Category Archives: Novels in Series

2. Novels in Series

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

Elizabeth Craig. Knot What It Seams. New York: Signet Books, 2013.

Knot What It SeamsNo matter how hard she tries, it seems like Beatrice Coleman is never able to relax. Try as she might, just as she gets comfortable, something always seems to get in Beatrice’s way – a phone call, her eccentric neighbor, Meadow Downey, dropping in unexpectedly, or, even worse, a murder. Beatrice thought a cottage in Dappled Hills, North Carolina would be a nice, sleepy little place to spend her retirement. Turns out, she was wrong.

Meadow, the leader of the local Village Quilters guild, is bemoaning the recent decline in membership. She is fanatical about nipping the trend of dwindling attendance in the bud. She informs Beatrice that she has invited Jo Paxton, formerly of another area guild, the Cut-Ups, to join the Village Quilters. Beatrice is wary of the prospect of welcoming Jo to the group, especially after she observes two heated interactions between Jo and members of the Cut-Ups at the Patchwork Cottage, the go-to shop for quilting materials in Dappled Hills. The Cut-Ups kicked Jo out of the guild because she is a narrow-minded bully who only appreciates traditional quilting. Her confidence in her opinion is only reinforced by the fact that she judges for several quilting shows. But Meadow is dead set on extending the invitation, despite Jo’s tendencies to cause trouble. From her very first Village Quilter’s meeting, know-it-all Jo critiques each of the quilters’ work, one-by-one.

In the midst of inviting Jo to the Village Quilters, both quilting guilds are taken aback by the news that Mayor Booth Grayson intends to tax the quilting groups. Since the guilds are generating revenue, Grayson has decided to tax them for the benefit of the town. All the quilters dispute the decision since the bulk of the money they raise is donated to charity. During the town hall meeting, Jo picks a fight with Mayor Grayson, threatening to air his dirty laundry if he doesn’t drop his plan to tax the quilters. Jo is also the town mail carrier, and a very bad one at that. She constantly delivers mail to the wrong addresses and is known to snoop through other people’s post. Police Chief Ramsay Downey manages to diffuse the tension by suggesting that Mayor Grayson will attend the upcoming quilting show before he reaches a final conclusion on taxing the quilters.

The night of the quilting show, Jo doesn’t show up. The quilters learn that in the rainy weather, Jo drove her car off the side of a mountain in a car accident. Beatrice suspects fowl play and she urges Ramsay to investigate further. Many of the town people are struggling to display grief in response to Jo’s startling death. After a bit of nudging, Ramsay discovers that Beatrice’s instincts were correct. Jo’s unfortunate car accident was no accident–someone cut her brakes. With a murderer on the loose, the town of Dappled Hills is left reeling. Contrary to her mission to relax, Beatrice winds up collecting clues and investigating Jo’s murder, but this isn’t an easy case. So many people wanted Jo dead for very different reasons, from her husband Glen Paxton, a mechanic, to Karen Taylor and Opal Woosley, slighted Cut-Ups members, to Mayor Grayson. Beatrice better take care that she doesn’t get too hot on the trail of the killer, lest she become the next victim.

Novelist Elizabeth Craig returns with her offbeat band of characters in this second installment of the A Southern Quilting Mystery. Craig, a cozy mystery novelist, writes an absorbing mystery for readers who like the gruesome elements of a story toned down. “Cozy mysteries” feature an amateur sleuth who lives in a tight-knit small town. The focus is shifted away from the unpleasant details of the murders themselves and onto the detective work, the sleuth’s personal life, and the recurrent characters, or rather townspeople. Read more about cozy mysteries here and here. Knot What It Seams is an exemplary model of the sub-genre. As the name “cozy” implies, there’s much more humor and light-heartedness in Craig’s work than the average mystery. She even includes quilting tips and recipes at the end of the book.

If you’re interested in starting with the first novel in the series, Quilt or Innocence, take a look at our blog post on it here. Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Craig, Elizabeth Spann, 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

Lucy Arlington. Books, Cooks, and Crooks. New York: Berkley, 2014.

