The discovery of the remains of a missing hiker triggers a new murder investigation for Appalachian artist and local guide Miranda Trent in the latest Paint & Shine mystery from Cheryl Hollon.
Since returning to Appalachia, artist Miranda Trent has carved out an exciting and exhausting career. She inherited a dilapidated family farmhouse in Kentucky that serves as her base for operations. Miranda organizes and leads hikes to a number of scenic venues. Not ordinary tours, rather “a unique experience that mixes art, adventure, food and drink in one package.” When her groups reach their destination, they shift gears and under Miranda’s guidance they capture their amazing surroundings on paper.
As the owner of Paint & Shine, a cultural adventure tour company in the Daniel Boone National Forest, Miranda wanted her clients to enjoy the best possible examples of Southern food. Her Eastern Kentucky farm was usually the place for the meal. But today’s offer was an old-fashioned packed lunch to eat out on the trail overlooking the cliff formation called Battleship Rock.
Is there such a thing as dining chair eating? If so, you can count me in because hikers crave a treat: crispy fried chicken breast, green beans, pickled cabbage, pickles plus a mustard potato salad, corn on the cob, cornbread, cobbler and a lemonade-moonshine cocktail served in a wall jars. They will have to spend a lot of calories to make Miranda’s lunch fair, but she tells her kitchen assistants that it will not be a problem.
“These customers have assured me that they are suitable athletes and can carry more than twice as much as these day trip packages. We will see. I mean, as a group, they call themselves risky business adventurers. It must mean something. This is my first long-distance track offer. I hope it is a success. ”
Miranda talks a good game, but she’s worried. She has already invited Austin Morgan, her neighbor and an experienced ranger, to join the expedition. She has also packed extra drawing equipment and supplies in an emergency. Warnings are underarm – hopefully none of these precautions are necessary. Battleship rock is a challenging destination but it is worth the effort and therefore the risky business adventurers requested it.
Given the distance of the hike and its secluded location, Miranda had chosen to give a lesson in charcoal drawing rather than the normal activity of creating an acrylic painting of Battleship Rock. After all, everything pulled up to the vantage point had to be pulled down.
Miranda meets the six adventurers and longtime friends and they are gone. After an hour, they arrive in front of a vertical sandstone slab that has a foothold up to the top.
It looks worse than it is, but Ranger Morgan is there to share a little local history and do a basic climbing demonstration. However, he is interrupted by Alfred, who says no need, they are all decent climbers at “intermediate to expert level.”
“Well then,” Austin continued, “who wants to go first?”
“I, of course,” Kevin said. “I always go first in our little adventures.”
Miranda bit in the corner of her lip. It looks like there are two leaders. One for travel arrangements and one as an alpha male. I’ve seen this puppet management style before. It complicates everything.
Miranda almost falls up, but Austin calmly settles her down, and eventually everyone is safe. The view is incredible, but Miranda is undue and tells Austin she’s still worried. After lunch, Miranda gets everyone started on their charcoal sketches. After giving Jennifer some tips, Miranda gives her a hand to get up, but Jennifer slides and scrapes the palm of her hand on a sharp stick-like object.
A tremor ran down Miranda’s spine. It was not a stick. She took a branch nearby and stuck in the leaves until several of the alien forms were exposed. She felt a sick tingling in her teeth. The molds were not wooden sticks. A final scrape revealed a jawbone and a skull. They were human bones.
Jennifer’s screams bring Ranger Morgan back. It’s a crime scene now. Austin tells Miranda that Sheriff Larson and liars are on their way. This is definitely an unfortunate case that a member of the Risky Business group discovered a skeleton. But as it turns out, the bones belong to Miranda’s cousin, Howard Cable, who was a former classmate from the Risky Business group. As far as the sheriff is concerned, there are accidents with hiking. But Miranda’s cousin Howard grew up in this area: he was an experienced hiker, comfortable in the Daniel Boone National Forest. He was not even off-trail when he died. Miranda decides to move on alone with the help of Ranger Morgan. Isn’t it suspicious that Howard was a classmate, possibly a friend or more, of the newly started Risky Business group? Miranda’s bubbly mother comes to stay and help her daughter interpret the various memories of Howard’s family correctly.
Her mother opened her arms and Miranda went into a warm hug: “You know, it’s going to be hard to solve Howard’s life. He was a strange duck. ”
“Yes, but there are so many secrets.”
Miranda continues, however, and tells her mother that Austin is investigating the group of suspects further. People in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge have each other’s backs. These secrets are not hidden forever – Miranda finds justice for her cousin and his still grieving mother.
What’s next for Renaissance woman Miranda Trent? It is a condition of her late uncle Gene Buchanan’s will that she must produce her legendary moonlight to hold on to the family farm. Will her fermentation tank be installed before the end of the year? No moonlight, no farm. Stay tuned readers. Draw and order is a fantastic follow-up to Hollon’s first Paint & Shine mystery.
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