Category Archives: Novels Set in Fictional Places

5. Novels Set in Fictional Places

Elizabeth Spann Craig. A Body in the Backyard. United States: Elizabeth Spann Craig, 2013.

abodyinthebackyardOctogenarian Myrtle Clover has finally gotten her yardman, Dusty, and his wife Puddin over to work on her house in the fictional town of Bradley, North Carolina. Puddin might not make a great housemaid but Dusty does a good job on the yard, whenever they make it over to Myrtle’s. So, Myrtle’s excitement is dampened just a bit when Dusty discovers a body in her backyard. Of course this provides Myrtle with the perfect excuse to get some information on the case. But, it also gives Dusty and Puddin an excuse to stop their work. And Myrtle can’t help but be disappointed in herself for having no idea that a murder occurred in her own backyard.

Myrtle’s neighbor and closest friend Miles soon identifies the victim as his cousin Charles. Cousin Charles isn’t the kind of cousin you claim, he’s the black sheep that you hope never gets mentioned. Myrtle and Miles suspect that Charles had come back to Bradley to beg Miles for money. But Myrtle and Miles soon discover that there are a few people who would have had a motive to kill Cousin Charles, including a cuckolded husband, a scorned woman, and a protective father. When the protective father, Lee Woosley, turns up murdered in Myrtle’s backyard as well, Myrtle’s son, Red, starts to be concern for her safety at the house. In order to scuttle Red’s plan to send her to Greener Pastures Retirement Home, Myrtle knows she must solve this mystery fast. In their search for the murderer, Myrtle and Miles discover that Miles wasn’t the only one hiding his connection to Cousin Charles–there may be even more suspects to consider.

A Body in the Backyard is the fourth title in the Myrtle Clover Mysteries. Myrtle Clover has an uncanny talent for finding bodies in her small town, so it’s a good thing she also has the ability to solve these crimes.

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

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Craig, Elizabeth Spann, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Elizabeth Spann Craig. Death at a Drop-In. United States: CreateSpace, 2013.

In the fictional town of Bradley, North Carolina, Myrtle Clover isn’t looking forward to attending “society matron,” Cosette Whitlow’s drop-in. Myrtle has only agreed to attend because her best friend, Miles, has asked her to come and deter the widows from descending upon him. As a lady in her 80s, Myrtle might not look too threatening, but at six feet tall and toting a cane, she can intimidate when she wants.

Cosette is always mentioning to Myrtle’s son Red how much her own mother enjoys living in Greener Pastures Retirement Home. If not talking about that, she’s bragging on how advanced her grandson is or trying to take over someone’s charity position. She kindly lends a hand throughout all of town, but there is nothing kindly about the way she deals with people. Myrtle and Miles hope to show their faces and head out soon afterwards. But, when the two walk in on a small spectacle in the kitchen involving Cosette, Felix, and an enraged Sybil, Myrtle’s interest is peaked. Is there an affair going on between Felix and Cosette?

However, things soon settle back down into boring sophistication and Miles and Myrtle are ready to make their exit. When the two can’t find Cosette to thank her, Cosette’s husband Lucas enlists them to help search her out. Myrtle discovers Cosette in the yard; she’s been hit over the head with a croquet mallet and Red, the chief of police, is called in. There are many suspects in this case and Myrtle is determined to investigate and write up the story for the town newspaper. There’s a new cub reporter in town though who might stand in her way. But, when a second murder occurs, Myrtle starts putting information together, and it looks like she’ll either end up with the scoop or in a grave of her own. How will Myrtle Clover work her way out of this one?

Death at a Drop-In is the fifth book in the Myrtle Clover Mystery series. Myrtle Clover remains just as sprightly as ever and is written proof that the young aren’t the only ones who can be the center of an exciting story.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Craig, Elizabeth Spann, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Donna Ball. High in Trial. Mountain City, GA: Blue Merle Publishing, 2013.

highintrial Book seven in the Raine Stockton Dog Mysteries opens in 1992 with a car wreck that was never reported, although later one of the drivers, Jeremiah Allen Berman, was arrested for a robbery-turned-murder. This leaves readers wondering what this scene will have to do with present-day events.

