Author Archives: Eileen McGrath

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.

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

Jane Tesh. A Bad Reputation. Scottsdale, AZ: Poisoned Pen Press, 2014.

bad repMadeline (Mac) Maclin loves her husband Jerry, but that doesn’t stop her from worrying about him.  Good-looking, musically gifted, rich-boy Jerry had a short career as a con man.  Since Mac and Jerry moved into a house that Jerry inherited in little Celosia, North Carolina, Jerry has been at loose ends.  He needs to work or he may get into some mischief.  When one of Jerry’s former associates comes to town, Mac starts to worry–about Jerry’s commitment to reform and his commitment to their marriage.

Jerry’s been thinking about the marriage too.  He loves Madeline with all his heart, and he wants them to have a baby.  Madeline is not sure that she’s ready for children–both her detective business and her art career are just getting off the ground, and Jerry still has some emotional scars from his childhood.  Plus, Jerry doesn’t really work and doesn’t want any of his family’s money, so the Maclin-Fairweather family budget is already stretched.  And, they are both busy.  Jerry will play in the local production of Oklahoma, Madeline has a new case, and the whole town is abuzz about a new art gallery that will be opening downtown.

When Madeline tags along to a reception for the new gallery owner, she gets an earful of backbiting comments.  It seems that the local arts community is a hotbed of personal rivalries, long-remembered slights, and sharp elbows.  The new gallery owner, Wendall Clarke, is not surprised by this.  He’s a local boy who went off to make good.  Now he’s back with lots of money and a new wife.  His ex-wife, Larissa Norton, is at the reception, ready with verbal jabs for one and all.  When Wendall is found murdered the next day, Larissa is Suspect #1.  But as Madeline soon finds out, there is no shortage of people who wanted Wendall dead.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Tesh, Jane

Lee Mims. Trusting Viktor. Woodbury, MN: Midnight Ink, 2014.

viktorCleo Cooper has a good relationship with her ex-husband, Franklin Donovan Cooper IV (“Bud”). Cleo is a well known and well compensated economic geologist, but Bud still feels the need to watch out for her interests.  At Bud’s suggestion, Cleo has invested in a company that is exploring for natural gas off the North Carolina coast. This was supposed to be just a financial investment for Cleo, but when the company fires most of its geologists, Bud pulls Cleo in to use her expertise in a way that protects their investments.

Cleo does not relish a helicopter ride out to the drill ship, but the ride itself becomes the least of her problems. The drilling operation is clearly in flux, Cleo gets mixed signals about who is in charge, and soon after she arrives she is attacked by an unknown assailant. Cleo is grateful that her stay on the rig is a short one.

When the body of a man who might have been her assailant washes up on the sands of Atlantic Beach, Cleo is visited by the police.  Cleo cannot be sure the dead man was her attacker but when she looks at his body, she sees something that might implicate Bud in the man’s murder. Soon Cleo is back on the drilling ship–for personal and professional reasons. She’ll soon find that there is more than one kind of treasure beneath the ocean waves.

This well plotted mystery will be of special interest to readers who know North Carolina’s history–both the recent saga of offshore energy exploration and story of how German U-boats prowled along our coast during World War II.

This is the second Cleo Cooper mystery.  The first title in the series is Hiding Gladys.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Carteret, Coast, Dare, Mims, Lee, Mystery, Novels in Series, Wake

Duncan More. A Gift from Poseidon. United States: Beau to Beau Publishing, 2013.

giftEvan and Frank used to share a relationship, but now they are just business partners.  Evan is a painter, and with Frank he owns an art supply shop and gallery in Manteo.  Ten years ago this was all a romantic adventure, but now life is routine and dull for both men.  Frank has a new partner in Raleigh who he visits on the weekends when Evan takes his turn managing the shop.  Evan has not moved on to anyone new, but that is about to change.

When a red Corvette drives Sterling Phelps’s van off the road just north of Rodanthe, the first house that Sterling and his friends come to is Evan’s.  Evans is not impressed with the way Sterling’s friends kid around in his house, but the four young men are good-looking and unselfconsciously pose for some photos.  These photos, especially the ones of Sterling, become inspiration for Evan.  In short order, Evan is producing some of the best drawings and paintings that he has ever done.  Evan feels a connection to Sterling and when the young man returns to Manteo, Evan wants to keep him in his life.  A gay relationship is new territory for Sterling, but he falls passionately for Evan.

A Gift from Poseidon follows the two lovers through the summer and into the new year.  Their relationship is complicated by differences in their ages, experiences, and Evan’s work, and also by their friends whose relationships are less settled. Can Evan and Sterling have happily-ever-after when their friends seem so happy just to live in the moment?

