Category Archives: Mystery

Judy Hogan. Killer Frost. Wethersfield, CT: Mainly Murder Press, 2012.

killerfrostPenny Weaver gets more than she expected when she agrees to teach a composition course at an historically black college in Raleigh, North Carolina. She knew that taking over another teacher’s class after the semester had already started would be a challenge, and that in teaching a remedial composition course she would be working with students unprepared for college work. What Penny was not prepared for was the morale problems at the school, the rumors of sexual misbehavior by a faculty member, and questionable management by the administration.  Penny’s circle of friends give her good advice as she finds ways to navigate the educational and racial politics of St. Francis College, but she cannot confide in them about her feelings for her department chair. Soon all these matters seem trivial compared to the murders of a faculty member and the college’s provost.  This is a spring semester like no other for Professor Weaver.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Hogan, Judy, Mystery, Piedmont, Wake

Colleen Coble. Rosemary Cottage. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2013.

Rosemary CottageNovelist Colleen Coble has authored a second book in her bestselling Hope Beach Series. Interested readers should consult our blog post on the first novel, Tidewater Inn, if they would prefer to start from the beginning. However, Coble has written the novels so that readers can enjoy them independently from each other. Some familiar characters reappear in Rosemary Cottage, most notably, Libby Holladay, the archaeological historian and protagonist from Tidewater Inn. In this novel, Libby takes a backseat to Amy Lang. Amy has returned to the fictional Hope Island in the Outer Banks after her older brother Ben was killed in a surfing accident. She intends to stay at her family’s beach home, Rosemary Cottage, where she and Ben spent many blissful summers together.

Amy idolized Ben. She thought of her brother as a smart and hardworking man. Understandably then, the news of his recent death has left her in a state of shock. She has arrived at Rosemary Cottage under the pretense of mourning her brother and possibly relocating her successful midwife practice to the island, but she has another, hidden, agenda behind uprooting her former life. Amy received an anonymous e-mail claiming that her brother was murdered, and that he deserved his fate. Before the mysterious e-mail, Amy had her doubts about the accident. Ben was a strong swimmer and a skilled surfer. Police never recovered Ben’s body, but they did retrieve his shark-bitten surfboard. Even though the evidence indicated a simple and unfortunate accident, Amy believes a grimmer truth lurks beneath the surface.

Curtis Ireland, a Coast Guard officer on Hope Island, just lost his sister Gina in a devastating boating accident. Upon her death, Curtis became the guardian of Gina’s newborn daughter, Raine. Curtis is a dutiful uncle who loves his little niece dearly. He stepped up to the task of caring for Raine without any problems. That is, until Amy’s arrival. Curtis and his aunt Edith know the secret behind Raine’s parentage, and it could jeopardize their claim to Raine’s custody. Edith urges Curtis to approach Amy and reveal the secret, but Curtis is wary that Amy’s affluent family might barge in and wage a custody battle. Matters become more complicated when Amy approaches Curtis. She wants to investigate Ben’s death. Shortly after they partner up, they realize that Ben and Gina’s accidents might be interconnected. What they discover leads them to a tightly wound web of dark secrets and unexpected twists.

A romance between Amy and Curtis forms quickly, but the potential relationship is troubled almost immediately by the tension of uncovering harsh realities about Ben and Gina. Neither Amy nor Curtis want to see their beloved sibling in a negative light. Hostilities flare when Curtis suggests that Ben might not be the great man Amy believed him to be. Moreover, as Curtis feels increasingly attracted to Amy, she pushes him away. Amy possesses an unpleasant secret of her own, one that prevents her from growing closer to Curtis despite their clear chemistry. In the midst of their unofficial investigation, the island is busy with a campaigning senator and the arrival of an unusual new girl seeking work. Will Curtis and Amy uncover the truth with all the distractions and complications surrounding them? If they find the truth, will they regret that they went hunting for it in the first place?

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Coble, Colleen, Mystery, Romance/Relationship

Tyora Moody. When Rain Falls. Deer Park, NY: Urban Christian, 2012.

whenWhen she was a young girl, Candace Johnson was present when her mother was killed by a drunken, abusive lover.  Aunt Maggie took Candace in but her home was one of harsh, religious judgments, and Candace fled as soon as she could.  In the years since Candace made a good life for herself, marrying a police detective, raising two children, and opening her own beauty salon in Charlotte, North Carolina.

But good friends and a loving spouse are no protection from the violence of the world.  Candace’s husband is killed, and two years later the murder remains unsolved. Candace has kept herself together for the sake of her children, but as When Rain Falls opens, she is hit with another hard blow: her best friend, Pamela Coleman, is murdered in her own garage.  Her husband’s former partner is one of the detectives investigating Pamela’s murder.  The other investigator, Darnell Jackson, is new to the Charlotte police force, but not new to Charlotte.  The failure of the police department to solve her husband’s murder prompts Candace to investigate Pamela’s death; she just can’t loose her two soul mates without getting some answers–and some justice.

