Read If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O by Sharyn McCrumb Online


Sheriff Spencer Arrowood keeps the peace in his small Tennessee town most of the time. Every once in a while, though, something goes wrong. When 1960s folksinger Peggy Muryan moves to town seeking solitude and a career comeback, and she receives a postcard with a threatening message, her idyll is shattered. Then a local girl who looks like Peggy vanishes without a trace.AlSheriff Spencer Arrowood keeps the peace in his small Tennessee town most of the time. Every once in a while, though, something goes wrong. When 1960s folksinger Peggy Muryan moves to town seeking solitude and a career comeback, and she receives a postcard with a threatening message, her idyll is shattered. Then a local girl who looks like Peggy vanishes without a trace.Although she was once famous, Peggy has no fondness for the old times. Those days are best left forgotten for Spencer Arrowood, too. But sometimes the past can't rest, and those who try to forget it are doomed to relive it.......

Title : If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780345369062
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 336 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O Reviews

  • Melissa
    2019-06-02 10:45

    This is the first in the 'ballad' series of Appalachian novels by Sharyn McCrumb. I like this series so much, and I love that her recurring characters are more than just window-dressing, but are not the main focus of the books. This novel seems to take place in 1986, and it feels a bit dated, not only due to the lack of technology (no cell phones or computers, not even a fax machine in this tiny town) but also due to the interest in and latent advocacy for Vietnam veterans. Not to downplay the issues, but it seems a faraway time when that was the biggest military issue weighing collectively on society. Not too hard to figure this one out, but still pretty compelling to read and with a bit of something unexpected at the end.

  • Denny
    2019-06-20 09:52

    McCrumb does a good job of describing scenery & setting and of capturing snapshots of southern Appalachia and its idiosyncratic characters. Rather than using dialect and accent to give her characters a distinctly Southern voice, however, she uses omniscient narration to reveal their rural, socially stratified, and geographically-defined thoughts and attitudes about their lives, environment, and neighbors. But if you subscribe to professor Jerry Leath Mills' (late of UNC-Chapel Hill) "Dead Mule" theory of Southern fiction, then this isn't Southern fiction. I happen to think that Southern fiction encompasses a lot more than just works that feature a dead mule or three.There are some interesting and fairly well-developed characters here, especially Sheriff Spencer Arrowood, his chief deputy, Joe LeDonne, and dispatcher Martha Ayers, and to a somewhat lesser extent victim Peggy Muryan, but the rest are little more than stock characters. Despite the dearth of dead mules, this is assuredly Southern. It features plenty of the grotesque and the gothic, and it's set in the very well-described (though fictional) East Tennessee mountain town of Hamelin. I like the conceit of Sheriff Arrowood having his own personal soundtrack of traditional folk ballads, which helps set this series apart from other formula-fiction mystery series.As for the central mystery, it is by far the weakest part of the novel. The killer and his or her motives are evident very early on, and the two red herrings are so transparent as to be more like pale pink herrings. Still, there's a lot here to build on, and I'll be reading further in this series to see how much it improves as it matures.

  • Rona
    2019-06-17 08:48

    This series has promise. Setting, lovely. Characters, yet to be fully developed. Mystery, too easy -- I knew who was doing the deeds as soon as the person stepped on stage. Story of the divorced, lonely, sheriff. He's got a boring job in a tiny Appalachian town. Then a stranger comes to town and is threatened by a mad-man.

  • Dennis Fischman
    2019-05-30 03:53

    Wonderful writing, sense of place, and characters: I will come back to this series just to visit them again. Unlike other readers, I didn't spot the murderer, and the motive still seems far-fetched...but so much related to America's misbegotten war in Vietnam did and still does.

