Author Archives: Eileen McGrath

Jon Sealy. The Whiskey Baron. Spartanburg, SC: Hub City Press, 2014.

 “I got greedy and thought I could get away with something.”

Mary Jane Hopewell (born Wesley Hopewell, Jr.) has been a ne’er-do-well since he came back from the Great War.  Unlike his brother who married and became a church-goer and steady worker at the mill, Mary Jane didn’t work much, preferring to spend his time drinking and scheming.  Not long after Mary Jane moves in with a widow, Abigail Coleman, he thinks he has hit pay dirt.  The widow has some of the most productive land in the county, land that she uses to grow corn.  She sells a good bit of that corn to the local whiskey baron, Larthan Tull, but she also keep some to make her own moonshine.  The widow’s moonshine is very good.  Knowing that, Mary Jane starts selling it around the county.  Tull has been looking the other way, ignoring this small scale incursion on his turf, but when Mary Jane reaches out to Aunt Lou, Tull’s distributor in Charlotte, Tull has to act.  The murder of two young men outside Tull’s inn is just the opening move in a bloody chess game between two cold, focused men.

The fictitious Castle County, South Carolina is home territory for Tull and Hopewell, but business takes them both to Charlotte to make deals with Aunt Lou.  This novel reminds readers that state borders are historical lines on paper, but culture and business flow across them–for good and ill.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill library catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Mecklenburg, Piedmont, Sealy, Jon

Rose Seheni. Dancing on Rocks. Chimney Rock, NC: K.I.M. Publishing, 2014.

dancingDinah Haydock has spent her whole life in Chimney Rock, and she’s proud of the role that her family–the Flacks–played in founding the town and building the resort hotel that put the town on the map.  The town, dependent on the fickle tourist trade, has had its ups-and-downs, but Dinah has held onto the store on the main street that she and her husband inherited.  But it’s now six months after her husband’s death and Dinah has made a mess of things.  She’s been speculating on land and putting these expensive purchases on her credit cards.  She’s also been careless driving her motorcycle around the mountains.  When she’s injured on a ride, her oldest daughter, Georgie, comes back to take care of her.

Georgie is a nurse in Boone.  This extended stay in Chimney Rock will allow her to mull over a marriage proposal she’s received from a man she works with, but she’s not looking forward to being back home–too many memories, too many secrets, too much heartbreak.  Dinah’s heart was broken when her youngest child, Shelby, disappeared one night twenty-five years ago.  Georgie and her sister Ali grew up with their parents’ sorrow and with the feeling that their mother loved them less than their lost little sister.  Ali has gone on to a good life–she’s married with two children of her own–but her mother’s detachment and her irrational belief that her lost child will return have cast a shadow over her.  Ali’s husband is in service in Afghanistan, and she has enough to worry about without the awkwardness that comes when her mother enlists neighbors and the police to follow up on the latest Shelby sighting.

Georgie married, but her husband was a good-time Charlie who didn’t want children.  Now as she’s settled into her thirties, she finds herself divorced and childless, contemplating marriage to an older man who already has all the children he wants.  Seeing Ron Elliott, her first great love, again only increases Georgie pain.  Without knowing how it will turn out, Georgie realizes she must own up to what she knows about her sister’s disappearance.  Will her actions bring her family more pain or some healing?

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Mountains, Rutherford, Senehi, Rose

Elizabeth Janet Gray. Jane Hope. New York: Viking Press, 1933.

All her short life Jane Hope Kenard has heard about Chapel Hill, the Southern town where her mother grew up.  Now she is going to live there.  After her father’s death and the complicated problems with his estate, at last Jane Hope and her mother and siblings are moving from Philadelphia to live with her paternal grandparents in North Carolina. Jane Hope thinks she is off to a world of magnolias, persimmons, jasmine, and figs–and a great college that she hopes to attend.  Jane Hope will find Chapel Hill not the enchanted land of her dreams–the great college is just for boys and slavery is not the benign institution she’s been told it is–but she manages to find her way in this new world.  Jane learns to overcome her shyness, check her rashness, and open her heart to not just her grandparents, but her mother’s new husband too.  Although the novel depicts Chapel Hill on the eve of the Civil War, the novel is about the person–Jane Hope–more than the place.  Readers see a romantic, impetuous, tomboy grow into a kind, level-headed young woman.

The author lived in Chapel Hill during the 1930s  where she would have had easy access to the standard published sources about the university and the town and would have heard stories about Chapel Hill life “before the War”. Many readers have enjoyed this novel for its depiction of Chapel Hill places and people.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 1930-1939, 1933, Children & Young Adults, Orange, Piedmont, Vining, Elizabeth Gray

N.P. Simpson. B.O.Q. Winston-Salem: John F. Blair, 2014.

boqFran Setliff left behind an unhappy marriage and a dead-end police job in a small Alabama town to become a Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) agent.  Now she is the newbie on the NCIS force attached to Camp Lejeune.  She thinks that she is fitting in, but as a civilian she still is getting used to the layers of command, traditions, and taboos of this large Marine base.  Being a woman doesn’t help.

