Category Archives: Coast

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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

Lisa Wingate. The Prayer Box. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2013.

The Prayer Box“I don’t believe it,” I answer. “Men are always trying to solve the mysteries of God, but they never will.”

She plucks a whelk shell from the sand, contemplates it, turning it over with her bone-thin fingers. “There will always be another mystery. God is infinite.”

Ninety-one year-old Iola Anne Poole doesn’t have the best reputation. The people of Fairhope regard her as a hermit and a squatter. Word around town is that Iola wormed the Benoit House away from its rightful owners. Girard Benoit’s nephews intended to sell the estate to a group of locals who had grand plans to turn the Victorian house into an upscale beach resort on Hatteras Island. But supposedly Iola intervened and manipulated the old Mr. Benoit, who was not in a clear frame of mind. Or so the story goes.

Meanwhile, thirty-three year-old Tandi Jo Reese has recently started renting Iola’s nearby cottage. Desperate and down on her luck, Tandi fled from an abusive and criminal husband with her two children, JT (age 9) and Zoey (age 14). Without a home, the cottage was the best deal Tandi could find, apart from sleeping in her car. But her money is running out. The rent is already overdue and Tandi is struggling to find a job that will hire her since she is too afraid to provide any details of her former life.

Tandi grew up in a family of slick smooth talkers – her father, her mother and her sister, Gina – who merge fact with fiction to get what they want. Her home life was tumultuous. Then again, it still is. Although Tandi has escaped from her husband, Trammel, she sees the disillusionment in her kids’ faces. Up until Tandi decided to leave, she hadn’t been the world’s greatest mom. After an accident, she became hooked on Oxycontin and walked around in a doped up haze. Because of her tough upbringing and her abusive husband, Tandi hasn’t trusted anyone in a long time, if ever. Now JT and Zoey’s faith in their mother is wavering.

One day, not long after Tandi and her kids have moved into the cottage, she notices a suspicious lack of movement in Iola’s house. When she investigates, she finds Iola’s body lying peacefully in a bed. At first, Tandi is worried that hubbub surrounding Iola’s death might draw notice to the fact that she’s behind on the rent. But Tandi isn’t aware of Iola’s general unpopularity around Fairhope. Tandi’s financial woes aren’t a complete secret though. One of the lay people at the Fairhope Fellowship Church strikes a bargain with Tandi: she will clean out Iola’s house in exchange for her rent.

Tandi accepts the deal. But it isn’t an easy job. The house has been damaged by the most recent hurricane. Architecturally, the house is unsound. Buckets are scattered throughout the rooms to catch dripping water. And Iola hoarded a massive stockpile of food from home grocery deliveries. Canned goods flooding out of the pantry shock Tandi, especially since she can barely afford food for JT and Zoey without skipping meals herself. However, the prayer boxes are the best surprise that Tandi stumbles upon.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of a prayer box, check out this blog entry by Lisa Wingate on making and using prayer boxes. The basic concept behind a prayer box is to create a box or decorate a pre-existing box, which the owner will fill with prayers and reflections, or even favorite scriptures. Every year, for eighty-one years, Iola fashioned a prayer box and filled it with letters to her father. As Tandi combs through the boxes she relates the struggles in Iola’s life to her own. Strangely, the lessons in Iola’s letters resurface and guide her through this trying chapter in her life. And in the process, Tandi discovers that Iola was not the woman that many presumed her to be.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Dare, Religious/Inspirational, Wingate, Lisa

Robin Ford Wallace. The Woman Who Loved the Sea. United States: CreateSpace, 2013.

Piney Point Island is home for Claire.  Claire’s mother, a volatile, unstable person had trouble putting down roots.  She didn’t plan to stay on the island, and every few years threatened to leave, but then her mood would blow over and stay they did.  Their neighbors, the Flannerys, became a second family to Claire.  Mr. Flannery, a high school teacher, charmed Claire and his own daughters, Juliet and Cordelia, by quoting Shakespeare, Robert Burns, and the other masters of English poetry.  But Mr. Flannery wasn’t just a romantic dreamer, he was good about money too.  Over time, he bought up property at one end of the island and built houses for his daughters.  When he built a new house for himself, he sold his original house, just a cottage, to Claire.