Books, Cooks, and CrooksKlara Patrick knows how to put on a good show. She’s a famous TV chef with a newly released cookbook, and the star of Inspiration Valley’s upcoming Taste of the Town festival. Or so she insists – Klara is adamant about being treated as the headliner at the festival. Lila Wilkins, one of the literary agents responsible for organizing Taste of the Town, is happy to think of Klara as the star. She’s a fan of Klara’s work and she’s excited to meet the chef in the flesh. Lila’s employer, the Novel Idea Literary Agency, is backing the Taste of the Town festival and the staff is working hard to make the event a success. However, all the employees at the agency are struggling to juggle the chefs’ enormous egos. Turns out, their pride is more sensitive than a rising soufflé.

Although Lila is won over by Klara’s generosity after their first meeting, Lila’s mother, a psychic named Althea, sees something bad in Klara right away. Althea warns her daughter that Karla doesn’t mind using others to climb her way to the top. At first, Lila places little stock in her mother’s vision. However, Klara’s kind and generous demeanor cracks quickly against any perceived slights to her stardom.  She demands a top-of-the-line gas stove for her cooking demonstration for free, and she sours when she believes another chef’s newly released cookbook will outshine her cookbook at an upcoming book signing at the festival. Even worse, Klara delights in taking digs at her peers.

The night before the cooking demonstrations for the festival, Klara belittles another chef, Joel Lang, and his trio of dishes planned for the demonstrations. In anger, Joel storms out of the party. A short while later an explosion goes off in the kitchen. Firefighters on the scene recover human remains. By process of elimination, Lila is sure that Joel, who is missing, must have died in the explosion. An explosion, as it turns out, that was caused by Klara’s specially requested six-burner stove. Following Joel’s untimely demise, the chefs and the Novel Idea staff try to remain calm and continue with the scheduled festivities, while police hunt for a killer. Suspicions against Klara cloud Lila’s mind. Klara acts unscathed by the accident and expresses irritation that her stove was ruined. But is Klara the murderer or the target? Lila soon learns that all of the chefs have vendettas of their own. Their deep-seated rivalries might just be deadly.

The two voices behind the pen name Lucy Arlington, Ellery Adams and Sylvia May, are back with a third novel in their A Novel Idea Mystery series. Novelist Ellery Adams has been featured here in the past for her Books by the Bay mysteries.  Books, Cooks, and Crooks provides plenty of intrigue and surprises for mystery loves. On a lighter note, the novel also develops the ongoing romance between Lila and police officer Seth Griffiths and introduces a secret admirer for Lila’s barista friend Makayla. Whether you’re interested in mystery, romance, or a new, fast-paced fiction read, the latest Lucy Arlington delivers.

To learn more about A Novel Idea Mystery series, read these posts covering the first two installments in the series. Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Arlington, Lucy, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Annis Ward Jackson. Blue Ridge Parkway Plunge. United States: SunnyBrick Publishers, 2009.

blue ridgeRachel Myers, who readers first met in Blind Malice, has moved back to her Blue Ridge home in (fictitious) Sheppard County, North Carolina.  Rachel feels guilty moving back now, rather than a few years earlier when her elderly father could have used her help, but now she has a good job waiting for her at a high-end retirement community near her hometown.  Donna Matheson, Rachel’s longtime friend, alerted her to job.  Now that Rachel is back in the area, Donna thinks that she has also found the right man for Rachel–Detective Robby Barnett.  This kind of meddling is what old friends do, right?

But the plot in this book centers on a different friendship.  Isaac Starling has been the hired man on the Myers farm for decades.  He was more than a workman, he was a loyal friend to Rachel’s late father, and Rachel is so fond of him that she wants him to live in the family home with her now.  So Rachel can’t refuse Isaac when he asks her to investigate the death of his friend, Jack Whaley.  Mr. Whaley’s body was found at the bottom of a cliff along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The authorities think that his death was suicide or an accident, but Isaac can’t accept that.  Isaac insists that Jack was an upright man, but under questioning by Rachel he remembers a few occasions when Jack bumped up against some trouble.  It’s not much to go on, but Rachel follows those leads–with help from that nice Detective Barnett.