When Fran becomes part of the team investigating the death of Ann Buckhalter she is immersed in the base and all the human dramas that play out there. Buckhalter had been a reporter at the Fayetteville paper when her husband was on active duty.  All her stories about the base had been positive, cheerful even, but the base commander and his staff were suspicious of her.  After her husband retired, the family moved to Raleigh, but Buckhalter and her teenage daughter regularly–but separately–came back to Camp Lejuene.  On one such visit Ann Buckhalter dies.  Is her death an accident, or is it murder?  Is her death connected to the sexual assault charges that her daughter made against an enlisted man, or the rumored lawsuit against base commander?  Or does it have something to do with a psychiatrist’s study of military families, or drug usage on and around the base?  Simpson’s complex story and well-developed main character will hold the reader’s attention.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Coastal Plain, Cumberland, Mystery, Simpson, N. P.

Tami Rasmussen. Murmur. Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing, 2013.

murmurSonny Branch has never regretted moving from Nebraska to an isolated  mountain community in North Carolina. No electricity, no telephone service, no running water–no problem! Sonny is a self-sufficient forty-something who enjoys the beauty of the area and the laid-back attitudes of her not-so-close neighbors. Iris and Peter own a large plot of land that they run as a collective farm; Daniel (“Stash”) is a Vietnam veteran who lives in a camper; and Riley, Sonny’s best friend, is kin to half of the county. All have a live-and-let live attitude, and all are a little nervous when people from the outside start to buy up land.

Those outsiders are a mixed bunch. Samuel Fisher (“Fish”) is a semi-retired rock musician who sees the mountains as a good place to unwind. James and Sylvia Graham move from Atlanta to setup a breeding ranch for Tennessee walking horses.  Jude Turner and Hank Greene come to work at the ranch. No one knows exactly why Margaret Beck, a single retiree, has come to the area, and her murder unsettles the community.  Why was she here and who would want to kill her? Although Murmur contains a murder, the story of that murder is wrapped up in a larger, richer story about the diverse people who made homes for themselves in a remote Appalachian community in the 1970s.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Macon, Mountains, Mystery, Rasmussen, Tami

Mark Feggeler. Damage. North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace, 2013.

Ray Waugh does not have a particularly exciting life.  He’s been a reporter for the Citizen-Gazette, Tramway County’s local newspaper.  In his job he has covered more than his share of petty crimes, commission hearings, and ribbon cuttings. The story of those ribbon cuttings is depressingly familiar: land that had been farmland or woods is converted into a high-end, restricted golf community that fails to live up to the developer or the residents’ expectations. Why do they keep building those things?

As Damage opens, Ray is at yet another ribbon cutting, taking photos and making sure that he gets everyone’s name.  Edgar Redmond, the Tramway County sheriff is there, along with two principal investors in the project, Coreen and Evan Wallace, and Redmond’s daughter, Mimi, who is a director at a nearby retirement center.  Little does Ray know that less than twenty-four hours later he and his cousin Billy will find Evan Wallace murderer and Mrs. Wallace near death–and evidence that a high school buddy was at the scene of the crime.  Is this a case of an angry, addicted man taking revenge over an employment rejection, or could it be that the county’s more upstanding citizens had a hand in these crimes? Ray wants to clear his old friend, but at what personal cost?

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Feggeler, Mark, Mystery, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont

Joyce and Jim Lavene. A Finder’s Fee. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 2013.

findersBecause the Outer Banks are sparsely populated we tend to forget that they have been inhabited for a long time.  Native Americans, the ill-fated members of the Lost Colony,fishermen,  later settlers, pirates–they all lived, loved, worked, and died on these barrier islands.  In A Finder’s Fee, one of those early settlers, Maggie Madison, contacts Dae O’Donnell through an amber necklace that’s been  given to Dae.  In her own time (the 1600s), Maggie was thought to be a witch, but Maggie was just gifted, like Dae.  Maggie reaches through time to Dae, asking Dae to gather up her bones and bury them beside her great love, Thomas Graham.

Dae has other things on her mind–like running for re-election and managing her shop.  But the kinship she feels for Maggie sends her to the site of Maggie’s home to collect her bones–where she finds a buried race car and a much more recent body.  The car was once owned by Randal (“Mad Dog”) Wilson, Dae’s opponent in the Duck mayoral race.  The body is that of Lightning Joe Walsh, the man who took such pleasure in beating Mad Dog.  But Joe Walsh took pleasure anywhere he could, and as Dae looks into his murder she finds that many of her friends had ties–some sweet, some painful–to the dead man.  Dae turns to Kevin, the ex-FBI man who has won her heart and her grandfather, a lawman at the time Walsh disappeared, for help, but it is Maggie Madison who is there for Dae in her time of greatest peril.