The two investigations–Candace’s and the official one–turn up unpleasant facts about Pamela, her law firm, and some respected people in her social circle.  Candace and Detective Jackson butt heads over Candace’s activities even as they find themselves thrown together (and attracted to each other) in various social situations.  The author does a good job of balancing several threads of the story–Candace’s backstory, her struggle as a mother and as a Christian, the possibility of a new romance, and the murder investigations–and concluding them in a satisfying way.  The community of family, friends, and clients who support Candace is well drawn, adding another layer to the novel.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Mecklenburg, Moody, Tyora, Mystery, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational

Kathryn O’Sullivan. Foal Play. New York: Minotaur Books, 2013.

Foal PlayWho killed Myrtle Crepe? That’s the question lingering on the minds of the townspeople of Corolla. Not many people were fond of Myrtle. A retired schoolteacher and the despotic head of the Lighthouse Wild Horse Preservation Society, Myrtle was known for her terse and domineering manner. Myrtle made it difficult for anyone to like her. Even her son Bobby and her sole companion Nellie Byrd struggled to overlook her demanding attitude. But did someone hate Myrtle enough to want her dead?

Gruesome things have been turning up around Corolla lately. Immediately prior to Myrtle’s death, the burned body of a John Doe washed ashore. News of the murder entices Fire Chief Colleen McCabe into the beginning stages of the investigation despite well-meaning warnings for Colleen to mind her business from her best friend, Sheriff Bill Dorman. In the past, Colleen has demonstrated a tendency to conduct her own “unofficial” investigations without solicitation from the local police force.

With her tenacious Irish roots, Colleen is a tough protagonist, and definitely not one to be deterred from solving a mystery. She single-handedly whipped the firemen of Station 6 into shape and refused to tolerate any insubordination. Colleen is not afraid to go with her gut and get her hands dirty. With her trusty Border Collie, Sparky (who has a nose for sniffing out fire) alongside her, Colleen winds up at the center of all the action. Although she is in for a few bigger shocks than she could ever imagine.

Kathryn O’Sullivan is a first time novelist. With the offbeat characters, the coastal setting, and the wild horses, O’Sullivan emphasizes local color in Foal Play. She formulates many comedic encounters and interweaves them between more serious moments and surprising plot developments. Readers interested in mystery and and Outer Banks enthusiasts will enjoy this novel. Foal Play is a great read to get in the mood for summertime.

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

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Currituck, Mystery, O'Sullivan, Kathryn

Ellery Adams. Books by the Bay Mysteries.

When forty-something Olivia Limoges was looking to change her life she settled on the idea of moving back to her hometown of Oyster Bay, North Carolina.  The locals don’t exactly welcome her with open arms–she’s wealthy, grouchy, bossy, and has pretentious aspirations to be a writer.  It’s a rocky start for Olivia, but as the Books by the Bay series unfolds, Olivia makes a place for herself in Oyster Bay.  She joins a writing group and the members of the group become friends; she re-connects with her half-brother, joining him in the restaurant business; and  she may even have found a new love interest in the person of Sawyer Rawlings.

Olivia comes to know Rawlings because he is the town’s chief of police, and  Oyster Bay has an unusual number of murders, many of which touch Olivia in some way.  The victims include a gossip columnist looking into a wealthy local family, an author of historic novels, and a local “witch” who knows a secret about Olivia’s mother.  In each of these cozy mysteries, the murders reveal something about Olivia’s past or that of this seemingly-quiet little town.  Readers come to know Olivia and her backstory even as they enjoy her sleuthing–in which she is often aided by her poodle, Captain Haviland.

 

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Filed under Adams, Ellery, Coast, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Series

Stephen King. Joyland. London: Hard Case Crime, 2013.

JoylandJoyland is an amusement park in the business of selling fun – and that’s by the “seat-of-the-pants” fun not that “scripted” fun that Disney peddles to its customers, according to geriatric park owner, Bradley Easterbrook. Joyland has all the standard amusement park fare: rides, refreshments, a crackpot fortune-teller, a beloved mascot, and a haunted house. Except Joyland’s haunted house really is haunted. Or so twenty-one year-old Devin Jones is told. In the summer of 1969, Linda Gray spent the day at Joyland in the company of an unidentified male masked in sunglasses and a baseball cap with a bird tattoo on his hand. Later in the evening, the pair entered the Horror House together, only Linda never left. Linda’s companion slashed her throat and left her body inside, where it was discovered the next day. Four years later in 1973, the killer still roams free. Since the murder, employees have reported sightings of Linda’s ghost.

