Book Review: Chapel of Ease by Alex Bledsoe

51yPkHyWbELChapel of Ease (available September 6, 2016) is the fourth book in Bledsoe’s Tufa series and it tells a powerful and evocative story within a story.  The mystery at heart of both stories carries the reader gently through the prose to the end of the book.  Even readers who have not yet started this series (the first book of which is The Hum and the Shiver) can easily jump into this book without any fear of being lost and/or confused by Bledsoe’s prior books.

This series by Bledsoe revolves around the Tufa, a mysterious sect of people who live in the hills and hollers of the Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee.  The Tufa are all dark-haired with good teeth and each and every one of them is a gifted musician.  They do leave the area and Chapel of Ease tells the tale of one who follows his dream to Broadway.

Matt Johansson is the protagonist at the center of this book.  He is a singer/dancer working in the New York City theater scene.  He is called to audition for a director he’s worked with in the past and once there he meets the enigmatic Ray Parrish of Cloud County, Tennessee.  Ray has written and composed a musical based on a ghost story and a mystery that dates back to the Civil War; the story is of course based in Cloud County.  The music and story captivate Matt and he is elated to win a role in the production.

As the company celebrates their overwhelmingly positive reviews after debuting the show for the press, Ray dies and the opening of the musical is postponed so that Matt can bring Ray’s ashes back to his family in Cloud County.  Once there Matt hopes to solve the mystery of the Chapel of Ease and share the solution with the rest of his curious cast mates.

This is where the story takes off.  Once in Cloud County Matt is warmly welcomed by the Parrish family and viewed with suspicion by others.  He discovers the source of Ray’s story and the well of his talent as he tries to get to the bottom of the haunting mystery.  All the time remembering that Ray felt like the mystery was secondary to the story and the score.

The characters in the tale are so well fleshed out that when you finish this book they will feel like friends you’ve known for a lifetime.  I could swear I’ve been to Cloud County and I long hear the melodies that the residents use to weave their particular brand of mountain magic.  I didn’t want this story to end and plan to read the rest of the series in the order that they were written.

Enjoy this book as you’re sitting on your porch swing with a tall glass of lemonade, sweet tea or a couple of fingers of whiskey.  Listen to the frogs and cicadas sing, let the fireflies glow and imagine that you too are in the hills.  Maybe you’ll hear a lone fiddler or someone strumming a guitar – can you trust that it’s your imagination or is it one of the Tufa?

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