  • Lissa Notreallywolf
    2019-06-04 05:48

    I think highly of Sharyn McCrumb, partially because she writes about thinks I love in a voice I understand. This mystery novel is psychologically excruciating and funny at the same time, hallmarks of that dark voice she uses. Enter small town Sheriff Spencer Arrowood, a man trying to live with ghost of his older brother, the high-school football star killed in Vietnam. Spencer drives around town accompanied by his own mental jukebox, which gives him insight into emotions he was trained never to articulate. He's divorced, and has bad feelings about Jenny, who appears to have been a hand-me-down girlfriend from Cal, although I wondered about midway through the book if Cal hadn't singled out Spencer's crush on Jennie for his attentions just because Cal could. Cal comes off as that sort of fellow in Spencer's recollections, but then he seems to think he's the only one who saw Cal clearly. It's hard to be the younger brother, especially when the older one dies before he can reveal his real potential or lack thereof. I loved it when you enter Mrs. Arrowood's mind and you find that she keeps her home a museum for her surviving son, and knows that Spencer is worth two of Cal, even though she can't get past her grief for her first born son. No one wants to speak ill of the dead, so Spencer seems to be stuck with his issues, the issues of many of those who did not go to the Killing Fields.Enter the folk singer, Peggy Muryan, the voice of the peaceniks, a celebrity in the little Tennessee town. The locals want to court her, but are too frightened of her supposed wealth and her somewhat stale fame. Spencer explains that she can break the ice by donating to the local church drive, after he's called in to register a complaint against her dog, Blondeen, who pooped in a neighbor's flowerbed. She does, and it sets the stage for threatening postcards, Blondeen's death and a host of animal and human deaths. I won't spoil the mystery aspect of it, because the real gist of the novel is the cost of a culture of violence on its survivors. Pretty Peggy-O ends on a note of moral ambivalence-what do we think of Peggy at the end of the novel? Spencer is pretty clearly a due process sort of fellow, but Peggy is more of the point and shoot variety, calculating the costs. The characters are both haunted people. Spencer has Cal, and Peggy has Travis, her original singing partner and boyfriend. His letters inform the reader of his time in Vietnam, and how cruelly he felt the loss of Peggy, removed not only by his service to his country, but also to her rising status as a singer. We also meet other Vietnam vets, the damaged deputy, the isolated man in a shack on the outskirts of everything. And the evil past stares back at a youth in the local high school who determines to penetrate the darkness of the prior generation. Pretty serious themes for a mystery, which is why I so appreciate McCrumb.

  • Jennifer Kleffner
    2019-05-31 06:45

    I love all of the "ballad" mysteries. Learned about this author in 1998 when I was working in the mountains of Virginia, where she is a local hero of sorts, since she's from that area. She tells a great story, and there is a cast of characters you get to know. Some of the books tell the story from a previous characters perspective - new story, new voice, but familiar setting. Very well done, and a nice insight into appalacian culture.

  • L Greyfort
    2019-06-16 07:01

    Outstanding start to an excellent series. McCrumb's Ballad series takes place in the mountains of eastern Tennessee; recurring characters include the local sheriff (good policeman, carrying a complex load of personal baggage), a Vietnam veteran deputy (ditto), and elderly mountain woman with a long memory and unusual abilities.This series ranges back and forth in time, sometimes combining contemporary mysteries with historical fact. Heart-stopping ending -- Not to be missed.

  • Lori
    2019-06-09 03:02

    Flat, two-dimensional characters + Easily identified "bad" guy + Uninteresting, unresolved subplots= a book I wish I hadn't wasted my time reading.

  • Bev
    2019-06-05 09:05

    Sharyn McCrumb's If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O (1990) is set in the small Appalachian town of Hamelin, Tennessee where Spencer Arrowood is the Sheriff who keeps the peace. It's not a difficult job most of the time--an occasional run-away or teenage boy with excess energy stepping out of line; a few drunk and disorderlies...that's pretty much it. Then Peggy Muryan purchases the old Dandridge home. The moderately popular folksinger from the '60s is looking for a quiet place to compose new songs and set the stage for a comeback.But the peace and quiet doesn't last long. Peggy begins receiving postcards with lyrics from various folksongs which she had once made famous. As Sheriff Arrowood points out to her, the lyrics as printed are scarcely threatening--but Peggy knows the lines that come next and the haunting, ominous nature of the lines not written are worse than those which appear. Then Peggy's dog is killed and marked with an insignia of some sort--butchered in a commando-style that has indications of a link to Vietnam. The dog's death is followed by a sheep--also left with clues referring to Vietnam. Things really get serious when a high school girl goes missing and winds up murdered--for Rosemary Winstead bears a striking resemblance to Peggy Muryan at the height of her career. LeDonne, Spencer's Vietnam vet deputy, doubts the Vietnam connection because the clues left behind in each case are too scattered. They point towards several different military units. Peggy, meanwhile, keeps getting those cards, and they seem to implicate her former singing partner, Travis Perdue--except es that Travis was a Vietnam casualty, an MIA. Is it possible he returned to the States after all? Why would he kill nice, young Rosemary? Who else had a motive?[Possible spoiler ahead!]I find the ending deeply disturbing and unsatisfying. Which, honestly, is what I believe McCrumb wants. Many of her characters are disturbed--whether they are haunted by a past that never was quite like they remember it or a past that changed them forever or if they are caught up in their interest in a past that was never theirs. Portraying the psychological dilemmas of the various characters is probably McCrumb's strongest gift in her writing. It certainly isn't in the crime plotting itself. I found the motive fairly unbelievable--quite probably because the killer's psychology is the least examined. The character appears regularly, so the fair-play side of me can't holler "No Fair! X isn't even a real suspect." But I can't say that I'm believing in X as the villain. It also doesn't help that Arrowood doesn't really figure anything out and does very little in the investigative line. We find out who the killer is because s/he appears in Peggy's house and spills out a confession in a burst of bragging. Otherwise, I just don't see this crime being solved. The setting is grand and the Appalachian background well-done. Most of the characters are well-rounded, interesting, and believable. One just wishes the villain were included in "most." A decent mystery with an intriguing set-up and lead-up to the final chapters. If the promise had been fulfilled, I would have given it a higher rating--as it is...★★★First posted on my blog My Reader's Block. Please request permission before reposting. Thanks.

