Wide Open
Deborah Coates
ISBN-10: 0765328984

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When Sergeant Hallie Michaels comes back to South Dakota from Afghanistan on ten days’ compassionate leave, her sister Dell’s ghost is waiting at the airport to greet her.

The sheriff says that Dell’s death was suicide, but Hallie doesn’t believe it. Something happened or Dell’s ghost wouldn’t still be hanging around. Friends and family, mourning Dell’s loss, think Hallie’s letting her grief interfere with her judgment.

The one person who seems willing to listen is the deputy sheriff, Boyd Davies, who shows up everywhere and helps when he doesn’t have to.

As Hallie asks more questions, she attracts new ghosts, women who disappeared without a trace.  Soon, someone’s trying to beat her up, burn down her father’s ranch, and stop her investigation.

By the clearest definition of the word, Hallie Michaels is a soldier. She’s tough, she’s blunt and she prefers action to words. In Wide Open, she’s also home on a ten day leave to mourn the death of her sister, Dell. From Afghanistan, she’s brought more than war wounds and the violent memories of her seven minute death. Also tagging along is the ghost of her friend and fellow soldier  and when she leaves the tarmac, she discovers that Dell’s ghost has joined the fray. It’s a ghostly group that only expands as the mysteries of the plot are revealed.

Dell was murdered and Hallie is determined to spend her ten day leave discovering who is responsible.

But there are obstacles in her way. Namely, the sheriff, Boyd, and her hometown friends who are convinced that Dell killed herself by wrapping her car around a tree. Hallie’s not buying it and she uses all her cunning, all the skills she’s acquired in the military to investigate her sister’s death and do it during her very brief leave.

The further she investigates Dell’s life prior to her death, the more secrets, lies and mysteries unfold. To complicate matters is her growing bond with Boyd and the odd weather patterns that seem to strike at will, damaging and killing with prejudice.

One could say that Hallie is an idealized feminist paradigm of what a female heroine can manage if given the room to stretch and grown. But Coates hasn’t written anything like that cliche. She’s crafted a story about a hero, a soldier, a fighter who happens to be female.

She has woven an intricate plot held together by characters that are dynamic and conflicts that are not easy to determine. Wide Open exhibits Coates’ heavily detailed research and personal experience that gives readers a story with not only heart, but gut.

Equal parts thriller and mystery with a unique supernatural bent, Wide Open will have readers clamoring for a re-read and with itchy fingers eager to get their hands on the next installment.

Highly recommended

Check out our interview with Deborah Coates here.

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