it survives them.

There is little about the author on the web.

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The slightly ominous but rather romantic-looking cover matches the lightweight easy-to-read story.
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