When Devin first hears the tale, he is more concerned with relaying it to his disinterested girlfriend Wendy Keegan than focusing on the lurid details. Wendy is the first thing on Devin’s mind and he is the furthest thing from hers. Devin eagerly fantasizes about his life with Wendy following their graduation from the University of New Hampshire. He dreams of a successful literary career and wedded bliss completed with a few kids running underfoot. His unquenched libido and earnest schoolboy devotion blind Devin from the fact that Wendy is slipping, or rather pushing, away from him. Wendy plans to work in Boston with a friend during the summer and she encourages Devin to take a job far away at Joyland in the small, fictional town of Heaven’s Bay, North Carolina. Their break-up is predictable, and Devin spends a good portion of his time ruminating on first love.

Then he becomes absorbed into the world of Joyland. He finds friends, “wears the fur,” learns the park lingo, and juggles a million menial tasks at once.  Howie the Happy Hound is Joyland’s mascot and all the Happy Helpers take turns in wearing the dog costume. During the summer, shifts are restricted to 15 minutes to prevent heatstroke. Devin, though, dons the suit repeatedly. Despite the discomfort, he discovers an unexpected enthusiasm for wearing the costume and exciting children at the park. Reflecting back on his time at Joyland, Devin muses that no job has satisfied him as deeply as dressing as Howie and dancing the Hokey Pokey.

Veteran novelist Stephen King establishes a convincing atmosphere in Joyland with his use of colorful carny slang. The book features a pulpy cover design and is marketed as a hardboiled crime novel, although Devin is an inadvertent sleuth rather than a jaded detective. Joyland is a bildungsroman meets murder mystery. King’s focus is less on the horror and gore and more on Devin’s maturation. Solving Linda Gray’s murder just falls on the laundry list of Devin’s pivotal summer of development. By deemphasizing the mystery aspect of the novel, Joyland becomes a more dimensional story and quite an exhilarating ride of a read.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, King, Stephen, Mystery, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Stephen March. Hatteras Moon. New York: Köehlerbooks, 2013.

hatterasJack Delaney and Virgil Gibson became friends in high school, when star athlete Jack noticed Virgil’s dedication to the football team, even though Virgil would always be just a bench warmer.  Jack and Virgil did some dumb, crazy things together–like jumping off the bridge over Oregon Inlet.  But after high school they went their separate ways: Jack to Vietnam and Virgil to college.  Jack was injured in Vietnam and came back to the Outer Banks to be a fisherman like his dad.

But Jack remained a dare devil, and before long Jack began using the trawler he inherited from his father to smuggle marijuana.  Soon Jack has a large house on the beach, additional property, and a life that suits him, if not the government.  Meanwhile, Virgil has grown dissatisfied with his life.  Teaching undergraduates at a small college has lost its allure, and his marriage has grown stale.  More than a decade after high school, Virgil returns to Hatteras Island for the summer to re-assess his life.

Looking up his old friend Jack is among the first things that Virgil does.  Jack’s life looks attractive, even though Jack has money problems and is being threatened by one of his business associates.  Ever one to take a risk, Jack branches out into a new endeavor, one that brings him in contact with dangerous men with a different agenda.  When a simple shrimping trip turns deadly, Virgil plunges into a dangerous game of revenge.

Hatteras Moon is set in the late 1980s and some readers will be reminded of the Iran-Contra Affair by certain plot elements.  But a knowledge of Reagan-era foreign policy is not necessary to understand this dark tale of greed, loyalty, and revenge.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Dare, March, Stephen, Mystery

Ellery Adams. Written in Stone. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 2012.

Written in StoneWhen Oyster Bay’s gossipy diner proprietor Dixie relays a message to Olivia Limoges from the reclusive witch of Oyster Bay, Olivia laughs it off as a bunch of hocus-pocus and horoscopes. The witch, Munin Cooper, wants Olivia to pay her a visit. Olivia is a successful restaurateur and aspiring author. She is a woman who takes care of herself and her constant companion, Captain Haviland, a standard poodle. However, when Olivia discovers that Munin Cooper inexplicably knows a private detail about her deceased mother she decides to brave the journey across the swamp to hear out the witch’s message.

According to local lore, the witch requires her visitors to relinquish their most precious belongings in exchange for her help. Most of Munin’s visitors are just desperate enough to part with their possessions. Tucked away in her shack, Munin embeds those trinkets and mementos into memory jugs. A memory jug serves as “a scrapbook made with found objects” that represent an individual’s life. Munin is an eerie figure. A member of the Lumbee Indian tribe, she lives in primitive but self-sufficient isolation and decorates herself with jewelry fashioned from teeth and small animal bones. She warns Olivia that death surrounds her and that she should protect herself and her friends before any terrible events occur. To help her fend off death, Munin gives Olivia her final memory jug. Despite her otherworldly wisdom, Munin does not realize that death will seek her out first. A park ranger finds her drowned in a stream shortly after Olivia’s visit.