  • Daryl
    2019-06-11 10:03

    The ending of this one veered away from what you'd expect (even once the mystery itself was solved), and I suppose I liked that. The writing didn't do much for me, though. It made me think that there are several types of writing, of which the list below is a subset:Writing in which getting from point A to point B in the action is the main point and the author pulls it off fairly artfully or at least in a coherent way. I think some of the older hard-boiled mystery novesl I've read this year fit in this bucket pretty well. The point is the action, and the prose that gets us from A to B all makes sense, without much superfluity.Writing in which A and B are less important than how the author writes about it (this tends to be my favorite).Writing in which getting from A to be is what's important, and the author blunders through it kind of awkwardly, as if to fill time or pages between A and B.This book felt like it had a lot of the latter in it. I see this most often in just bizarre statements or rationalizations for behaviors, or weird behaviors on the parts of the characters. I see it in incorrect facts. It's really annoying and makes me doubt in a way that the author is working in good faith. It feels in a way like padding out an essay to hit a word count when you've run out of stuff of substance to say. I didn't jot down any specific examples of this from McCrumb's book, but it's very much the feeling I had while reading it.I also found it annoying that the author's introduction makes a fuss about how there's some intellectual heft to the book -- that you have to keep your brain turned on to read this one. Well, sure. There's some consideration of how we trat veterans; there's some consideration of our narratives around women. But none of it is terribly compelling or artfully done. A few literary quotes and what I guess she felt like were clever references in the text don't make a book intellectually hefty, and to suggest that they do seems a little self-aggrandizing and silly.So, it's an ok book, but a bit disappointing given expectations the author set. It is at least a quick read.

  • Bonnie Randall
    2019-06-16 02:40

    Sharyn McCrumb reflects her culture and creates her characters with a wide spectrum of flaws and virtues. There is a big cast in this novel, yet every person within this story has a distinct voice, a history, and a crucial presence in the plot. Notable is the way she captures the darkest internalizations of mere ordinary folks - there is something ominous within everyone, and McCrumb not only gets that but also uses it within crafting character motives, choices, and outcomes. She is a brilliant assessor of people. The mystery here is woven around the aftershocks of the Vietnam War - from its impact on its veterans, to the hippies who opposed it, up to and including how Vietnam touches those who seem to hold a morbid fascination for it. And it would not be a 'Ballad Novel' if folklore, too, was not an underpinning, and atmosphere hums throughout this story in the form of haunting lyrics from centuries-old folksongs. I love the world McCrumb creates in her Appalachia, and I adore every character she thrusts onto her stage. Her stories are phenomenal. 5 Stars

  • Deborah Wood
    2019-06-21 03:55

    I was looking for a great Southern mystery and this was so highly recommended but it failed to impress me. McCrumb writes beautifully but omg this just dragged on and on and on. For me it was as slow as a one traffic light town in rural Georgia. I did the audiobook version and the narrator has a clipped almost British tint to her voice and a terrible Southern accent drawling some vowels and forgetting to do the same to others and her ending consonants were clear instead of dropping the hard d's and t's as most Southerners do ... I finished it because it's a VERY rare book that I'll just quit on but this was so bloody bad that when my computer fried and I replaced it I had totally forgotten I'd been listening to it and this morning a month and a half later a light came on and I said "Oh yeah, I was listening to that" -- you may be more patient than I was with this but I just can't say it's even a good mystery.

  • Julie
    2019-06-18 07:56

    I loved this reading experience that transported me to another time and place very different from my own. It was so good that I would even pedal a few extra minutes on my exercise bike to finish the chapter! The context of my favorite quote is a mother who desires to update her kitchen to suit herself now she finds herself alone. She lost her eldest son to the Vietnam War and is a widow with one son remaining: "This was the home of his childhood, and while he wouldn't want to live here anymore, the fact that the house existed unchanged made him feel safe in the world, because here it was 1959, just the way he remembered it. She was used to providing this museum of comfort for the last surviving man of her family; it was part of her job as a diplomat."