This is the second book in the Rachel Myers Murder Mystery Series.  Readers will enjoy learning more about Rachel’s interests; gardeners will particularly appreciate the description of Rachel’s plans for the gardens around her family home.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Jackson, Annis Ward, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Annis Ward Jackson. Blind Malice. North Carolina: Annis Ward Jackson, 2009.

blindIt’s every adult child’s nightmare: an elderly parent, isolated and confused, mishandles his financial affairs and winds up deeply in debt.  Rachel Myers never expected that to happen to her father Paul.  Yes, Paul was blind, but with the help of a housekeeper and a longtime farm hand and friend, Isaac Starling, he managed his mountain farm.  Rachel, who lives in Arizona, felt some pull to come home, but she knew she would never find a job in the mountains as good as the managerial job that she has in Flagstaff.

Only when Paul dies and Rachel comes back to North Carolina to bury him does she find out how bad Paul’s situation had become.  Rachel learns from Isaac that her father fired his longtime housekeeper soon after a local banker, Ed McKinney, became a frequent visitor to the farm.  And the farm itself has changed–the cattle have been sold and the house and surrounding yard have had expensive improvements that surprise Rachel.  But the biggest surprise is that Paul Myers died in debt to the tune of $230,000.  How did this happen–and does it have anything to do with the surveyor’s stakes that dot the nearby hill?  As Rachel looks into her father’s financial affairs, time and again she is led back to Ed McKinney and his puzzling influence on her father.

This is the first book in a  series of ten novels by Ms. Jackson, all set along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Watch this site for summaries of later books in the series.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Jackson, Annis Ward, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Monique Miller. Nobody’s Angel. Deer Park, NY: Urban Christian, 2013.

nobodyCi Ci Jackson really is no angel.  As soon as she finished high school she jumped into a hasty marriage to a man who had no intention of being a steady husband to her and father to their children.  When that marriage broke up and Ci Ci lost custody of her children, she left rural Duplin County heading for the Research Triangle region of North Carolina, planning to start over.

And start over she did–with a new name, a new husband, and the habit of weighing all relationships based on what she can get out of them.  But she still carries a lot of hurt and anger from her earlier life and this spills out from time-to-time.  As Nobody’s Angel opens, Ci Ci (now calling herself Morgan Tracy) is about to be arrested for attempting to murder her new husband, Will.  While in jail awaiting trial, another prisoner, Desiree, offers Ci Ci/Morgan her friendship and Will visits to say that he has forgiven her, but she rebuffs their kindnesses and the religious sentiments attached to them.  Once she is again a free woman, Morgan resumes her ways, searching with a cold determination for the things that money can buy and a man to provide them.  Only when she meets her match does she come to realize that the path that Desiree, Will, and their church friends follow is the better way.

Nobody’s Angel is the latest book in Miller’s series of novels set in on near the fiction city of Silvermont, North Carolina.  For the earlier novel in the series, see The Marrying Kind and Quiet As It’s Kept.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Miller, Monique, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational

Judy Hogan. Farm Fresh and Fatal. Wethersfield, CT: Mainly Murder Press, 2013.

Farm Fresh and FatalRiverdell has a brand new farmers’ market, and Penny Weaver has jumped on board as a vendor. She and her neighbor Leroy Hassel are responsible for retailing the harvested crop at the market, but the actual farming is a neighborhood affair that involves several of Penny and her husband Kenneth’s friends and acquaintances. Penny, Leroy, and their crew might grow some beautiful produce and yield some lovely eggs, but they’re first-timers among all the veteran farmers with plenty to learn about market politics. Farming isn’t all sunshine and roses. Penny will be forced to get her hands soiled like the rest of the farmers, but she’ll be digging up more than dirt.

