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The Devil’s Tombstone
By Carolyn J. Rose

Tea, flowers and an open book on a table in the garden - Used to feature my book reviews

THE DEVIL’S TOMBSTONE – (Catskill Mountain Mysteries #3)

Cover image of the book 'The Devil's Tombstone' by author Carolyn J. RoseThe Catskill Mountains are rich in folklore, legends, and tales of the supernatural.

Once guided by ghosts, Dan Stone doesn’t disbelieve what can’t be explained. And there’s no logical reason for the patch of blighted ground beside a boulder near Hemlock Lake.

Known as the Devil’s Tombstone, the rock marks the spot where, two centuries earlier, a man murdered his young wife and then disappeared.

As a part-time investigator assigned to cold cases, Dan is troubled by more recent deaths and disappearances. Reviewing files dating back two decades, he sets out to discover new leads. But it’s slow going. A massive snowstorm socks the mountains. Dan’s infant son disrupts his sleep. And dynamic preacher Wesley Falton pitches his revival tent, challenging Hemlock Lake traditions and the spiritual leadership of Reverend James Balforth.

As Dan digs deeper into the past, he suspects his cold cases are linked to a fresh murder. When hard evidence eludes him, he appeals for help from beyond the grave.

As he does, he wonders whether ghosts make their presence felt because we believe in them, or because they believe in us.

The answer may lie at the Devil’s Tombstone.

Cover image of the book 'The Devil's Tombstone' by author Carolyn J. Rose


Photograph of author Carolyn J. RoseCarolyn grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains and graduated from the University of Arizona. She then logged two years in Arkansas, with Volunteers in Service to America and spent twenty five years as a television news researcher, writer, producer and assignment editor, in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington.

Carolyn is  the author of more than a dozen novels, including the ‘Subbing isn’t for Sissies’ series and this, the ‘Catskill Mountains Mysteries’ trilogy.

She founded the Vancouver Writers’ Mixers and is an active supporter of her local bookstore, ‘Cover to Cover’. Together with fellow author and husband, Mike Nettleton, Carolyn is proactive about supporting local (and some not-so-local) writers, putting on mini-workshops for libraries, book fairs and pretty much anyone who asks, who fits into her schedule.

Her interests are reading, gardening, swimming and NOT cooking.

Catch up with Carolyn at her website

Chat with Carolyn on her blog

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Cover image of the book 'The Devil's Tombstone' by author Carolyn J. Rose


“Cold cases?” I shoved the stack of bulging file folders across Sheriff Clement North’s rumpled desk calendar. “If this is your idea of an early April Fools’ Day joke, it’s all irony and no humor. I can’t even handle fresh cases.”

“I admit you thrash around a bit, Dan.” North scratched a bristly eyebrow with his thumbnail. “And you take a few dead-end roads. But you get where you need to be.”

“I get to where someone has to step in and save my sorry ass.” I gave the files another shove. “And when I’m done, people don’t go to trial, they go to their graves.”

“Some might find fault with that form of justice, son. Others might say you’re due a medal for saving on prosecution costs.” North scratched the other eyebrow. “Appeals can go on for years. Never mind how cut-and-dried those two cases were.”

Cover image of the book 'The Devil's Tombstone' by author Carolyn J. Rose


“That’s the way it worked in small towns. Sometimes issues couldn’t be resolved and relationships eroded to single-syllable acknowledgements or mere nods that recognized existence. But mostly folks put arguments aside and went on because that was the example set by parents and grandparents. I doubted any of them would admit it, but I guessed they feared loneliness and isolation and craved companionship- in spite of its imperfections”


“History was littered with examples of those who demanded or sanctioned slaughter in the name of what they thought was right”


“Don’t question so much that you bring your life to a standstill. Question enough to make your life your own”

Cover image of the book 'The Devil's Tombstone' by author Carolyn J. Rose


“Death. Death rode a pale horse. And hell followed.”

In the previous two episodes of this trilogy we found residents of the small town of Hemlock Lake, shaken but seemingly unstirred by a series of bloody murders, which threw suspicion on just about all of them. However, the arrival of itinerant preacher Wesley Falton and his family, has galvanised them into action like nothing which has gone before, bringing them together and uniting them as a community when Falton’s unorthodox, bible-thumping preaching, which had at first seemed such a good idea and an easy money making opportunity, threatens the spiritual leadership of  their traditional church.

Meanwhile, most of the townsfolk have finally taken Dan Stone and his new family under their protective wing, as he returns to the fold, with him paying meticulous attention to the latent undercurrent of feeling and suspicion still emanating from some quarters and working diligently to gain trust, standing and understanding amongst the dissenting few.

A maturing Dan, is surprisingly sensitive to this fragile acceptance and he and wife Camille are going out of their way to include the female residents of Hemlock Lake, in the immediate days following the birth of their new son, having correctly made the assessment that this is the best way to spread the word of their acceptance into the community, to the male population.

There is still some push-back and suspicion, when Dan is taken back into the fold of the local police department, on a part time basis, to try and clear up the relatively high amount of cold case files, in and around the Hemlock Lake area. Especially when he starts asking questions of witnesses who have already been interviewed and are convinced they have told Dan’s colleagues everything they know. Dan has a truly sensitive way of dealing with things however and discovers that he has a real knack of building up trust, by genuinely listening  and talking to people, rather than at them. The clues are there, however witnesses who haven’t been asked the right questions, discover that they knew more than they thought and had previously revealed to the bored, rather pedestrian investigating officers who dealt with the original enquiries.

