Harvest of Ruins by Sandra Ruttan

Harvest of Ruins by Sandra RuttanAll the memories and all the lies were like that game, Jenga. Pull out the wrong one and they’d all come crashing down. – Vinny Shepherd

Detective Sergeant Hunter McKenna’s world is crashing down around her. Two teenagers have been found dead under suspicious circumstances, and McKenna’s investigation into the deaths leads places some would rather she not go.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, her former partner, Tom Shepherd, has been shot and killed by his own daughter, Vinny. It would be an upsetting investigation under any circumstances, but added to the mix is that McKenna was once involved with Shepherd, an involvement that some say lead to the collapse of his marriage.

Shepherd’s ex-wife, Rose, is one of those people, and she blames McKenna for his death. Rose claims that McKenna’s questioning of the Shepherds’ daughter, Vinny, about the deaths of her friends pushed the emotionally fragile girl over the edge. With the help of her powerful new husband, Rose brings pressure to bear on the District Attorney, forcing him to pursue a case against McKenna for negligent homicide.

Now the only person that can help McKenna is the very person she’s accused of having driven to murder: Vinny Shepherd.

All of Evelyn “Vinny” Shepherd’s life she’s been caught in a tug-of-war between her parents, her mother wanting her to be the perfectly mannered “girly girl” dressed in pink and bows, with her father supporting (if not outright encouraging) her natural tomboy inclinations. Over the years she’s slowly lost her sense of self, leaving her open to manipulation by those who do not have her best interests at heart. Unfortunately it takes tragedy for her to come to the realization she needs to take back control of her life…but is it already too late?

Intricately layered, Harvest of Ruins works well on several levels. On the surface it’s a taut legal thriller that interweaves the proceedings currently unfolding in the courtroom with the events that brought McKenna to this point. On a deeper level, however, Harvest of Ruins is a psychological study of the devastating effects of guilt, both for actions taken as well as those not taken.

Author Sandra Ruttan’s writing is some of the smoothest and most realistic you will ever come across. Everything from the setting to the dialog to the courtroom process rings true – and as an attorney I am hard on courtroom scenes, trust me – and the characters are so finely drawn it feels as though you’re reading about people who could be your friends or neighbors. Indeed, Harvest of Ruins will not only entertain you, it will cause you to take a lingering look at those around you, forcing you to wonder what may be going on with them just beneath the surface, waiting to boil over.

You don’t want to be one of those left feeling guilty because you didn’t do something, so make sure you pick up this book and give it a read.

Harvest of Ruins is available from Snubnose Press at Amazon and Smashwords.

Sandra Ruttan is the author of Suspicious Circumstances, What Burns Within, and The Frailty of Flesh. Her short fiction has appeared in Pulp Pusher, Crimespree Magazine and Out of the Gutter. She’s also an editor with Spinetingler Magazine and Snubnose Press. To learn more about Sandra, visit her website.


  • Sandra Ruttan

    August 9, 2011 - 9:50 PM

    I don’t know if it’s inappropriate for me to comment before you’ve written your review, Sabrina, but you can always come back and read this later. 🙂

    I wanted it deliberately vague at the beginning, about the shooting. Your emotional response later is the kind of reaction I was after. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to read the book in a different way, but I hoped people would have that ‘OMG’ moment.

    This is something I’ve really come to understand in a different way, particularly because of our custody situation, and watching other people go through it. Sometimes, the emotional response of kids is really not what you’d expect. I know a boy who does not want to live with one of his parents. He lives with the other parent and that’s what he wants, and I know this boy well enough to feel confident saying that’s where he wants to live. But he cries every time the non-custodial parent drops him off, and a big part of it is how that parent handles it. The crying validates the parent, and makes them feel they’re missed and that the child is unhappy going back to the other parent. The reality is, the parent manipulates the child to the point that they’re a wreck and can’t handle the transitions.

    I’m really pleased you enjoyed the book. 🙂

    • Elizabeth A. White

      August 10, 2011 - 2:33 PM

      I guess my subconscious filled in the vagueness from the get go. Funny, just as Sabrina would never have guessed it would go one way, it never occurred to me it could go any other. A tribute to your writing, I’d say, that people can read so much into the story based on their individual perceptions.

      • Sabrina Ogden

        August 10, 2011 - 3:14 PM

        I did have an OMG moment… and the more I read, the more difficult the loss was for me. I agree with Elizabeth in that our different perceptions on what was happening is a tribute to your writing.

  • Sabrina Ogden

    August 9, 2011 - 11:51 AM

    I’m not sure what I missed at the beginning of the book, but the scene didn’t make it clear in my mind that Tom was shot and killed. Then when it was mentioned in the hearing… I had an overwhelming sense of grief. I think because Rose reminds me of my stepmother that I never would have guessed that Vinny would have chosen to kill her father… but I understood at the end.

    I enjoyed the way Sandra wrote this. This is an amazing book… I’m afraid my review will be difficult to write.

    Excellent review, Elizbeth.

    • Elizabeth A. White

      August 10, 2011 - 2:22 PM

      Maybe difficult, but as always will be great I’m sure. 🙂