Reviews: The Return of the Raven Mocker

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While this is Donis Casey’s ninth Alafair Tucker mystery, it reads like a standalone. Keeping track of the Tuckers’ large expended family and the extensive cast of characters might have been problematic, but Casey has thoughtfully provided a helpful dramatis personae. The murder mystery plot is thickened by references to an evil Cherokee spirit who might be hunting for victims. Alafair’s use of old Cherokee folk medicine adds to the flair of the well-written story. Highly recommended.” Waheed Rabbani for Historical Novels Review, Feb. 2107

“In Donis Casey’s skilled hands, Alafair Tucker and her family once more come to life. Casey excels in relating the day-to-day details of their lives. In this case, it’s the details of how a community quarantined itself, shutting schools and churches and businesses. There are all the details as Alafair nurses the sick, including the details of the country remedies. The book mentions the reluctance of morticians to handle the dead, the fear that people had as so many died. Yet, in the midst of war and the flu, there was still murder. And, Alafair Tucker, with her deep understanding of people, and her motherly skill of listening closely to people, finally discovers the killer at the Thomasons’.

The Return of the Raven Mocker is a successful story of Oklahoma life in the early twentieth century, and murder, as only Donis Casey can write it.” Lesa Holstine, Lesa’s Book Critiques.

Casey’s thoughtful ninth Alafair Tucker mystery (after 2015’s All Men Fear Me) ably evokes rural Oklahoma in 1918. In remote Boynton, farm wife Alafair prays for an end to the hostilities in Europe as her youngest child starts school. Meanwhile, the flu pandemic of that year turns Boynton into a battleground. Townspeople by the score fall ill, the Tucker children are unofficially quarantined at a relative’s home, and Alafair moves into town to nurse her daughter Alice and Alice’s husband, who are both sick with the flu. When Alice’s neighbor Nola Thomason and her adult son, Lewis, die suddenly, Alafair suspects foul play rather than flu, a concern exacerbated by the discovery that Nola’s husband has taken out a $25,000 insurance policy on her life. In tandem with new-to-town medic Emmett Carney, Alafair sleuths and keeps her loved ones safe. Readers may find Alafair’s huge extended family hard to keep straight, but the homespun mood remains winning, while the impact of world history on the Ozarks is skillfully evoked.”  Publishers Weekly

Hardworking farm wife Alafair Tucker unravels more mysterious deaths among her Oklahoma neighbors (All Men Fear Me, 2015, etc.).The sprawling Tucker clan, already dreading the loss of their boys to the Hun, faces a new threat: Spanish influenza. Pulled from her farm into town to nurse one of her daughters, Mrs. Tucker makes the acquaintance of Nola Thomason, along with Dorothy, her young daughter, and Lewis, her grown son. As the deadly epidemic spreads through town, Nola and Lewis are struck down—but their deaths look very different from those of the flu victims. Dorothy, the only witness, refuses to speak a word. When it comes to treating the sick, Alafair’s common sense and smattering of Cherokee folk wisdom come head to head with the experimental scientific outlook of the only doctor available, but they make common cause around the peculiar deaths. The family pulls together to quarantine the young ones and nurse the sick, until wild-hearted Sophronia Tucker takes a risk that puts them all in danger. Sophronia’s companionship and Alafair’s care eventually coax Dorothy to share her story, pointing the way to the guilty party so that Mrs. Tucker and Dr. Carney can bring justice and closure. The mystery comes in second (or maybe third) to history lessons and paeans to traditional American values in this folksy tale of small towns and big hearts.” Kirkus Reviews

Alafair Tucker and her brood live in a very small town in Boynton, Oklahoma. The year is 1918. WWI is off across the pond.. but, the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 is smack dab in the back country. The United States is on the cusp of huge changes. From horse and buggy to motorized bikes and side cars. Outhouses versus indoor plumbing. In this little town.. the lives of all are disrupted when the Red Cross advises all to prepare for one of the worst pandemics to hit the country since the Russian flu of 1880.

I have never read any of the Alafair Tucker stories. I didn’t even realize they were part of an on-going series until after.. when I went to seek other books the author had written. This book is very much a stand alone! The characters are so endearing to the reader. It makes you want to be part of this loving brood. Brother and sisters who would do anything for a loved one who truly is in need.

