Title: The Virgin of Small Plains
Author: Nancy Pickard
Release Date: April 18, 2006
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5
On one fateful night, the body of a dead girl is found during a blizzard in Small Plains, Kansas. The body is quietly brought to Doc Reynolds’ place, where Abby, the doctor’s daughter, has snuck her boyfriend Mitch into the house. But Mitch sees something that night he can never forget, and by the morning, he has left town. Almost twenty years later, there is another blizzard, one which stirs up old memories. When Mitch comes back to town and Abby begins asking questions about the identity of the dead girl, they set into motion a chain of events which will lead to difficult revelations.
After reading Nancy Pickard’s wonderful novel The Scent of Rain and Lightning and really enjoying it, multiple people recommended her previous novel, The Virgin of Small Plains, to me. I was excited to pick it up, to delve into another small Kansas town to see what secrets had been hidden away that were about to come to light.
Pickard portrays small town life incredibly well in this novel. From the quirky townspeople to the feeling of living around people you have known your whole life, all of the small town dynamics are on display in The Virgin of Small Plains. And like any small town, Small Plains has its own secrets, and Pickard builds the suspense around them amazingly well. It’s clear from the beginning that Abby isn’t going to like what she finds when she starts digging, but at the same time, the truth has to come to light eventually.
Though I did guess at some of the aspects of the end revelations, I was pleasantly surprised, shocked, and slightly horrified by what I discovered. I was emotionally invested in this book for Abby’s sake, so I felt the same horror that she did when all finally was revealed. Pickard did a wonderful job drawing me into this book and really keeping the reader guessing.
The Virgin of Small Plains was a very entertaining and well-written novel. I certainly hope Pickard chooses to write more books in this vein - the small town secrets set up works very well for her. I hesitate to call it a formula, though, because these two novels really are very different, despite having a similar premise. Whatever it might be, I would love to read more novels in this vein from Nancy Pickard, as she clearly has an exceptional talent at crafting suspenseful and atmospheric mysteries.