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Dare, More, Duncan, Romance/Relationship

Shannon Hitchcock. The Ballad of Jessie Pearl. South Hampton, NH: Namelos, 2012.

balladNorth Carolina was a very different place ninety years ago, and no one–especially a young girl–could be certain what her future would be.  Jessie Pearl, a farm girl of fourteen, was encouraged by her mother to think about life beyond the farm. Her mother promised Jessie that if Jessie studied enough to be admitted a teachers’ college, she would find the money to send Jessie.

But as The Ballad of Jessie Pearl opens, Jessie’s mother has died, and Jessie and her pregnant sister Carrie are keeping house for their father and Carrie’s husband.  Carrie delivers a healthy boy, but shortly after Ky’s birth, Carrie is diagnosed with tuberculosis.  Jessie leaves school to nurse her sister through this terrible illness, and after Carrie dies, Jessie assumes the responsibility for raising little Ky.  College becomes a fading dream until a sister-in-law shares her books with Jessie and tutors her.  But in the two years covered by this novel, Jessie and her family experience a number of challenges–challenges that could not be successfully met without the family and community pulling together.   Jessie fears a life of scrubbing, cooking, and working the tobacco fields, but she loves these people and must weigh her dreams against her love for her family and her community.

This warm, engaging novel is based on a true story from the author’s family.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Historical, Hitchcock, Shannon

Jessica Beck. Assault and Batter. United States: Jessica Beck, 2013.

assaultSuzanne Hart didn’t see this one coming. Yes, Suzanne knows that sweet, goofy Emily Hargraves has been dating her ex-husband, Max.  Suzanne even helped the romance along, but Suzanne is unprepared when Emily asks her to be the maid of honor in her wedding–which will take place in just a few days. Suzanne wants to say no, especially after she learns that Max’s best friend, who was the best man at her wedding to Max–and who made a scene at the reception–will be Max’s best man yet again. No, she just can’t do it!  But Emily is so sweet and she assures Suzanne that Max is on board with this too.  Suzanne finally agrees.

This wedding sets Suzanne to brooding. She has been dating Jake longer than Emily and Max have been a couple, yet Jake has not shown any interest in a nuptial event.  If anything, he seems to be pulling away.  Suzanne is not aching for another marriage–in fact she kind of likes living with her mother–but she wants Jake to stay in her life.  She’ll have to have a serious talk with him when he comes back to town for Emily and Max’s wedding.

But suddenly that wedding is in doubt.  Jude Williams, a not terribly nice ex-boyfriend of Emily’s, has been murdered.  Emily met with him the night he was killed, and Max’s best man shows evidence of having been in a fight.  Did someone in the wedding party murder Jude?  Once Suzanne begins to investigate she finds a lot of people with a grudge against Jude–the aunt who raised him, the father of one of his previous girlfriends, a married woman with whom he had an affair, her husband.  With so many suspects, Suzanne turns to her friend Grace and their old friend, George Martin (now the mayor of April Springs) for assistance, and readers follow this threesome as they consider motives, check alibis, and narrow their list of suspects.

This is the eleventh novel in the Donut Shop Mysteries series.  Like the earlier books in the series, it includes tasty recipes for donuts and other breakfast fare.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Beck, Jessica, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Brynn Bonner. Death in Reel Time. New York: Gallery Books, 2014.

reel timeSophreena McClure and Esme Sabatier are back in this, the second novel in the Family History Mystery Series. Their client, Olivia Clement, is recovering from treatment for breast cancer.  Her illness has shaken her and upset her family and friends too.  The friends banded together to help Olivia through her treatment, but they also want to give Olivia something special for her birthday—Sophreena and Esme’s genealogical research services.

Olivia is thrilled.  Both her maternal and paternal grandparents died before she knew  them.  She grew up as an only child, raised by her mother and and aunt and uncle who lived next door.  The adults in her life rarely spoke about her father who disgraced the family by running away during World War II to avoid the draft.  Olivia really wants to know about her father–What kind of man was he? Why did he leave? Could he still be alive?

Soph and Esme get to work right away, visiting Olivia almost daily to ask her questions, review boxes of family memorabilia, and bring Olivia up-to-date on leads they found searching the web.  These daily interactions cause the women to notice certain things about Olivia’s family–her son’s great cooking and his dissatisfaction with his legal career; her daughter Beth’s deference to her bullying husband Blaine; and Beth’s unsettled relationship with Blaine’s brother.  Creating an unwelcome distraction is a young filmmaker, Tony Barrett, who is staying with Olivia while he interviews an elderly local man.  He has recently enlisted Beth to help him with the interviews.  Beth enjoys this work, and the old man seems to have taken a shine to her

But when Beth arrives injured and a bit incoherent for her mother’s birthday party, everything changes.  Just as dessert is being served, Detective Denton Carlson arrives to tell Beth that her husband has been murdered.  Soph and Esme (who has been dating Detective Carlson) pump him for information, but little is known about Blaine’s death other than how he died.  The where, when, why, and who did it are unknown.  As the police work on the case, Soph and Esme try to continue their research while treading very gently with a family that has had more than its share of trauma. To take some pressure off Beth, Soph steps in to help Tony complete his interviews.  Little does anyone know how important his work will be to Olivia’s family.

