Category Archives: Mystery

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Laura S. & William L. B. Wharton. The Mermaid’s Tale. Mt. Airy, NC: Broad Creek Press, 2014.

themermaid'stale“No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit” ~ Helen Keller

Jock Avery is back, along with his new friends Lynna and Chip Woodward. During their first summer together, the trio solved the mystery of Monsters Below Longleaf Lake in Moore County, North Carolina. Now there is a new mystery to discover. Seven-year old Chip, from his dock, has spotted a mermaid in the lake while Lynna and Jock are having a sailboat race. Lynna’s boat almost hit her! Although he suspects that they will never believe him, Chip still can’t help but to tell his friends what he’s seen. Jock quickly expresses his disbelief but is silenced by Lynna who defends her brother. This calls for an investigation!

The trio decide to search the lake using a grid pattern just like underwater archeologists. They draw out a grid in order to mark every spot they search and what they find there. The mermaid quest brings up some problems like their inability to dive but so deep. Soon, there is a discussion of deep sea divers and scuba tanks. Lynna and Jock have a contest to see who can hold their breath the longest underwater while Lynna and Chip’s mom times the two. Lynna wins! This leads Jock to want to join the swim team in order to improve his underwater breathing.

The search for the mermaid continues full force when Jock catches a glimpse of her at night–he no longer doubts Chip’s claim. However, will the grownups ever believe? Will the trio be able to find the mermaid in the lake? Jock turns to his favorite adventurer, Sam Justice, and his underwater adventures for inspiration on how to look for the mermaid. While the kids have a mission, the adults are planning an adventure of their own. The parents have been invited to a grand opening event and everyone is going. What surprise could be waiting for Jock, Chip, and Lynna at the event?

Co-authored by novelist Laura S. Wharton and her son William, The Mermaid’s Tale is the second book in the Mystery at the Lake House Series. This chapter book is intended for children aged 9-12; it includes lots of information on swimming, diving, fishing, and the importance of taking care of our water environments. Also included are instructions on how to build an underwater viewer, used by Chip in the book, and two interviews: one with the mermaid and one with William. This book encourages kids to believe in themselves and not be so quick to doubt others.  This is a book that kids will find enjoyable as well as informative.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Children & Young Adults, Moore, Mystery, Novels in Series, Piedmont, Wharton, Laura S., Wharton, William L. B.

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.

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

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

Elizabeth Craig. Quilt Trip. New York: Penguin Group, 2013.

Quilt TripAs usual, Beatrice Coleman has a bad feeling about Meadow Downey’s latest scheme. Meadow has caught wind of the old and rich Muriel Starnes’s get-together to determine an executor for her quilting foundation. The fact that Muriel didn’t invite Meadow to her party is of very little importance to Meadow, who is busy cooking up plans for the foundation. She’s convinced that Muriel should choose the Village Quilters. Beatrice, a recently retired art curator with a keen sense of etiquette, has waning patience for Meadow’s cockamamie ideas. Somehow though, Beatrice finds herself riding shotgun to Meadow, who speeds away from Dappled Hills and up a treacherous mountain in pursuit of quilting glory. Unfortunately for Meadow and Beatrice, the weather is looking awful gloomy…

Even as they approach the mountain-top Victorian “Southern Gothic” mansion, sleet is falling and the sky is gray. Beatrice and Meadow are greeted with a chilly reception, though at the very least sweet Posy Beck and batty Miss Sissy, fellow Village Quilters members, have also crashed the party (at Meadow’s request). Muriel allows the party-crashers to stay, but not without a few subtle jibes at their expense. The atmosphere of party is noticeably lackluster. The house is cold and unwelcoming, and the real guests are gathered in the library in silence. Just as Muriel alludes to another reason for asking her guests here today, separate from the foundation, the power goes out.

Apparently, the build-up of ice on the power lines caused the outage. However, the outage is the least of everyone’s worries: the sleet also severed a large limb from a giant tree, blocking the driveway and Beatrice’s hope of a quick exit. Stranded, without power, a phone line, or even cell phone reception, it looks as if the party is turning into a sleepover. Once the outage has been identified and the hubbub dies down somewhat, Muriel reveals her big secret.

She’s been diagnosed with cancer and has only a few weeks left. She used the foundation as an excuse to gather friends and family to apologize for any past transgressions. Alexandra, her estranged daughter, Holly, a librarian and fellow quilter, Dot, another fellow quilter, and Winnie, her former friend are the formally gathered guests, along with Muriel’s lawyer, Colton. Beatrice and the rest of the Village Quilters soon learn that Muriel’s unkindness has created rifts in almost all of her relationships. Muriel’s company is shocked when she delivers a blanket apology to the entire room. Beatrice observes that Muriel’s apology seems legitimate in its sincerity, yet rehearsed, regrettably. Nobody in the room appears to lap it up with much enthusiasm. Perhaps Muriel has stepped on the toes of her friends and family one too many times. Following the surprise announcement, each guest makes a case for her guild and the foundation, and then Muriel bids them good night.

Muriel’s apology was well-timed, because she doesn’t live to see the next morning. Despite her old age and admission of cancer, Beatrice is sure that foul play is afoot. From the look of Muriel’s body, Beatrice recognizes what she is sure are signs of suffocation. At Meadow’s insistence, she plays detective, questioning each one of the guests. But how just how safe is Beatrice in the role of detective, blatantly trying to sniff out the killer? Just how safe are any of the guests, trapped in an isolated mansion with a killer lurking in plain sight?

Quilt Trip is the third novel in Elizabeth Craig’s A Southern Quilting Mystery series. Craig’s latest novel is slightly different in structure. Quilt Trip is set in a much more condensed time frame of a few days and almost entirely in a single setting, which heightens the urgency and mystery, but the novel has the same charm as Quilt or Innocence and Knot What It Seems thanks to well-crafted, quirky characters. There isn’t considerable development in the slowly unfolding relationship between Beatrice and Wyatt, the amiable Dappled Hills minister, though Craig does include a little bit of interaction between the two. If you’d like to start at the beginning of the series, take a look at past posts here and 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