I would give a lot to be able to write half so exquisitely as Sheila Turnage. After I finish one of her novels, I have to remind myself to be kind to whatever comes next, because the truth is, she is a very hard act to follow.
See what I mean from these little excerpts pertaining to Mo's arch enemy.
"Attila's face would be pretty if she didn't live behind it."
"Only Attila possesses perfect tread. The rest of us ride on the slick memory of new tires."
Turnage unique voice invites you into her world from the get go. It's an invitation you can't refuse because if you do, you know you'll regret it. As impossible as it seems, each book seems to outdo the previous.
If you haven't read Three Times Lucky and The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, you are living a deprived life. Stop what you are doing right now, go get these books and read them!
In this, the third in the Tupelo Landing series, the Desperado Detectives, Mo, Dale and Harm, have to figure out who is behind the thefts in their small town. Mo and Harm are pretty sure it is Dale's father, although Dale insists he is being framed. Even more importantly, they have to figure out who is trying to kill Dale's older brother, Lavender.
There are puppies to find the perfect adoptive pet owners for.
There are enemies to get even with.
Turnage just gets so many things right. She doesn't shirk from exposing the darker side of living in a small community. "Gossips are like snipers, ... They run out of bullets after a while." At the same time, Tupelo Landing and it's inhabitants are so real and memorable, you could easily think of booking a vacation at the inn.
What really stuns me though, is her capacity to craft such glorious characters. Each one is a complex individual with strengths and flaws. I swear, you end up caring for all of them, even the most dastardly.
Here is the thing, even Macon, the escaped convict, and Dale's abusive father, is revealed as a multifaceted human being. Turnage helps us to understand and see the good in Macon that Dale sees. This is why Dale doesn't stop caring for him. When the church is broken into and the clues point to Macon, many people in Tupelo Landing turn on Dale and his family. Dale reflects, "Things are ... wrong," he said. "I can't think it yet, but I can feel it. Right here," he said, laying his hand just below his ribs. "In that place that folds up like a lawn chair when you're scared."
Mr Red claims to have known Dale since his father used to bring Dale by when he was "no bigger than a minute. Macon was a better man then," he said. "But he can't let things go. He's never satisfied. Everything feels like a slight to him. It doesn't matter how much he drinks or steals or makes Rose cry, nothing will ever fill Macon up."
And eventually Dale reveals to Mo, "He did a lot of bad. But he watched over Lavender and ran into that fire same as we did." .... If you don't stand up for the glimmer of good left in somebody, how will it ever be more?"
Ultimately, there are important lessons about life, love and human nature for our characters to learn. Especially on getting even.
"I want to go see Daddy before he goes to trial," he (Dale) said. "I want to thank him for the things he taught me, and I want to say goodbye."
He looked at me his blue eyes serious. "You wanted to get even with him," he said, and I nodded. "I used to think I'd get even with him one day too. But there ain't no getting even Mo. The only even you ever get is inside yourself - when you don't need to get even any more."
The Tupelo Landing novels are loaded with humor and mystery, and at the same time, imbued with universal truths. Life with all its joys and heartaches, is messy business. This Turnage reveals to us, is what it means to be human.