Penny’s decision to shoulder a substantial role with the market causes immediate tension with Kenneth, who is not happy to learn that the market will run until Thanksgiving, which will cut into their annual six-month sojourn to Wales (Kenneth’s homeland) by two months.  He’s also concerned that between her teaching and the market, Penny will overwork herself. Then there are the implications of racism. Penny learns from the market’s manager, Nora, that two of the board members voted against Sammie Hargrave joining the market on the grounds that Sammie is just a “backyard gardener” with her flower arrangements. But Penny suspects that the board members in question voted against Sammie out of uglier motivations.

The career farmers are off to a rocky start themselves. Many of the farmers dislike Giles Dunn’s genetically modified fruit and vegetables. Most of the male farmers can’t stop lusting after Abbie Kidd, daughter of Sibyl Kidd, the resident baker and jelly-maker. Sibyl refuses to compromise with the other farmers and throws tantrums when she does not get the front spot at the market. And nobody likes Kent Berryman, the meddlesome and leering poultry agent. Kent lingers around the market under the excuse that Andy Style, a local agricultural agent, hired him to take photos of the vendors. Kent takes pleasure in inserting himself into the farmers’ business and flirting with any and every woman around.

Just as it seems that the farmers might have come closer to resolving their differences, Kent winds up dead. Or, more specifically, murdered. The police believe that Kent was poisoned after drinking homemade punch at Nora’s stand, which makes Nora their prime suspect. Penny isn’t convinced that Nora was behind Kent’s murder. Sure Nora hated Kent, but so did most of the other farmers. Kent was a difficult man to like. Worse yet, the state of the market is in jeopardy. In light of Kent’s poisoning, the state agricultural department is already considering closing Riverdell’s farmers’ market. With Nora’s freedom and the market’s survival on the line, Penny and Sammie start sleuthing.

Farm Fresh and Fatal is novelist Judy Hogan’s second Penny Weaver mystery. Hogan writes a lively whodunit that will leave readers guessing the identity of the murderer to the very last chapter. The farmers’ market setting is particularly apt. Hogan is also a small farmer who resides in Moncure, North Carolina. She used to participate in the Pittsboro Farmers’ Market. Here in the Triangle, farmers’ markets seem to be enjoying an uptick in popularity. There are markets in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Durham, and Raleigh. Quite a few of the cities and towns, like Raleigh, have multiple markets. If you’re local to North Carolina, you can search the NC Farm Fresh website to find markets near your home town. So go buy some farm fresh produce and then hunker down and tuck into Hogan’s intriguing novel. Or read about Hogan’s first Penny Weaver mystery in this blog post and learn more about Hogan herself in this article from The Daily Tar Heel.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Chatham, Hogan, Judy, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont

Sherryl Woods. Ocean Breeze Novels.

  •  Sand Castle Bay. Don Mills, Ont.: Harlequin Mira, 2013.
  • Wind Chime Point. Don Mills, Ont.: Harlequin Mira, 2013.
  • Sea Glass Island. Don Mills, Ont.: Harlequin Mira, 2013.

The Castle sisters–Emily, Gabriella, and Samantha–are the focus of this short, romantic series.  The sisters love the coastal community of Sand Castle Bay, but each went out into the wider world to make a name for herself.  Emily is an interior designer, Samantha is an actor, and Gabi follower her father into the pharmaceutical industry.  But when they hit a patch of trouble–or when a family member needs them–they return to their little beach town.

Each novel focuses on a particular sister who is at a turning point in her life: Emily in Sand Castle Bay, Gabi in Wind Chime Point, and the eldest sister, Samantha, in Sea Glass Island.  Their grandmother, Cora Jane, is a presence in each novel–not quite needing the sisters’ help, but eliciting the sisters’ concern.  But Cora Jane gives much more than she receives, as she offers advice and engages in matchmaking.  Although the Ocean Breeze novels contain contemporary elements such as age discrimination, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and the war in Afghanistan, at heart these are traditional novels.  Unrequited love, the desire to marry and have children, and the impulse to protect family members–and to meddle in their affairs–drive the action in these nicely linked novels.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Novels in Series, Romance/Relationship, Series, Woods, Sherryl

Ellery Adams. Poisoned Prose. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 2013.

