DEATH IN ZOOVILLE A Caleb Knowles Mystery
Author: Carla Damron

Trade Paperback Original
Retail $14.95US

ISBN 978-1-933523-89-7
LCCN 2010926793

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Talk Greenville

Death in Zooville by Carla Damron

Reviewed by Ashley Warlick

Caleb Knowles is a social worker, dividing his time between private practice and the Safe Harbor homeless shelter, trying to do the most good for the most people, excepting perhaps himself. He's lonely, his personal life at loose ends: his girlfriend, Shannon, has been called home to run the family dairy in Maine while her father rehabilitates after a broken hip, and there's no telling when she'll return. His daughter, Julia, is a constant thought but a rare presence, and his brother Sam, deaf from a motorcycle accident at age 16, stubbornly puts himself in the line of trouble to help a young deaf child from the projects. Caleb knows his choice is to support Sam or be shut out, even as his own social worker instincts tell him Sam is getting too attached. For a guy set on helping people out of the hard spots in their lives, Caleb's own seems nothing but rocks.
    And then, people start turning up dead.
    The third Caleb Knowles mystery set in the small town of Westville, S.C., "Death in Zooville" is a book that makes its edges felt as clearly as the drama at hand. While the central storyline is a series of murders connected to Safe Harbor and a homeless encampment by the river called Zooville, this storyline plays out in the context of real lives, characters that have connections that extend beyond the pages of these particular events. Caleb and the chief detective are friends in light of past cases they've worked together; their friendship suffers under the weight of the Zooville investigation. Henry, one of the directors at Safe Harbor, is a recovering addict and ex-gangbanger; when it comes time to extract Sam's charge from a dangerous living situation, it's Henry's past allegiances that make it possible. Carla Damron cultivates the feeling that these lives on the page last as long as our own, that these characters are part of an enduring community, responsible to each other. Such a feeling gives real heft to the whodunit aspects of her story.
    All Damron's books delve deeply into social issues—homelessness, dysfunction, abuse and recovery—that so often get swept under the mystery and suspense carpet, issues she handles with sensitivity and a keen eye for human nature, rather than absolutes and admonishments. The struggle for connection between the hearing and the non-hearing world is touchingly illustrated in this light. Sam speaks, slurring when emotional, and Caleb signs to him, often acting as Sam's interpreter, taking on Sam's language even when it would be possible for Sam to read his lips. It's a small gesture, showing volumes of emotion, at the same time underscoring how easily one brother can lose sight of the other, and thus lose touch altogether. This kind of sensitivity is the hallmark of Damron's work.

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