Uncommon Ground is the first in a series by Sandra Balzo. The book centers on a newly separated 40-something who with friends is opening a coffee shop in a seemingly conservative, decidedly religious and mostly Republican small town. We never meet the murder victim since she dies before the book begins, so everything we discover about her character is revealed through and judged by others. Along the way, there is another murder and a series of unbelievable coincidences, so much so that the ending and the way most of the loose ends came together seemed convoluted and even trite. I didn’t feel I was reading the opinions and ideas of the various characters but rather those of the author, which may or may not be the case. So many characters held the same opinions and ideas on what constituted moral rightness that at times the reading was preachy and the level of excitement and tenseness were not enough to compensate. The writing lacked any real tension or palpable excitement even during the cozy standard confrontation with the murderer. I think in the end the book was far too short to accomplish everything it set out to do, there was more squeezed in than necessary, the character development was nothing more than a list of actions. My final statement may be a personal pet peeve, but the author never offered a physical description of the lead character though felt it was important that I knew about her moral sympathies. Lacking is the word that best sums up this debut.