My grandfather had told me stories of the great Spanish flu and I’ve always been interested in it since then. The author depicts much of what occurred during this time to the families who survived. And, those that did not. Entire families were taken within days of one another. To be buried in mass graves, with or without coffins. Embalmers refused to embalm the bodies for fear of catching the flu and dying.

I truly enjoyed how the author so easily transitioned the major changes in technology that were taking place in 1918. I had not thought about how medicine was changing as well. The doctor in the story is sent to Boynton, Oklahoma to assist as he had a gimpy leg and could not serve in the military. He insists on cleanliness and taking extremes to quarantine patients from the healthy members of the community. He scoffs at the old fashioned remedies that he witnesses being used on very ill patients. Insisting that some of the “cures” are actually the cause of death.

What a great time to commit murder. During a major pandemic. Who’s to know? Who’s going to even notice? A delightful story. One not to be missed if you are fascinated by the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918.” Cheri McCarter, Goodreads

The Return of the Raven Mocker is the ninth Alafair Tucker mystery by author Donis Casey. I have read the previous books in the Alafair Tucker series and found them all to be fascinating, well written and informative.

 The Return of the Raven Mocker. The title of the book itself is enough to grab anyone’s attentions. How intriguing can you get? The Raven Mocker is an evil bigfoot being from Cherokee mythology who robs the old, sick and dying of their lives. As the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918 barrels through Boynton, Alafair is reminded of the Cherokee myth and doesn’t even want to hear the name Raven Mocker.

Donis Casey gives the reader a history lesson without them even realizing it. I learned so much about the Spanish Flu Epidemic from this book. But someone in Boynton is using the flu epidemic to cover up a murder. And Alafair figures this out early and the hunt is on. With the assistance of a new young doctor sent to help with the epidemic, Alafair is able to see through the deception.

I love the characters that author Casey has created in Alafair’s family and the town of Boynton. Alafair’s large family is fighting World War I in Europe and the Spanish Flu at home. Opening The Return of the Raven Mocker, the reader is transported immediately into the realm of the Tucker farm and their lives. It is always a fascinating world to dive back into.

The Return of the Raven Mocker is  well written tale. I found it immensely enjoyable and I’m sure you will too. Read the entire series!!! I highly recommend The Return of the Raven Mocker.”
Mysteries Etc., Kathy Goodridge Poulin, Jan 3, 2017

I will always– always– enjoy an Alafair Tucker novel written by the talented Donis Casey, and I did enjoy The Return of the Raven Mocker, but it’s not the strongest book in this wonderful series. It is more historical fiction than historical mystery, with Casey doing a powerhouse job of showing the effects of the flu pandemic in Boynton, Oklahoma. For instance, despite people’s best efforts to quarantine the entire town, people were so desperate for news from their men fighting overseas that they were willing to risk infection and even death just to get the mail.

Casey also does a wonderful job showing how old wives’ tales and folk remedies worked side by side with modern medicine to fight influenza. In fact, I was so exhausted by the endless hours of nursing Alafair and her daughter Martha did that I fell for every murder suspect put before me until just before the end (just in time to make me feel smart). Kittling Books, Cathy Cole, Jan 3. 2017

Anyone not knowing the name Alafair Tucker of Boynton, Oklahoma has missed some very delightful writing. Alafair is a woman of strong character. She has to be as she is the mother of ten children – most of them grown by now in this ninth of her series.

We meet Alafair this time in the midst of a battle to save lives. The dreaded influenza epidemic of 1918 has taken many of her friends and neighbors and she vows to save as many of her family as she can using good hygiene, nutrition and old time remedies learned from her forebears.

While she is tending the stricken, World War I is nearing its end. Not soon enough for Alafair and her brood. When next-door neighbors seem to have lost a father [sic] and daughter [sic], Alafair is sure that the flu did not take them. She has been known to insert herself into investigations best left to the law.

I have enjoyed this series very much. On opening the first page, I feel myself being pulled into the Tucker family – happily so. Author Casey has depicted the care she gave to her stricken family – which seems to me to be close to what I had been told saved my mother’s twin brother when he contacted this horrifying disease.

If you are not familiar with Alafair, introduce yourself soon. The Old Buzzard Had It Coming is the first of the tales of this busy family. How can you not like a novel with that title? I guarantee you will enjoy reading this series. Book Loons, Mary Ann Smythe

 

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