With a setting as unusual as a lighthouse in the mountains of North Carolina, it is not surprising that strange things happen there. The lighthouse is the focal point of Hatteras West Inn, the hotel run by Alex Winston in Elkton Falls. Although Alex would like to keep the atmosphere quaint at the inn, a series of murders has given the destination some undesired attention. Along with his friend and housekeeper, Elise, Alex must get to the bottom of the mysteries occurring at Hatteras West if he is to stay in business. With bizarre guests and a police force that is not interested in his input, Alex’s quick wit allows him to solve the cases and to save the inn’s reputation.
Harrison Black pays close attention to detail. After taking over At Wick’s End, a candle making shop in Micah’s Ridge, North Carolina, Harrison finds his inner-Agatha Christie. Odd deaths begin to occur and, in his opinion, they do not add up. When the police rule them accidents or suicides, Harrison decides to do a little investigating of his own. His determination to set things straight results in justice for all parties. When Harrison is suspected of killing a fellow proprietor, he must use his powers of observation to prove his innocence and to protect his name.
Loganton, North Carolina seems like a quiet mountain town. Folks here have known each other for generations, the downtown is still recognizable to people who return after twenty years away, and the police force consists of just three officers. There are plenty of good people in the town, including the fire chief, the pharmacist, the county sheriff, and Granny Annie, who owns the local dinner. All these people–and more–are touched by growing drug use in the town. The meth trade is a particular scourge, causing teenagers to steal from their employers, friends to betray friends, and the loss of the beloved downtown theater in a meth lab explosion.
In the books in this series, a woman is endangered when she comes in contact with the drug trade in the town. Each woman is young (in her late twenties), a woman of accomplishment and faith, but also a person who is vulnerable to gossip and suspicion because of something in her past. Faith, and the assistance of a good man, help the heroine to survive a difficult time and move into a better future. Some characters from earlier books in the series appear in later books, and readers of the series come to feel that they know this little town and its inhabitants.
- Some Welcome Home. Waterville, ME: Five Star, 2005.
- First Murder in Advent. Waterville, ME: Five Star, 2006.
- Soldier on the Porch. Waterville, ME: Five Star, 2007.
- Missing, Presumed Wed. Detroit, MI: Five Star, 2009.
- Loved Honor More. Detroit, MI: Five Star, 2012.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been in the news in recent years, but the Vietnam War still has its place in the psyche of the generation that came of age in the 1960s and 1970s. This series, set in the 1970s, follows four individuals as they transition from active service into the civilian world. Elizabeth Pepperhawk, an Army nurse, and Avivah Rosen, a former military policewoman are the main characters. Both women struggle with what they saw and did during their years in service, and Elizabeth is burdened with a drinking problem. First at Fort Bragg, and elsewhere in the state in later books, Elizabeth and Avivah, and their friend Benny Kirkpatrick, support each other, confront the demons of their pasts and make new lives, even as they stumble into death and foul deeds. The novels capture the flavor of the era and raise issues that are still with us today.
This trilogy presents elements of the North Carolina’s coastal past in a new ways. Sunday Everette, who grew up among the African-American community on Peas Island, displays the strength, heroism, and sea-knowledge of her community. However, her world changes when the coast off Cape Hatteras becomes a battleground as American and English ships try to protect the ships bringing supplies to the armies fighting World War II in Europe. German U-boats threaten the Allied ships, but one U-boat has a different mission: to transfer Nazi gold and a few special Germans to a new life in America. Sunday becomes involved with one German, and their lives play out in a world of war, greed, and betrayal.
The hope of becoming part of a “church family” has lured many people to fish fries, church yard sales, Bible study groups, and every manner of church-sponsored fundraisers and events. Beatrice, Charlotte, Jessie, Louise, and Margaret were members of Hope Springs Community Church, but it was creating a church cookbook that brought them together. While sharing their recipes, they shared the story of their lives and they pooled their strenghts. As the series has gone on, they have faced illness, separation, and death, all the while supporting each other and valuing the friendship they share. The author, Lynne Hinton, is a minister; her knowledge of, and affection for, women like Beatrice, Charlotte, Jessie, Louise, and Margaret is evident in all the novels.