Poisoned ProseOlivia Limoges is stuck. Lately, progress on her novel has stalled and Olivia feels uninspired in her writing. At the latest meeting of the Bayside Book Writers, Olivia’s friends and closest critics complain that her protagonist, Kamila is limp and dull. The exact opposite of what you’d expect from an Egyptian courtesan wooing a pharaoh. Fellow member Laurel Hobbs suggests that the band of writers spend the upcoming Saturday together at the annual Oyster Bay Cardboard Regatta, grab some dinner, and then catch the main highlight of the day: performances by the Southern Storytellers Network at the town’s library. Famed storyteller Violetta Devereux has top-billing at the event. Violetta’s storytelling has reportedly inspired artists of all varieties, and the Bayside Book Writers are excited to experience her stories firsthand.

But Olivia doesn’t mention to her friends that she helped sponsor the event. As a wealthy restaurateur, Olivia juggles several irons in the fire around Oyster Bay. A few weeks earlier, Flynn McNulty, Olivia’s former boyfriend and proprietor of Through the Wardrobe, Oyster Bay’s independent bookshop, approached Olivia about the storytellers’ retreat. Flynn and the local paper, the Gazette, partnered to host the event. But when their grant funding fell through at the last second, Flynn appealed to Olivia for a little bit of last minute help. Olivia hesitated at first, but after she encountered a powerful instance of storytelling in a dive bar, she signed on as a sponsor. Just like Laurel predicts, the storytelling event turns out to be a quite memorable night.

Violetta Devereux was born to a poor Appalachian farmer. But her gift of captivating storytelling and her striking appearance helped her escape her roots and make a name for herself as a master storyteller. The night of the storytelling event, Violetta is characteristically hypnotic. She opens with the cryptic story of her own impending death. After the performance, Olivia goads Violetta’s manager, Lowell, for a private interview with Violetta to learn the secrets behind her storytelling skills. Apparently Violetta does not give interviews and she only performs in partial darkness. But, unexpectedly, Violetta consents to Olivia’s request. During their conversation, Violetta mentions a hidden treasure that will die with her. And, as it turns out, Violetta’s meeting with Olivia is her last.

Not long after their conversation, Lowell finds Violetta strangled in the library conference room. Olivia and her current beau, Oyster Bay Police Chief Sawyer Rawlings, begin investigating Violetta’s death immediately. Their primary suspect is Lowell because of his questionable past. But their initial suspicious subside when Lowell appears more spooked than anyone else. He is convinced that a ghost is behind Violetta’s murder, and he fears he might be next. As Olivia and Rawlings examine the case, they find a trickle of odd clues leading them to a surprising conclusion with unexpected interconnections. The secret to Violetta’s death, they learn, resides in her stories and her personal history.

Stories are at the heart of novelist Ellery Adams’ fifth volume in the Books by the Bay mystery series. Olivia recognizes the potential for stories to unite people. Adams also takes the time to develop the lives of the central characters further beyond the one-off murder-mystery plot. Relationships change over the course of Poisoned Prose, some for the better and some for the worse. Characters succeed – Bayside Book Writers member Millay finds literary representation – and other characters struggle – like Olivia who falters in developing her novel. Adams presents a number of intertwined stories, sure to interest many readers. But just as a local fisherman, Captain Fergusson, warns Olivia, “Sure, stories can be like a fire on a cold night. But they can burn too. There ain’t nothin’ can cut deeper or sting with more poison than words can…Words have power, and all things of power are dangerous.” Stories and words have the dangerous power of manipulation over collective memory and history.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Adams, Ellery, Coast, Mystery, Novels in Series