Continuing on, we discover that our heroes, Raine and her golden retriever Cisco, are in Pembroke, South Carolina for the opening weekend of AKC competitive agility trials. Raine and Cisco have trained all winter. They are up for their first event and the day is looking promising, especially since Miles, Raine’s boyfriend, has come out to support them. All is well until they reach the hardest part of the course for Cisco, the pause table, where a dog is required to “…come to a screeching halt on the table, stay perfectly still for five seconds, and then take off like lightning again on cue.” Cisco nails it! But, a miscalculation by either him or Raine leaves Raine flat on her back with a nosebleed. Nevertheless, Raine pushes through the rest of the course and the two earn their first blue ribbon of the competition. This victory is soon overshadowed by the discovery that one of the other competitors was brutally murdered in the night. It begins to look like corruption has infiltrated this world of sportsmanship.

Back home in Hansonville, North Carolina, Buck Lawson, Raine’s ex-husband, is acting sheriff since Sheriff Roe Bleckley, Raine’s uncle, has decided to retire after a heart attack. Roe’s mail still continues to be sent to the sheriff’s office and Buck stumbles upon a notification of the release of a felon named Jeremiah Berman. Such notifications are not routine. Buck’s interest is piqued; he soon learns that it was Raine’s father, Judge Stockton, who wanted to keep tabs on when Jermiah Berman was released. In his search to find out why Judge Stockton would have wanted this information, Buck learns that Berman had it out for Stockton and, with the judge’s death, has now turned his rage upon Raine. Reasoning why will lead to the unearthing of secrets that are sure to change Raine’s world forever.

In this seventh book in the series, the chapters alternate between Pembroke and Hansonville; readers will be engaged by both stories and looking forward to the discovery of how the two intertwine.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Ball, Donna, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

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

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

Sallie Bissell. Deadliest of Sins. Woodbury, MN: Midnight Ink, 2014.

Deadliest of SinsA simple runaway or a more sinister case of kidnapping? Sixteen year-old Samantha Buchanan was last seen driving home late one night from a babysitting job. Her stepfather Gudger’s car was found on the side of Highway 74 with the keys in the ignition and Samantha’s wallet and purse inside the car. But there was no trace of Samantha and no sign of a struggle that would indicate her disappearance as foul play. Campbell County cops are sure that Samantha must have run off with her boyfriend. Gudger, ex-military and a former cop, close with his fellow officers, has supported this conclusion. Samantha’s younger brother Chase is driven by his intuition that Samantha didn’t intentionally flee from their rural town, bordering Charlotte and Gastonia. He’s convinced that Sam was targeted and taken, and he has an awful feeling that Grudger was somehow involved.

Meanwhile, at the whim of North Carolina governor Ann Chandler, special prosecutor Mary Crow finds herself temporarily and involuntarily reassigned to Campbell County. The governor wants Mary to investigate the recent murder of Brandon Taylor, a young gay man who was brutally beaten and his body dumped in the county. One year earlier, another gay man was found murdered in a nearby county. Governor Chandler believes that the infamous Reverend Trull might have some connection to the attacks – or at least, she would like to believe so. A video of one of Reverend Trull’s homophobic sermons, proclaiming that gays and lesbians should be separated and contained, has gone viral on YouTube. Ever since, the governor has struggled in negotiations to bring businesses to the state. She’s concerned about an upcoming meeting with Ecotron Corporation, a company that could offer 500 new jobs to Campbell County. With Reverend Trull in the headlines, Governor Chandler is worried that he will scare off their best chance to improve the county’s deplorable ten percent unemployment rate. She hopes to mitigate Reverend Trull’s extreme sermons and high-profile with the assurance that special prosecutor Mary Crow is examining traces of homophobic conspiracies down in Campbell County.

