Cotton Ketchie to sign new mystery novel

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 28, 2011

“Trouble in Love Valley,” by “Cotton” Ketchie. Lorimer Press, Davidson, N.C. 2011. 384 pp. $24.95.
By Deirdre Parker Smith
SALISBURY — Somehow, I missed artist “Cotton” Ketchie’s first novel featuring an artist in Mooresville and an Iredell County Sheriff’s detective, “Little Did They Know.”
Ketchie is well-known in local circles as a painter of North Carolina scenery, from the mountains to the coast, especially of nostalgic pieces.
With a gallery in Mooresville and a constant demand for new artwork, it’s hard to believe he has time to write books, but “Trouble in Love Valley” is his fourth. His first two books, “Memories of a Country Boy” and “A Country Boy’s Education,” were memoirs.
“Trouble in Love Valley” is another mystery, following up on the first book. The good news is you can pick this one up without having the background from the last — and you can go back to the first book after this one and see what you missed.
Ketchie uses settings familiar to people in Iredell and Wilkes counties, and, in this case, sets his story in Love Valley, a place that stays rooted firmly in the cowboy days, when life was simpler and horse power came on four legs.
This is a cozy mystery, in its way, with a limited setting in a place that’s not really part of the great wide world.
There’s no place like Love Valley anywhere else in North Carolina, with its dirt streets, horse traffic and 10-gallon hats. It’s the perfect place for a mystery.
This one claims quite a few victims, as the killer gets bolder and bolder, and Ketchie dwells on the consequences, reminding people how tragic a murder can be.
There’s plenty of good guys, and they work together to stop the bad guy, who has an unfortunate feature — he looks just like one of the cowboys, the recently reformed Dewayne Allison. Allison, a former drunken carouser, has seen the error of his ways and turned his life over. Imagine his despair when he is blamed for the terrible things that are happening.
Prominently featured, of course, is detective Marci McLeod, her artist husband, Jake, who enjoys the same fame as Ketchie, and their 4-year-old daughter, Meredith.
There’s danger to Marci here, but rest assured, Ketchie is not going to hurt his heroine. Jake comes across as supportive, loving and generous, as he tries to help her work through the growing mystery.
Ketchie does a nice job of showing how much Jake and Marci love each other and their daughter. That’s the feel-good part of this cautionary tale of greed and moral disintegration.
Also featured are some of the characters from the first book, so it seems Ketchie has got himself a stable full of people for his next book, whenever that may be.
The story starts slowly, then builds, but without a breakneck pace. There’s plenty of time to learn about Love Valley, ride the trails and meet good boys like Wish and his horse Applejack, who take a shine to young Meredith.
There’s some salty language, too, but that mostly comes from Joanie, the cusser with a heart of gold who was part of the first book, as well.
This isn’t a kid’s story — the perpetrator is a nasty sort who deserves everything he gets, and more. The murders are sad and scary and the danger is real.
Ketchie uses Love Valley for a cautionary tale — no matter how idyllic a place may seem, crime can happen anytime to anybody. But we rely on the good ones — the Marci McLeods — to keep us safe.
“Trouble in Love Valley” has all the elements of a classic mystery, and Ketchie brings it right home, so readers can recognize where they are and feel a little well-placed fear.

Meet two artists at signing
Join Mooresville watercolorist “Cotton” Ketchie as he signs copies of his new novel, “Trouble in Love Valley,” on Saturday, Nov. 5, 1-3 p.m. at Literary Bookpost, 110 S. Main St., Salisbury. Also at the event will be photographer Tony Craig, author of “Country Stores of North Carolina,” to sign copies of his coffee-table book.