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

For the first book in the Family History Mystery Series, see Paging the Dead.

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Bonner, Brynn, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont

Deborah J. Ledford. Crescendo. Kernersville, NC: Second Wind Publishing, 2013.

cresInola Walela should be a happy woman.  She has established herself professionally as a officer in the Bryson City police department, and as this novel opens she is about to receive a medal of honor for her role in taking down a killer who was wanted in three states.  Her personal life is on the upswing too.  Her romance with Swain County Sheriff Steven Hawk has progressed to the point where the two are living together.  Despite some differences over housecleaning, they seem to be a good match.

But still, Inola worries.  She is not at ease with Steven’s family, who live nearby, and she doesn’t know how to tell Steven that she can’t have children.  Also, the alcoholism in her family haunts her, and she feels somewhat isolated professionally–always a little insecure despite her achievements and unable to confide to her colleagues.  Her new partner, Cody Sheehan, looks up to her, but he is green and a bit of a hothead.  Inola likes him, but she does not have a great deal of confidence in him.  Lori Traeger adds to Inola’s insecurity.  The good-looking redhead, newly appointed to the police force, is the niece of the chief.  Since the Bryson City force is so small, Inola worries that she will be pushed aside to clear a path for Lori to rise in the department.

With all this on her mind, it is no wonder that Inola goes off track when a traffic stop goes very wrong.  In a flash what Cody and Inola thought could be an abduction turns into a firefight and a traffic fatality that leaves two dead and Cody barely clinging to life.  One of the dead is a woman who as she was dying, begged Inola to find her kidnapped son.  Inola is placed on administrative leave, but thoughts of that little boy push her to investigate the circumstances of the dead woman’s life.  But Inola fails to recognize that the person who is most helpful to her–and most attuned to her feelings–is the person responsible for all the death and trauma.

This taut, well plotted novel is the final book in the Steven Hawk-Inola Walela supense series.  Click to see information about the first and second novels in the series.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Ledford, Deborah J., Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Swain

Annis Ward Jackson. High Country Coverup. United States: SunnyBrick Publishers, 2010.

high countryIsn’t it a truism that when a person is murdered, the police always suspect that a family member is the killer?  Then why was it that when Everett Dawson, a wealthy retiree, was murdered no one suspected his newish, stylish, younger wife?  Marcia Dawson wasn’t a suspect because her husband’s body was found hidden on Gurney Styles’ property.  Styles, who had been drinking the weekend of the murder and whose wife was out of town, didn’t have much of a memory of the night Dawson died, let alone have an alibi.  Although the case against Styles was far from airtight, the assistant district attorney prosecuted it with great energy, and Styles was convicted.  But Gurney’s wife, Dulcie, believes that her husband is innocent, and when she asks Rachel Myers for help, Rachel can’t refuse.  Soon Sheppard County’s amateur detective puts her mid-summer gardening aside to help this nice woman save her husband from a life in prison.

This is the seventh book in the Rachel Myers Murder Mysteries Series. Many of the characters in the previous books, including Isaac Starling and that handsome detective Robby Barnett, are present in this book, and Ms. Jackson’s love of gardening comes through as it did in the earlier volumes.

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

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Jackson, Annis Ward, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Larry Rochelle. Back to the Rat. Chapel Hill: Larry Rochelle, 2013.

Back to the Rat has a ripped-from-the-headlines feel: an athletic scandal is tarnishing UNC’s reputation and an NCAA investigation of it is itself a questionable endeavor; shadowy figures who may or may not work for the government drug and kidnap the hero; and locals who hope that a beloved Chapel Hill landmark may be resurrected.  Palmer Morel, a forty-something tennis pro is in the midst of all this.

Palmer lives just south of Chapel Hill and as his tennis fortunes have waned, he’s picked up a dubious second career as a bag man for a local mobster, Chucky Minori. He needs the money, but he needs something more too.  At the suggestion of a friend who notices his down mood, Palmer visits The Body Shop, a Carrboro dance therapy center.  There Palmer encounters Pris Price, who he fantasizes could cure all his ills.  Pris both rebuffs and bewitches him, drawing him into danger and an immense conspiracy.

Readers who know the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area will enjoy Mr. Rochelle’s use of local landmarks as the settings for many key scenes.  And Palmer’s confidant and caper partner, the columnist “Barry Cinders”, will bring to mind a certain News & Observer columnist.  But one need not be steeped in local lore to enjoy Back to the Rat.

Back to the Rat is fourteenth Palmer Morel thriller. Morel’s adventures have taken him across the United States, from Kansas City to Biloxi, to Chapel Hill and points in between.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Novels in Series, Orange, Piedmont, Rochelle, Larry, Suspense/Thriller