This is the fifth novel in the Missing Pieces Mysteries series.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Dare, Lavene, Jim and Joyce, Mystery, Novels in Series

Ruth Moose. Doing It at the Dixie Dew. New York: Minotaur Books, 2014.

doing itBeth McKenzie was brought up by her grandmother, Mama Alice, in Littleboro, North Carolina.  Beth went off to college and rarely came back, but when Mama Alice has an accident and requires care, Beth gives up her so-so life up North and comes home.  Once there, Beth feels the tug of memories and traditions, so much so that when Mama Alice dies, Beth decides to remake the family home into a bed-and-breakfast.

Beth has bet all she has–and all she can borrow–on this new venture.  Imagine her horror when a guest dies on opening night.  Miss Lavinia Lovingood was well into her eighties, so Beth believes that her death was natural, if untimely.  But the police chief thinks otherwise–and he’s right.  Suddenly Beth’s new business is in jeopardy even as she and that handsome carpenter Scott Smith put the final touches on the sun-porch-turned-tearoom.

Scott is just one of the characters who readers can hope to see in future novels.  Local pharmacist Malinda Jones, Beth’s housekeeper, Ida Plum, and that antagonist police chief  all look to be characters who could appear in future books.  The fictional setting for the novel, Littleboro, bears a strong resemblance to Pittsboro, North Carolina, the small town that the author calls home.

Ruth Moose is an accomplished poet and short story writer.  This is her first novel.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Moose, Ruth, Mystery, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont

Jessica Beck. Sweet Suspects. United States: Jessica Beck, 2014.

Oh those high school years–our feelings were so strong, and we were so foolish!  Suzanne Hart is not too worried about her upcoming high school reunion.  Since she’s moved back to her hometown of April Springs, she sees many of her former classmates on a regular basis, and it’s old news to them that she’s divorced from her high school boyfriend, Max.  But some of her classmates have embarrassments from high school that are less well known–minor crimes, unwise photo sessions, unfortunate hookups, unrequited loves–mistakes that they hope will stay in the past.

The last thing that any of the revelers at the April Spring High School reunion wants is to be confronted with indiscretions from their teenage years, but Zane Dunbar loves to stir things up.  Zane, a bully in high school, appears to be drinking his way through the reunion, insulting and threatening anyone who crosses his path, including his wife.  When Zane is murdered the next day, there are plenty of suspects–including Suzanne’s good friend, Grace.  To clear Grace’s name, Suzanne drops everything to investigate Dunbar’s death. (She even takes a day off from her donut shop!)

This is the twelfth novel in the Donut Mysteries series. Like the earlier books in the series, it includes recipes for some tasty morning treats

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Beck, Jessica, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Ann B. Ross. Miss Julia’s Marvelous Makeover. New York: Viking, 2014.

makeoverFear not, gentle reader–Miss Julia is not giving up her classic, understated, age-appropriate look.  The subject of the makeover is Trixie, a twenty-something distant relative who has been sent to live with Miss Julia.  Trixie’s “Meemaw” thinks that Miss Julia is rich and uppity, but Meemaw wants the girl off her hands, so she puts Trixie on a bus to Abbotsville. Meemaw hopes that Julia will spruce up Trixie and find her a suitable husband.

Trixie’s visit comes at an inopportune time. Miss Julia and Sam are about to embark on a new adventure as Sam runs for a seat in the state senate.  Just as Sam’s campaign is taking off, he has to have surgery for a cantankerous gallbladder.  Suddenly, Miss Julia has to stand in for Sam at various campaign events.  Public speaking terrifies Julia, but little Lloyd adds moral support by accompanying her and even doing a little speech writing.

At least all is well again with the Pickens family.  Hazel Marie–with help from from James and Granny Wiggins–has her household back in order, with the twins well cared for and Hazel Marie feeling like her old self.  Hazel Marie helps Julia by taking Trixie off her hands.  Under Hazel Marie’s gentle guidance, and in a two-steps-forward, one-step-back process, Trixie begins to groom and dress herself better.  Unfortunately, Trixie attracts the attention of Rodney Pace, a young man on the make–for money.  Pace’s ambitions are focused on setting up a new funeral parlor in town–on land that Julia owns.  Soon Julia needs her full team of family and friends to thwart his plot, and what was to be a quiet summer in Abbotsville gets very hectic even before the Fourth of July fireworks get cold.

This is the fifteen novel in the Miss Julia series.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Henderson, Humor, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Ross, Ann B.