The Swamp Whisperer
by Sylvia Dickey Smith

Crispin Books, 2012. ISBN 978-1-883-95349-2.
Reviewed by Penny Leisch
Posted on 04/09/2013

Fiction: Historical; Fiction: Mystery; Fiction: Thriller

Sylvia Dickey Smith's latest Sidra Smart mystery pulls readers into the culture and history of the bayou in east Texas and Louisiana when Boo Murphy, Sidra's independent and eccentric aunt, uses her knowledge of the swamp to ferret out answers after her cousin, Sasha, and her dog, Dawg, disappear. What's more, someone seems to be after her too. Is it because she knows something isn't right at the cultural site that's supposed to resurrect an authentic cultural village for the remaining descendants of the Atakapa-Ishak tribe? Why can't she get Sidra to call back when she finally decides she needs the help of someone she trusts?

While Sidra Smart doesn't appear until late in the story, Sidra's activities provide a slice of secondary adventure with a separate handful of unconventional characters, chaotic weddings, and a breakdown in a ghost town that's outside of all cell phone service areas. An earlier appearance would have diluted Boo's exploits, as well as her opportunities to share a wonderful variety of swamp lore.

Even though Boo prefers floating through the swamp in her pirogue, hunting, and fishing, to socializing, when her life is in danger, she discovers that there are people who care about her a great deal. She also discovers that some legends contain more than a small kernel of truth and that a very special man can love a strong woman and never gives up his quest for her heart.

Readers who haven't seen the bayou area of Texas or Louisiana should watch the trailer on Smith's website before diving into the story. The music is ethereal, setting the stage for meeting Parahaia, the swamp spirit that the natives believe walks between worlds. The characters fit the story perfectly, and the otherworldly swamp photos visually transport you into Boo's world and stay with you while you travel through the swamp and meet her neighbors.

Although the story is a bit slow at times, the action is realistic for an aging, yet very independent, female protagonist. The characters have depth and realistic personalities, while the swamp lore and history will fascinate anyone who loves to travel and experience local cultures.

Read an excerpt from this book.

Born in Orange, Texas to a Scots-Irish family and raised among Cajun culture, Sylvia Dickey Smith now lives in Georgetown, Texas. Her fascination with various cultures, especially as they relate to women, began when she lived in Trinidad & Tobago. Smith won First Place in the Novels for Adult Readers category in the 2012 communications contest sponsored by Press Women of Texas. The Swamp Whisperer is the latest book in the Sidra Smart mystery series. Visit her website.

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