  • Jay Wright
    2019-06-13 04:59

    It is based on people who went to Vietnam and either died there or are coping with it at home. It is a whodunit and tough to get who did it until the end (with the clues, I should have figured it out. I always love her characters and they were good in this book too. She is one of my favorite authors.

  • David Smith
    2019-05-31 04:40

    Great read, suprise ending. Will read more McCrumb.

  • Jim
    2019-06-02 08:42

    Didn’t care much for the story or the characters.

  • Mari
    2019-06-03 10:56

    I highly recommend the Ballad Series. I wish there were more of them

    2019-06-12 08:54

    The first of McCrum's Ballard novels, this book is good example of a great plot and the author's well researched history of the Appalachian Mountains.

  • EileenNH
    2019-06-17 08:00

    Interesting but predictable. I felt it was good, but sure did miss the mysticism.

  • Peggy Brown
    2019-06-12 03:54

    I have been reading Sharyn McCrumb books in order and have grown to know the characters like family. Great mystery......full of twist and turns.

  • Beverly
    2019-06-09 04:06

    Another winner for Sharyn McCrumb. This is the first book in her Ballad series. Having already read the 3rd book, it was fun to see some of the same characters prior to what I'd learned about them by reading out of order. In this story, a folk singer from the 60's has moved to Hamelin, Tennessee trying to regroup and come up with some new music to possibly revive her career. Meanwhile, a few of the series regulars from this small Appalachian town are discussing the possibility of having a 20th high school reunion. All in all, there are many memories recalled and not all of them are pleasant. Sheriff Arrowood's older brother Cal died in Viet Nam and neither he nor his parents have entirely worked through their loss. Joe LeDonne, a police officer, has horrible dreams relating to his time spent in Viet Nam and his less than approachable personality is a way to protect himself from getting too close to others. As the party planning continues, bringing more aging classmates to town, the new neighbor in town. the previously mentioned folk singer, starts getting postcards with ominous warnings--all written in the lyrics of her songs and they appear to be from her previous singing partner who died in Viet Nam. I thought this was another well written mystery that did a great job of keeping me intrigued and throwing a surprise ending at me.

  • Marleen
    2019-06-12 09:55

    If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O is Sharyn McCrumb’s first book in the Ballad series and I enjoyed it mostly for a) the setting in a small town in Tennessee and b) for its male characters. Sheriff Spencer Arrowood and deputy Joe Ledonne are indeed amazingly well-crafted characters. Men with plenty of history and depth, and who do their job sagely. The female characters were less compelling, in my opinion. Martha, or Tyndall, or Sally, or even Peggy: there was something about those women that felt a bit out-dated and desperate. Except for Mother Arrowood, I liked how clever she was analysing her relationship with her son.As for the mystery plot itself, it wasn’t all that thrilling. I knew who the perpetrator was long before the book had ended. I thought it strange that such a young person could be so vicious and empty-hearted. There should have been some explanation as to why.After finishing this book I thought that this story was more about people and their roots in a particular environment. I was captivated with the atmosphere and how clever the author was in creating interesting characters and revealing the darker corners of the human heart of very ordinary people. The story was more focused on the human condition, and how people cope after a tragedy (like losing a sibling, or the war in Vietnam, etc), then it was about the mystery itself.

  • Barbara M
    2019-06-14 02:38

    It is 1986 and there is going to be a 20th class reunion in the Appalachian mountain town of Hamelin. Sheriff Spencer Arrowood and his receptionist/dispatcher Martha are members of the class of '66. Martha is the coordinator for the events that will be held in August. Former folksinger Peggy Muryan has moved into town and is working toward a comeback. Her music was popular when they were in school. Even without the reunion, people are still affected by their memories of Vietnam. The Sheriff and his deputy Joe (a Vietnam vet) are called to check into the possiblity that it may be a vet that is involved in some terrible crimes. The story is interspersed with letters from Peggy's former boyfriend and singing partner who went to Vietnam after they split. McCrumb is good at setting the stage in the Tennessee town of Hamelin. The townspeople feel very real. There's some humor, plenty of mystery with twists and turns, and music. Being a '65 graduate, I could really relate to the music interspersed throughout. Spencer doesn't have a radio in his car, instead he has his own internal music playing in his head to fit the situation.