Mary isn’t interested in digging through the Taylor case – especially since she’s sure the local DAs will feel threatened by her presence, encroaching on their turf – and she is less certain than Governor Chandler that a case can be brought against Reverend Trull. Hateful though his words may be, his sermons are still protected speech. As the Governor’s special prosecutor though, she’s prepared to fulfill her obligations. Before Mary departs, she discovers Chase Buchanan sitting on her doorstep. He managed to hitch a ride on a peach truck from Campbell County to Asheville. After reading Mary’s name in the Campbell County Clarion, he is set on seeking out Mary. Chase implores Mary to track down his missing sister. He fills her in on all the details of Samantha’s disappearance. However, Mary again is skeptical; she appreciate Chase’s concern about his sister, but from her outside viewpoint, her instinct tells her that Sam escaped from a dead-end town and a lousy stepfather.

But Mary ought to tread with caution. There’s a nickname for Highway 74: la carretera del dolor, “the road of sorrows.” The area’s Latino population named it such because “it carries them far from home to a lot of hard work and pain.” There’s something darker than she expects linked to Highway 74 and Campbell County. She better keep her wits sharp, lest she fall prey to the disturbing truth herself.

Sallie Bissell writes another gripping thriller for her Mary Crow series. Deadliest of Sins is the sixth book in the series, and like the first five, it covers some hard territory. Read about Bissell’s other novels in past blog posts here. Mary Crow is a tough, level-headed protagonist with plenty of moxie, and the plot lines are reminiscent of cases you might see on Law & Order, and its spinoffs, Special Victims Unit and Criminal Intent. Readers who favor suspense and mystery are sure to get hooked on Mary Crow, but they might be haunted by the fictionalized events that seem all too real in Bissell’s unflinching reflection of the dark side of human nature and its rapacious hunger for flesh and profit.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Bissell, Sallie, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Suspense/Thriller

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.

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.

Leave a Comment

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

Trudy Krisher. Fallout. New York: Holiday House, 2006.

FalloutStarting high school can be an unnerving yet exciting experience, full of change. For Genevieve Hardcastle, a teen in the 1950s, starting high school is beyond intimidating. That feeling is made all the scarier by the fact that her only friend, Sally Redmond, has moved far away, up to New Jersey. Genevieve likes being a wallflower. Genevieve doesn’t want to be embarrassed, and attention is the surest route to embarrassment. Last year, Genevieve had a taste of gossip and backbiting when she helped Sally in her campaign for class secretary. After witnessing Janice’s smear tactics, the already shy and awkward Genevieve has become even more cautious. She aims not to stand out, lest Janice Neddeger or one of her sidekicks catch her in the crosshairs and single her out in front of everyone.

Her mother, Martha, wishes Genevieve was more of a “go-getter” kind of girl. Martha (a homemaker and president of the town of Easton’s Welcome Wagon) encourages Genevieve to make friends, but to no avail. Even if Genevieve wasn’t quiet, she blames her parents for making developing friendships a little difficult. Between the plastic-covered furniture, her mother’s over-eager, hyper-positive attitude, and her father’s suspicious lurking around the house, Genevieve observes that her family and its dysfunctions aren’t as wholesome as Ozzie and Harriet. Genevieve’s father, George, is a solemn actuary, obsessed with disaster and disaster preparations. He also hangs on Senator McCarthy’s every word.

The coastal town of Easton is used to its familiar, traditional ways. The locals, Genevieve included, know when to sense an impending hurricane and how to prepare, for instance. They’re pro-American and pro-atom, and anti-Red. But all that changes when a new family moves to town. The Wompers — Harry, Patricia, and Brenda — are from California, although from the way Easton folk receive them, it seems they might as well come from outer space. The townspeople of Easton are taken aback by the Wompers’ strange ideas and expressions – their belief in raw food, their decision to eliminate sugar from the drug store they purchased, their atheism, and, most of all, their challenge of the Civil Defense curriculum with claims that the atomic energy is dangerous.

