In the TAYLOR COUNTY series, Deborah Coates has blended a wide-open prairie landscape, eerie magic, and great characters to create a memorable rural fantasy. She has said that Strange Country is the final book in the series.
Hallie Michaels has moved into the Pabahar place and finds herself staying inside its protections more often than she cares to admit. She knows one day there will be another reckoning with Death, and she’s in no rush to have that conversation. But cryptic messages start showing up, telling her the time to face her fear is approaching.
Meanwhile, Deputy Boyd Davies — Hallie’s maybe-boyfriend — responds to a call about a prowler only to have the woman shot dead by a sniper right in front of him. When the police comb her house, they find an older body and some unusual stones. A mystery unfolds involving several local citizens and a conflict that began decades before.
TAYLOR COUNTY is one of those series where you can say the characters feel like old friends, and it’s not just a platitude. I really feel like I’ve gotten to know these people over the course of the trilogy and it was a joy to “see” them again. There’s a dinner-party scene early in the book that is just beautiful in the way it brings together most of Hallie’s loved ones into one place, highlighting her development since book one when she felt so alone and out of step. There’s also a sweet love scene that makes it clear how important Boyd has become to her. One might sometimes wish for the characters to talk about their feelings a little more on-page, but that’s just not the way these stoic characters are — you have to read between the lines, and watch their actions. Coates has a warm touch, too, with the scenes involving dogs; there are several canines in the book (both natural and supernatural) and they’re all wonderful.
The eventual resolution of the plotlines occurs a bit too much off-screen, which detracts from the impact some. And, too, the magical elements don’t feel like they reach a peak in this final book, as one might expect. In hindsight, it feels like they peaked in book two.
That said, maybe that’s part of the point. The series isn’t really about the “epicness” of the magic but about character and place, and Coates delivers on those two fronts in spades throughout all three books. I’m sad that there will be no more in this series; Taylor County feels big enough to hold more stories, and I’ll miss Hallie and Boyd something terrible.
But as Ole reflects, the murder rate is starting to get noticeable. And Deborah Coates does what all writers want to do: she leaves us wanting more.