Prather's pick for May 23

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"On Tall Pine Lake," this week's novel for adults, is Dorothy Garlock's 50th book.

As the novel opens, Nona Conrad is away from her apartment so when the mail carrier arrives with a package, Mr. Dryden, the neighbor, accepts it for her.

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Nona hasn't expected a package. After all, she, sister Maggie and friend Mabel Rogers are about to leave for the Ozarks.

Inside the package is still another one, and there's a letter taped to the top. It's from Nona's half-brother Harold. Things have been strained between them. The executor of their father's will, Harold has been promising to settle the estate soon. He's been holding onto some property for five years.

Nona suspects he has gotten a loan against it.

In the letter, Harold begs Nona not to open the package -- not under any circumstances. He wants her to hold onto it until she hears from him. He also says he will have the estate money for her and Maggie soon.

The temptation to open the package is great. After all, Harold has never given them the time of day before, but Nona just puts it in the bottom of a suitcase.

Nona and Maggie have had a tough time of it since their parents died four years ago. Mabel, a widow, stepped in and helped care for Maggie while Nona worked. So now she's going with them to Tall Pine Lake, a fishing camp near Home, Arkansas. Maggie will manage the camp for the summer.

So the Conrads and Mabel have already left town when two well-dressed men, one with a bald head and black mustache, show up at Mr. Dryden's apartment. They're inquiring about the package. The men say they represent the Government Postal Department and are checking to see if anyone signed for the package. The government is "fussy" about things like that.

Before the men leave, they have found out Nona's name and her whereabouts.

Days later, while Nona is shopping at the grocery store in Home, she bumps into a bald-headed man. He takes hold of her arm and calls her by name. She pulls loose, but on the way home, a black vehicle comes up behind her and then passes. Again, it's the bald-headed man. It's eerie. Nona is rattled by the time she reaches the camp. A cast of interesting characters is associated with Tall Pine Lake. Russell Story is an old man who lives in a battered trailer and takes care of the boats and bait. LeAnn Leasure is a pregnant lady who is staying in one of the cabins while her husband is away.

Simon Thomas Wright has just bought the camp. He's a tall, handsome man. So is Jack Grant, a cowboy, who Simon has hired to help out. And there are others, too.

Simon tells Nona that he's going to keep an eye on her. Why? Just what's going on? The novel has lots of twists and turns.

"On Tall Pine Lake" is published by Warner Books (2007). It costs $22.99 in hardcover. ISBN 10:0446-57791-X.

Copyright Diane Prather, 2007. All rights reserved.

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