The Wompers don’t fit the standard mold. Mrs. Womper is a physicist who gives little regard to dressing in the style of all the other housewives; she favors sandals over heels. Before they moved, Mr. Womper worked in Hollywood, in the film industry. Brenda is outspoken and brave. She isn’t afraid to question her fellow students, or even her teachers. The Wompers’ open-minded skepticism and differences are frowned upon by Easton, and by Genevieve’s parents. But the girls bond after Genevieve’s algebra teacher assigns Brenda as Genevieve’s tutor.  They’re a pair of opposites. Genevieve is mesmerized by Brenda’s straightforward bravery; she describes herself as a hermit crab, self-protective and scuttling out-of-sight. Brenda lives by a set of “Rules for Thinking,” to question any belief, whether seemingly true or false, with detachment. Her dogma prompts sensitive Genevieve to eventually challenge Brenda’s scientific view of the world.

Fallout is set against the political atmosphere of the Cold War and the constant threat of an atomic bomb scare, and the literal atmosphere of a coastal North Carolina town during the thick of hurricane season. Trudy Krisher wisely plays the political and meteorological atmospheres against the distress and distrust of new people and new ideas in a traditional small town. The novel develops Genevieve’s character believably. At the beginning of the novel she’s a shrinking violet. By the end she isn’t fearless, but she’s less afraid, and her awareness of the world and powers of introspection have been honed. While the book cover indicates that Fallout is marketed for young adults, Trudy Krisher’s novel is a thought-provoking read, perfect for the upcoming summer.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2000-2009, 2006, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Historical, Krisher, Trudy, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Kim Church. Byrd. Ann Arbor, MI: Dzanc Books, 2014.

ByrdAddie Lockwood notices Roland Rhodes the first day he appears in her fourth grade class. He’s the new boy in town, the son of a doctor. Roland doesn’t notice Addie until his senior year of high school. By then, she knows all sorts of personal details about him. Roland is a talented musician. He favors the Blues. Impressed by Addie’s outspoken intellect during an elective class (“The American Counterculture”), he invites her over to write lyrics to accompany a song. They quickly become friends, but after an awkward encounter, they drift apart just as quickly. Roland places a wedge between them, and Addie accepts it without much of a fight. They never write a song. After graduation, they part ways, for what seems like good.

Roland pursues his dreams of musical stardom in Los Angeles and Addie attends college in Greensboro, nearby to her fictional home town of Carswell. Although their lives are set on two different tracks, Addie refuses to give up on the idea of Roland. Now in her early thirties, she gets Roland’s contact information from high school friends and calls him up.

His musical career, as it happens, hasn’t panned out. He still plays, but he works for a company that constructs movie sets. Roland struggles with the practical details of life, like making rent or picking people up from the airport on time. All of his friends, Addie included, have heard the story of his childhood swimming pool accident and the resultant head injury that left him not quite right. Addie, meanwhile, has remained working at the same secondhand bookstore in her college town. Emboldened by a bottle of Beaujolais, she arranges to visit California after she and Roland catch up over the phone. During the visit, Addie becomes pregnant. On a promptly scheduled return trip, she informs Roland in person that she will terminate the pregnancy. But mysteriously, the abortion fails and Addie gives birth to a son that she names Byrd. She puts up Byrd for adoption without notifying Roland. The adoption colors Addie’s life well into her middle age. Surrendering her son becomes her and Roland’s most life-altering secret.

Byrd is Kim Church’s first novel. The novel focuses on the two main characters from childhood to middle age, showing their influences on each other’s lives. The story concentrates primarily on Addie and Roland’s perspectives, with imaginary letters from Addie to her forfeited son, Byrd spliced in between. Church represents the pieces of Addie and Roland’s lives with prose that feels simultaneously removed yet intimate. Characters are observed with a detached eye from the third-person, but their emotions and inner thoughts are conveyed openly on the page. Addie is wistful, longing first over Roland, and later over Byrd. As a daughter, she shies away from her parents, keeping them at arm’s length. As a sister, she doesn’t have much contact with her brother, Sam, following her high school graduation. As a mother, she loses the chance to experience motherhood with Byrd. Addie, Roland, and the other characters contend with relationships and love, accepting regret and shame, and coming to terms with loss.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Church, Kim, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship