The Mountain Mystic

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Book 2 of A Mountaineer Mystery
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Pub Date May 21 2024 | Archive Date May 31 2024

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Since succeeding her dearly departed husband, Bill, to become Jasper County’s first female sheriff, Mary Beth Cain has closed more cases than any three of her male predecessors combined. But nobody bats a thousand in the cop game. Nobody. And, ovaries aside, Mary Beth knows she’s no different. There’d been a handful of unsolveds during her tenure, victims and families denied their justice, and each and every one of them gnaws at her soul. She thinks about them late at night as she sips her whiskey, counting regrets like sheep.

But the case that haunts Mary Beth most is one that went cold before she was even on the force: the long-ago disappearance of a family friend, named Maria Ruiz. So when a country psychic’s vision leads to the discovery of Maria’s body, Mary Beth isn’t willing to chalk it up as genuine clairvoyance and goes all in on an investigation that cuts close to home.

Since succeeding her dearly departed husband, Bill, to become Jasper County’s first female sheriff, Mary Beth Cain has closed more cases than any three of her male predecessors combined. But nobody...

Advance Praise

“Russell Johnson has packed more twists and turns into THE MOUNTAIN MYSTIC than you’ll find in the West Virginia backroads his characters roam. The mystery that plays out keeps you turning pages at top speed. It’s one hell of a thrilling ride.”

—Wes Browne, author of They All Fall the Same

“It’s in the cards: Many mystery fans will enjoy this twisty page-turner.”

—Kirkus Review

“In THE MOUNTAIN MYSTIC, an explosive rural noir, brassy WV sheriff Mary Beth Cain blurs the line between lawman and outlaw in the search for justice. With a plot like a mountain road, twisting and winding to its jaw dropping peak, Johnson has braided an irreverent thriller, a legal drama, and a meditation on motherhood into a fuse and lit it on fire.”

—Meagan Lucas, author of Songbirds and Stray Dogs and Here in the Dark

“THE MOUNTAIN MYSTICS’s propulsive story grabs you on the first page and doesn’t let up until the end. Russell W. Johnson pulls the reader around unexpected curves like the West Virginia back roads his characters traverse trying to solve a cold case that has been reheated by a psychic. Sheriff Mary Beth Cain and her deputy Izzy jump off the page with humor and heart. An entertaining sequel that is on par with Johnson’s remarkable debut, The Moonshine Messiah.”

—Brett Lovell, author of A Bad And Dangerous Man

“Russell W. Johnson’s THE MOUNTAIN MYSTIC thrums like the novelization of a Steve Earle song, capturing a thoroughly modern cast of West “by God” Virginians in all their messiness, pride, and defiance of historic wrongs and contemporary expectations. Prickly Sheriff Mary Beth Cain and her crew watching over Jasper County are the real McCoy.”

—Zakariah Johnson, author of Mink: Skinning Time in Wisconsin

“The Mountain Mystic dynamite blasts the reader right back into Sheriff Mary Beth Cain’s hands and by gawd don’t Russell Johnson make it one helluva good return! Reads faster than a Camaro burning rubber over mountain blacktop and slams barrel proof down your gullet for the entire ride as Mary Beth spotlights for truth in a forest of dark so deep not even the Haints can see through it! Bang-a-fucking-rang!”

—Ashley Erwin, author of Grit, Black, Blood

“Pour a strong drink, kick back, and savor this Appalachian-set murder mystery that’s full of surprises and intrigue. Leading this story is Sheriff Mary Beth Cain, a strong, complicated protagonist sure to make you cringe and root for in equal measure. Leave no doubt, Johnson has a winner with The Mountain Mystic.”

—Curtis Ippolito, Anthony-nominated author of Burying the Newspaper Man

“The Mountain Mystic is Russell Johnson writing in top form, creating memorable characters in Sheriff Mary Beth Cain, the first woman to ever be the top cop in Jasper County, and diminutive Chief Deputy Izzy Baker. With a ton of panache and expert skill at unspooling a story, Johnson has penned another must-read for fans of grit-lit and Southern/Appalachian noir.”

—Bobby Mathews, award-winning author of Living the Gimmick and Magic City Blues

“Russell Johnson’s The Mountain Mystic comes out of the gate like a cannon on page one and doesn’t take a breath until its expertly-wrought conclusion. Johnson continues to carve out a niche in rural noir that feels distinctly his own, painting a detailed portrait of small-town West Virginia life rich in both beauty and tragedy, and filled with characters who immediately feel like old friends. Best of all is Sheriff Mary Beth Cain—funny, fierce, and nearly unstoppable in her pursuit of justice—who deserves to stand alongside Ace Atkins’ Quinn Colson and Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire.”

—James D.F. Hannah, Shamus-winning author of Because the Night and Behind the Wall of Sleep

“Russell Johnson has packed more twists and turns into THE MOUNTAIN MYSTIC than you’ll find in the West Virginia backroads his characters roam. The mystery that plays out keeps you turning pages at...

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ISBN 9781956957730
PRICE $17.00 (USD)

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Average rating from 7 members

Featured Reviews

A delightful second installment of the A Mountaineer Mystery series. The first book, The Moonshine Messiah, was an absolutely fantastic read and I was super excited to see this one pop up on NetGalley.

If you haven't read The Moonshine Messiah, well, I strongly recommend you go back and read it prior to starting this one because there's a lot of backstory there. You can probably get by reading this one as a stand-alone if you feel really strongly about it – the events of the previous book are briefly summarized where needed – but it's a really fun read and you'll miss out on a lot of the details otherwise. But, anyway, if you haven't read the previous novel, you're gonna be in for a treat. Sheriff Mary Beth Cain is a pretty unusual character, especially when it comes to law enforcement officers – think Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) from The Heat but with a lot more hillbilly. She's feisty and funny and sometimes uses slightly questionable methods when it comes her policing.

In The Mountain Mystic, Sheriff Cain is determined to solve a cold case involving a family friend with the help of a backwoods psychic … and possibly by using some of her slightly-less-than-ethical methods to extract the information she needs from unwilling suspects. And, well, I don't want to spoil any of the plot, but let's just say that this is a police procedural like none other. The investigation takes her from rural West Virginia to the beaches of Mexico, and it's quite the entertaining ride. Most of the characters from the first novel make an appearance, including Izzy, Sam, Patrick, and her crime boss mother, Mamie (who is probably my favorite character other than Mary Beth herself).

And the ending? I so did not see either of those twists coming! This book was probably a rounded-down-to-four star read right up until the last couple of chapters, but the post-climax reveals propelled it right into five-star territory. I'm so excited for the next book and where this series is going.

My overall rating: 4.6 stars, rounded up. If you like police procedurals with humor, heart, and absolutely delightful (but not always law-abiding) characters, definitely consider giving this one a read.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Shotgun Honey Books for providing me with an advance copy of this book to review. Its expected publication date is May 21, 2024.

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