  • Caroline
    2019-06-19 10:49

    If Ever I return, Pretty Peggy-O by Sharyn McCrumb is a mystery set in 1980s Appalachia, with a cast of baby boomers still haunted by the shadows of Vietnam and the ghosts of high school. Retired folk singer Peggy Muryan has moved to the little, rural town and is soon being stalked by an increasingly violent veteran. Sheriff Spencer Arrowood is investigating, besides dealing with his own painful memories as well as his upcoming Class of 1966 reunion. Several storylines are intercut together with viewpoints from many different characters.The setting is Appalachia, but it could be any small town, really. This isn’t a story of moonshiners and squirrel-eatin’ stereotypes. The tone is thoughtful and sad. It’s about a disillusioned and disappointed generation approaching middle age. The themes may resonate more for a reader of certain generations than they might for another.Although I can’t say I enjoyed it, this was a well written story, with many details that rang true

  • Connie N.
    2019-06-19 08:07

    #1 in the Ballad mystery seriesThis book started out slowly, moving quietly and subtly, much like the small 1980's town it was set in. The whole story is focused on 20 years earlier, for many reasons. We get to know local sheriff Spencer, who is trying to live up to the memory of his brother killed in Vietnam. Peggy, a semi-famous folk singer from the 60's has purchased a house in town and is becoming part of the community. Plus Martha, Spencer's dispatcher, is planning their 20th high school reunion. Things are quiet and mundane until a couple of gruesome and unexplained things happen, causing the sheriff to have to investigate. I didn't love this book, finding it almost too slow in parts, but once the action started happening, the story became much more compelling. I will probably give the second in the series a try now that the cast of characters has been introduced.

  • Cynthia
    2019-06-01 04:57

    McCrumb may be more widely known as the author of lighter fare (also mysteries), but the "Ballad Series" is her best work. They are all set in a fictional county in eastern Tennessee, not far from her homeplace in western North Carolina, and they are deeply rooted in mountain culture as well as mountain music. Sheriff Spencer Arrowood (pronounced "Arrwood," in case you're not from around there and didn't know)is a great character -- a deeply compassionate man who still is able to feel for all concerned but still examine a case without prejudice. And Nora Bonesteel, the "wise woman" who helps him out with her insights, is a woman I would love to know. I have this whole series in hardback on my bookshelf; some titles are stronger than others, but they are collectively one of the best mystery series I've ever found.

  • Debbie Maskus
    2019-06-06 06:58

    This is one of the earlier novels of Sharyn McCrumb, and she has not fine-tuned her approach to writing. McCrumb utilizes folk songs of yore to enhance the story. The main elements of the story are the twenty-year high school reunion, the plight of Viet Nam veterans, and the appearance of a popular folk singer. McCrumb portrays the veteran as if she actually served a tour of duty in Viet Nam. I am not sure that I really like Sheriff Spencer Arrowood. He seems weak and beset with demons. His life is a refrain of old songs from the 1960's and 1970's. This story does not have the extensive casts of players and seen in later novels. The quirky mountain people are absent from this work.

  • Marge
    2019-06-21 06:44

    This book received awards when it first came out in 1990 but I didn't know how it would read 25 years later. It actually works well if you substitute recent veterans for the Vietnam veterans in the novel.The sheriff is someone whose older brother was killed in Vietnam, and his deputy is a veteran who understands the post traumatic stress that affects veterans, possibly the killer. When animals and then a human are killed and carved up, they suspect it might be a returned veteran. Then a woman who ditched her boyfriend for fame before he went off to war is taunted by the possible killer.The book is much too violent for my taste and rather slow moving. This author was honored for a later book also, so I'll try that before deciding whether to give up on her.

  • Lois
    2019-05-31 06:38

    I find it compelling to read a novel where the characters are age-mates of mine and are responding on a personal level to the major events of our common life time. (Wally Lamb does this for me every time). I wasn't expecting this from McCrumb and was so pleasantly surprised. Major themes: the shifting role/status of women, the impact of high school and aging, and most notably- the impact of the War in Vietnam on the traumatized souls of our generation. So this is not simply an Appalachian mystery with an appealing sheriff in Spencer Arrowood. Though many of you read "Peggy-O" decades ago, for those of you who haven't had the pleasure and who have these interests it is still - recommended.

  • Melanti
    2019-05-28 10:55

    I'd pretend to be branching out and reading a non-fantasy novel, but I think people would catch on after the next book.Cosy mysteries aren't my normal reading material, but I enjoyed The Songcatcher last year, so I thought I'd give the series a try from start to finish. I really liked how the ballad fragments worked their way into the plots - that very much is my normal reading material, and it the entire reason I started this series in the first place.The ballad in question is called "Little Margaret". "Peggy-o" though, seems to have more to do with the overriding theme here of people returning from war/fighting.