“Below the Tree Line” By Susan Oleksiw: Review/Giveaway

by Kathleen Costa

Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book and a link to purchase it.

First in the series…Grabs Your Attention!
Many times the premier book in a new series starts with the first few chapters introducing the setting, main characters, connections, and even giving the reader a peek at a conflict before the murder mystery gets started. However, Susan Oleksiw’s Below the Tree Line, first book in her Pioneer Valley Mystery, grabs you right off.

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Felicity is startled by an odd sound outside her house, curious since the sound and smell made this different from any one of the animals commonly prowling the area. The next night the repeated disturbance is more deliberate occurring at the same time with the same persistent sound. On the third night she is prepared with her curiosity drastically changing to action. She removes a shotgun from the cabinet, loads it, slowly but deliberately searches the property, and as a warning fires it into the air. No one is seen. The back porch and ground are disturbed. Looking out into the darkness. “ “Next time,” she whispered into the night, “you won't be so lucky.” ”
Image Source Midnight Ink

What a great way to start a book…couldn't turn the pages fast enough! Felicity O’Brien has inherited Tall Trees Farm in the West Woodbury area of Pioneer Valley. The land had been in the family for generations and includes an old neglected orchard, barn, tool shed, and a little farmhouse in need of work. She is tending to a few sheep for local fiber artists, enjoying the company of a single father, and fostering a skittish black Lab named Shadow. She also has a special gift, the power to heal is within her hands. It is a talent within her family, but not to be shared carelessly or for any reward.

Below the Tree Line earns 5/5 Secrets…Unique, Engaging, Clever!

The previous night’s disturbing events led to a 9-1-1 call and a visit from a concerned boyfriend with the gift of a “fur” companion in tow. While discussing various ways to handle the possibility of intruders and the past trauma of the rescue dog, they both see a car, driven erratically, turning away from her driveway, and slamming into a tree. Clarissa Jenkins dies at the scene, and later her cousin Sasha Glover is sure she was going to see Felicity. She needed to tell her something. What? Unknown. But, as things usually happen in threes, it is not surprising that Sasha is later found propped up against a tree…dead. Felicity tries to use her gift to save her, and despite a single sharp pain in her hand, it was too late for Sasha. Oops! Fours? Felicity’s dad has gone missing…and his ramblings are cause for concern.

Wow! There is so much to unpack, and every bit of it engaging, clever, and sometimes intense. Secrets, deceit, a mysterious man, property deals, and a few dead bodies? It seems family secrets, or secrets in general, may need to be kept at any cost, even if it means murder. It's a good sized book at 312 pages, so Susan is able to delve deep into characters, background, connections, and relationships. She’s been a writer for awhile, so I wasn't surprised to see a detailed storyline with well-developed characters, excellent descriptions, and entertaining banter to keep me totally engaged. Beyond the engaging mystery, I was fascinated with discussions about caring for the sheep, managing the woods, and felling trees. I enjoyed the story and recommend it for thriller fans, but I am more partial to the first-person narrative. The “she” perspective is popular, but my engagement increases when an author uses the “I.” It’s just a word, but often I become more invested placing myself in the drama.

Be a Big Fan!
Susan Oleksiw pens two other series that are very intriguing and well worth exploring. In 1993 and republished in 2000, she began her six-book Mellingham mysteries with Murder in Mellingham. Set in the coastal New England village, Cheif of Police Joe Silvia investigates with a humorous perspective and engaging crime as readers get insights into the idyllic town. In 2010, she introduced her four-book Anita Ray mystery series with Under the Eye of Kali. Uniquely set in India, Anita Ray is helping her aunt manage the cozy seaside Hotel Delite, but unfortunately she finds herself running afoul of clever thrillers intertwined with a fascinating look into the Indian culture.

Facebook -- Susan Oleksiw-Author
Website -- Susan Oleksiw, Author

To enter to win a copy of Below the Tree Line, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line "tree,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 1, 2018. If entering via comment please include your email address, if entering via email please include your address so we can ship the book right out to you if you win. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section in Kings River Life and in our mystery category here on KRL News & Reviews. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. And check out our new mystery podcast which features mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors!

You can use this link to purchase the book. If you have adblocker on you may not be able to see the Amazon link:

Kathleen Costa is a long-time resident of the Central Valley, and although born in Idaho, she considers herself a “California Girl.” Graduating from CSU-Sacramento, she is a 35+ year veteran teacher having taught in grades 1-8 in schools from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Stockton to Lodi. Currently Kathleen is enjoying her retirement revitalizing hobbies along with exploring writing, reading for pleasure, and spending 24/7 with her husband.
Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. This book sounds so interesting. I would love to read it. Thanks for the chance to win.
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  3. This sounds really good--I'd love to read it! legallyblonde1961@yahoo.com

  4. Sounds like a fascinating story. Would really like to read.


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