Scarlet at Crystal River
The Wild Rose Press (2021)
Reviewed by Megan Weiss for Reader Views (03/2021)
“Scarlet at Crystal River” is Randy Overbeck’s third novel starring history teacher and football coach, Darrell Henshaw. Darrell has just married the love of his life, Erin, and now he and his new wife are embarking on the Christmas honeymoon of a lifetime in Crystal River, Florida. Their relaxing sweet holiday quickly takes a turn, however, when Darrell’s “gift” rears its ugly head. Darrell is a sensitive. He can communicate with and see the dead. Already, this “gift” has given him more trouble than it seems it’s worth, but he cannot ignore his instincts that tell him they need his help. Together with Erin and a new friend, a young Hispanic man named Luis, Darrell sets out to discover what happened to a couple of migrant children who have been “visiting” him. Something bad seems to have likely befallen them, and their spirits cannot rest until the truth is uncovered. Over the next several days Darrell, Erin and Luis will have to confront some shady plantation supervisors, dodge bullets, and ruffle some feathers in order to discover the children’s’ fates.
“Scarlet at Crystal River” is a wonderful follow-up to Overbeck’s first two books featuring Darrell Henshaw, “Blood on the Chesapeake” and “Crimson at Cape May.” While this third book did seem to start out a little slow, once Darrell stumbles upon the spirits of the two children and starts chasing this new mystery, the pacing of the book really picks up and the suspense builds just enough to keep the reader wanting to turn pages to get answers to their questions.
One thing that is particularly special about Overbeck’s books is that they unabashedly tackle social issues within their plots. Already having discussed racism and human trafficking in his first two Henshaw books, “Scarlet at Crystal River” once again forces readers to confront a particularly pervasive and dangerous social issue. This book, in particular, touches upon the dangers of racism and xenophobia, as well as emphasize the often-ignored plights of the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who are the reason we are able to have such a variety of fruits, vegetables and other resources in our daily lives. Overbeck encourages readers to evaluate their moral standards and consider how much different things could be if only humans could treat each other a little more humanely, regardless of race, wealth, ethnicity, or gender.
“Scarlet at Crystal River” is a rollercoaster of a mystery, hurtling up and down hills and around sharp corners until the very end, when the reader is left slightly breathless, waiting for their hearts to beat back to a normal rhythm.