Dan is busy trying to juggle so many balls at the same time, that once again, his own family comes perilously close to being placed in the front line of danger. Dan’s subsequent actions only serve to bring them closer together, especially when his love and devotion to his adopted older children, is finally recognised and trusted by them, then the circle becomes complete and much stronger.

This has been an excellent trilogy; just long enough to follow Dan Stone’s private life to a satisfactory conclusion, to highlight his work as a serving police officer and as an advisor to a small community; also to showcase beautifully the generic dynamics and personalities of an insular and inward looking society, where ‘belonging’ is everything!

Even with the story going almost exactly the way I thought it might, I thoroughly enjoyed the intricate journey and the social commentary and history, which went along with it.

Be warned, the ending may not be exactly what you might expect from a traditional murder/mystery, but take my word for it, it does work well!

As with any series, there is always something of an advantage if you read all episodes in sequential order, although ‘The Devil’s Tombstone’ works just fine as a stand alone story. Carolyn fleshes out just enough of the background information from previous episodes, without impinging too much on valuable reading time, for the regular reader.

Photograph Of Author Carolyn J. Rose - May 2015

A complimentary download of ‘The Devil’s Tombstone’ was provided by the author, although any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other promotional article.

I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a 4 out of 5.



Written by

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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  • Yvonne, thank you for taking the time (it’s a long book) to read The Devil’s Tombstone and write such a lengthy review. When I wrote Hemlock Lake, I thought it would stand alone. But as time went by, the characters “talked” to me often, and the result was a trilogy. They now seem to feel their stories have been told, because they’ve haven’t turned up in my dreams offering ideas for what could happen next.

    • Hi Carolyn,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and I hope you feel that the review does justice to the book, as that was definitely my intention.

      For such a small community as ‘Hemlock Lake’, it certainly is a busy little place and I guess that now Dan has been taken back into the fold, so to speak, his life is going to become much more humdrum and ordinary.

      To be honest, any one of the three books can be read equally well as a good stand alone mystery and I guess that trying to guage when ‘enough is enough’, is the crtical factor which seems to elude so many writers.

      I really enjoyed this trilogy, thanks for the opportunity to read and review 🙂

  • This trilogy sounds great and I may well get to it at some point (too many books, too little time!!) since I’m sure I would like it. I enjoyed the Paladin series (just two books so far?) enough that I added the first “no substitute” book to my Kindle.

    Maybe I need to be reading rather than browsing blogs! 😉

    • Hi Kelly,

      I know exactly how you feel – Between researching and publishing posts, Twitter, Goodreads, NetGalley, replying to comments and some blog hopping – there never seems to be enough time left for reading!

      ‘The Catskill Mountain Trilogy’ was really good and you’ll be pleased to hear that I did manage to read them all in order, although it did take me much longer than I had anticipated!

      I have all the ‘No Substitute …’ series on my Kindle, thanks to Carolyn’s tireless generosity, although we are talking 6 books here … and you know what I’m like 🙂

      I also have ‘The Hard Karma Shuffle’ in my directory somewhere and if you have read both books in the ‘Paladin’ series and enjoyed them, then perhaps I need to dust ‘Karma’ off very soon. There do only seem to be the two books right now and as Carolyn is currently busy working on something completely different, I’m guessing there may not be any further installments in the pipeline anytime soon.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and enjoy your weekend 🙂

    • Mike and I are glad you enjoyed Paladin. We wrote those books quite some time ago (15 years or so) and doubt we could get back into the frame of mind (goofy?) to write more. But, you never know. I hope you enjoy the Substitute series. I plan to have a 6th book out in May.

  • Ooh you had me with the first two sentences of that synopsis and then there were your Memorable Words and your review.

    A trilogy I’ll definitely make a note of (though at the moment I’m not planning on starting any books that form a series) thank you for featuring this.

    • Hi Tracy,

      Great to have you back in circulation again and I hope this means that you are well on the road to a full recovery 🙂

      Whilst each book is quite lengthy if you look at the number of pages, I must admit that the storyline flows so well and the action moves at such a pace, that I seemed to read a book in no time at all and coming from me, that is no idle boast.

      This trilogy is one that is well worth adding to your TBR list 🙂

  • Thanks for this thorough, thoughtful review. I’d like to look into this trilogy, especially because I’d been on childhood vacations in the Catskills and remember some parts of the area well.

    • Hi Hila,

      Thanks for those lovely words, I really appreciate them 🙂

      When I first began reading this trilogy, I have to confess to being more than a little nonplussed about just how many murders seemed to happen in one such small community.

      However, I was assured by author, Carolyn J. Rose, that this was not within the realms of fantasy for such an insular and close-knit community, such as those found within the Catskill’s region.

      Having since looked at the reporting in some of the more isolated and insular communities, here within the UK, I can imagine that life trundles on in pretty much the same way, the whole world over 🙂

      This trilogy is an excellent piece of social history, as well as being a great, fast-paced, murder mystery series.

      Carolyn has a most readable style of delivery and if you do decide to step into the world of Hemlock Lake, I’m certain you too, will soon be hooked on her writing 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your weekend.

Written by Yvonne