Madeline “Mac” Maclin is the former Miss Parkland, Parkland being a fictitious city in the North Carolina Piedmont. Mac has left the pageant world behind for a new career as a private investigator. Love (or, the hope of love) takes her to the small town of Celosia (also fictional) where she sets out to solve mysteries and wear down her boyfriend’s reluctance to give up his questionable businesses and settle down.
Celosia is a town with its share of good folks and crazies. Each novel is populated with memorable people from boyfriend Jerry to local bookstore owner Georgia, to Ted Stacy (potential rival to Jerry), to the “Pageantoids”–beauty pageant enthusiasts who are sure that Mac’s coaching could help some local girl become Miss North Carolina. As Mac struggles to get people to take her seriously, danger and humor intertwine.
- Hammer Spade and the Case of the Missing Husband. Timberlake, NC: Righter Publishing, 2006.
- Hammer Spade and the Diamond Smugglers. Timberlake, NC: Righter Publishing Co., 2006.
- Hammer Spade and the Merchants of Death. Timberlake, NC: Righter Publishing Co., 2007.
- Hammer Spade and the Ring of Fire. Timberlake, NC: Righter Publishing Co., 2007.
- Hammer Spade and the Midnight Treader. Timberlake, NC: Righter Publishing Co., 2008.
- Hammer Spade and the Long Shooter. Timberlake, NC: Righter Publishing Co., 2009.
- Hammer Spade and the Inca Curse. Timberlake, NC: Righter Publishing Co., 2009.
- Hammer Spade and the Four Horseman. (2 vols.) Timberlake, NC: Righter Publishing Co., 2010-2011.
- Hammer Spade and the Final Quest. Timberlake, NC: Righter Books, 2011.
I can’t help but like a series that came about, in part, from a librarian’s suggestion. Dorothy Hodder, one of the great librarians at New Hanover County Public Library, suggested to E. B. Alston, already the author of two thrillers, that he put more intrigue into his books. This led Mr. Alston to start a story with a private detective as the main character. The story became the novel that begins this series.
Hammer Spade is a detective and bail bondsman living in Durham, North Carolina. Like many fictional private detectives, his office is in a seedy part of town and his personal life is bleak. The first novel in the series introduces Hammer; his love interest Alonia Lockheart; Shidee Callaway, who is Hammer’s streetwise assistant; and several members of Alonia’s interesting family. These characters reappear in later novels where they are joined by Hammer’s friends, Dave Quigley and Jack Kane. Kane, like Hammer, is a Desert Storm veteran.
Each novel opens in North Carolina, as Hammer is asked to handle a case, but the action often shifts to other–and far more exotic–locales. South Africa, Russia, Kuwait, Tibet, and Brazil are just some of the places that Hammer’s cases take him. Only the books with a full North Carolina setting have individual entries in this blog.
Jersey Barnes was a Marine MP and a government anti-terrorism agent. After leaving government service, she moved back to Wilmington to open up her own security firm. When even that feels like too much, Jersey decides to retire to the less stressful life of being a pub owner. Running a pub, marrying her boyfriend, it’s called settling down. It sounds good, but Jersey is a sociable gal and everyone from her boyfriend to family friends to the federal government wants Jersey to handle just one more case. These cases involve everything from kidnapping to blackmail to computer crimes to drug dealing–and murder. Jersey can handle what the bad guys send her way, but family and friends are another story. Jersey’s pill-trading, poker playing dad, his girlfriend, Fran, a computer-hacker neighbor, and Jersey’s hunky business partner, Ox, complicate her life and add humor and energy to these mysteries. Wilmington itself is a character in the books, and fans of the city will recognize familiar places.
In the first book in this series, Sam Blackman is a wounded Iraq War veteran who comes to Asheville for rehabilitation. A job offer from the head of a local security firm provides him with a new career path, even though his employer dies before Sam’s first day on the job. Sam teams up, professionally and personally, with the dead woman’s sister and together Sam and Nakayla Robertson investigate routine and not-so-routine occurrences in Asheville and the surrounding area.
Asheville’s literary past figures in the novels, and each book is rich in local history and culture. This series nicely weaves the city’s interesting past with contemporary elements such as Sam’s military service in Iraq.