After she learns of Munin’s passing, Olivia refuses to believe that the witch died from natural causes, so she urges Police Chief Rawlings to examine the case further. Because Munin lived in a different county, Rawlings cannot influence the ruling of accidental death. But Olivia knows it was murder and she has all the evidence she needs to solve the crime thanks to the memory jug. In order to identify the killer, she must first understand the relationships among the keepsakes in the jug. With the Coastal Carolina Food Festival gearing up, Olivia is overwhelmed with her restaurant, The Boot Top Bistro. Yet with her life and the lives of her friends in question, she juggles supervising her business and sleuthing a murder. As the web of connections grows clear and clearer, Olivia is shocked by what she unearths.

Novelist Ellery Adams delivers another absorbing mystery for her “Books by the Bay” series. Adams tantalizes her audience with snippets of Olivia’s mysterious back story. She supplies an enigmatic mix of details that will leave readers curious for the full explanation. Moreover, her lush descriptions of food are enough to make your mouth water and your stomach growl. This book should probably be read on a full stomach. For readers interested in more, consult three of the Read North Carolina Novels previous blog posts on Adams’ work: A Killer Plot, A Deadly Cliché, and The Last Word.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Adams, Ellery, Coast, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Brynn Bonner. Paging the Dead. New York: Gallery Books, 2013.

pagingSophreena McClure and Esme Sabatier are an odd couple.  The women are partners in a family history research business, and they share a home in the fictional town of  Morningside, North Carolina.  Sophreena is quite short and looks like a classic mild-mannered nerd.  Esme is over six feet tall and carries every inch of that height with attitude.  Sophreena’s approach to their work is always the same–systematic research and meticulous documentation.  Esme adds an unorthodox element–she gets messages from the spirit world.   In the five years that they’ve worked together they have traded off each other’s strengths and gotten used to dealing with the prickly wealthy people who are their usual clients.

Dorothy Pritchett Porter is typical of their clients: she wants a sanitized version of her family history packaged in an attractive set of scrapbooks to impress anyone who visits her in her mansion on Crescent Hill.  Sophreena and Esme are on track to deliver that in time for Mrs. Porter’s open house on the weekend of the town’s Honeysuckle Festival.  As Paging the Dead opens, the researchers have just made Mrs. Porter very happy by locating a ring that is a long-missing family heirloom; as they leave, she is  playing with the great-niece who she adores.  That is the last time that they see Mrs. Porter alive.

Because Sophreena and Esme are among the last people to see Mrs. Porter alive, the police, in the person of detective Denton Carlson, visit the women at their home.  It’s not long before half the town considers them suspects.  To clear their names and protect their business, Sophreena and Esme begin to poke around.  With an estranged husband, a somewhat feckless nephew, and long-lost sister who has recently returned to town, there is no shortage of suspects.

This reader senses that Paging the Dead may be the first book in a projected series. Sophreena and Esme’s backstories are revealed, as is how the two women met, and readers become acquainted with their circle of friends.  Romantic interest are introduced.  It is clear that something will develop between Esme and Detective Carlson, although readers should not be too hopeful about Sophreena’s chances with Jackson Ford, the landscape architect who is part of the women’s social group.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Bonner, Brynn, Mystery, Piedmont

Lucy Arlington. Every Trick in the Book. New York: Berkley, 2013.

everytrickinthebookLila Wilkins has reached her goal of becoming a literary agent at A Novel Idea, a publishing house in small-town Inspiration Valley, North Carolina. The position is a serious step up from her first job at A Novel Idea as an intern, and with her new title comes a salary allowing her to purchase a dream home in the cozy town. Everything seems perfect — her twenty-something son, Trey, is happy living and working at the nearby Red Fox Co-operative farm, and she has an exciting new relationship with handsome local police officer Sean Griffiths. Of course, just when everything is looking up, an element of danger appears.

The trouble starts with an unsettling horror manuscript Lila receives by mistake. As the agent assigned to romance and cozy mysteries, Lila’s usual reading is lighthearted and fun. This manuscript is full of blood and gore, and she passes it off to her colleague, the literary agent assigned to thrillers and horror novels. Unfortunately, the manuscript has no contact information for the author– just an attached note saying that he will be pitching the novel to the agents at their upcoming Book and Author festival. Lila simply dismisses the manuscript as not in her area, but when she is nearly murdered at the book festival, she’s convinced it must be the mysterious author. Then, she finds the body of another editor nearby. Shortly after, a local author is killed, and the two murders appear to Lila to be connected. Will Lila find the murderer in time to prevent her own death? And could clues to his or her identity be written into the grisly manuscript?

Lila Wilkins is determined that she will have the final word.

Check out this second installment in the Novel Idea Mysteries in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Arlington, Lucy, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places