Claire, barely twenty and a waitress, was proud to have the money for a down-payment, and she was determined to make the little cottage her home for life.  But then into her life walked Richard Danthe, a rich boy doing penance for bad behavior by working as a pizza delivery man.  Claire fell for Richard and after they married, she helped him develop his career.  But once Richard’s business grew, they moved to Charlotte, far from the island and the sea that Claire loves so much.

Claire’s marriage to Richard, which had been stale for years, is finally undone by Richard’s dalliances with two high school girls.  As The Woman Who Loved the Sea opens, Claire is back on Piney Point Island.  Claire has no plans, except to watch the sea, paint, and renew her friendship with the Flannerys.  Cordelia and Juliet are the same as ever, but they are worried about their father who is drinking too much and appears to be under the spell of Leslie Orange, an ambitious realtor.  Ms. Orange want to develop Piney Point, and she has allies, including a boorish artist whom she is playing off against Mr. Flannery.  Claire aligns herself with Cordelia and Juliet, but what help can she be when her vengeful husband Richard is intent on compelling her to come back to Charlotte?  And then, there is that new mystery man in her life–a beachcomber who admires her paintings and excites her passion–and who comes and goes like the tide.

In The Woman Who Loved the Sea, Robin Ford Wallace mixes the familiar elements coastal development and a vengeful spouse with fantasy and a bit of Shakespeare.  It makes for an interesting read.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Romance/Relationship, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Wallace, Robin Ford

David James. Harmes’ Way. United States: River Farm Books, 2012.

harmesBen Harmes is an Outer Banks native, but he spent most of his adult life working as a policeman in Boston.  After his wife’s death, an ill-advised second marriage, and over zealous interest in a politically sensitive case, Ben has washed back up on the North Carolina coast.  His daughter Kate, a state park ranger, provides good company, as do a number of easy-going, beer-drinking locals.

One of those locals is Charlie Evans, a good ol’ boy who matches Ben drink for drink.  Charlie can take it easy because his underwater filming company made good money from its part in the recovery of gold from a downed German U-boat just off the coast.  As Harmes’ Way opens Ben, hung over, is rushing to meet Charlie for some early morning surf casting.  When Ben finds Charlie’s SUV, rod, and waders, but no Charlie, his policeman’s instincts kick in.  Even though the sheriff’s deputy suspects nothing more sinister than an accidental drowning, Ben begins to nose around.  He learns from Charlie’s business partner, Sophie Carson, that two men associated with the U-boat film project died under suspicious circumstances just a few months back.  Then Sophie’s house is bombed.  Sophie survives, and she teams up with Ben in a adventures that moves across North Carolina from the Outer Banks, to Wilmington, to Grandfather Mountain, to 100 feet below the surface of the ocean off Hatteras Island.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Coast, Dare, James, David, Mystery

Courtney Giardina. Tear Stained Beaches. Florham Park, NJ: Take Two Publishing, 2013.

Haylie met Chase when she was a senior in college.  Chase, then a law student, had been captain of the college soccer team and was known around campus for his good looks and good character. When Haylie and Chase become a couple and eventually marry, Haylie feels that her life is truly blessed.

But trouble enters their life after Chase takes a job in Charlotte. Haylie has difficulty finding a job, and she finds little support from the women in her upscale neighborhood, who think that her career aspirations are a bit odd. Meanwhile, Chase becomes ever more absorbed in his work–staying late, bringing home paperwork, and being inattentive and short with Haylie.  Just when Haylie thinks she can come to terms with this, it gets worse.  Chase texts at all hours of the day and night, and he starts taking many more trips–without Haylie. Haylie fears that Chase is having an affair. When her suspicions are confirmed, she flees to a small island on the Carolina coast. There she finds a woman she can confide in–someone who offers sisterhood in a way that Haylie’s Charlotte neighbors did not. But this friendship brings with it unexpected pain.

Written in the first person, Tear Stained Beaches, takes us inside Haylie’s mind. Happy memories are interspersed with an linear plot that takes Haylie from the first moments of attraction through betrayal and to a life that she builds on her own. This realistic, generous novel comes with book club discussion questions and a Q and A with the author at the end.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Giardina, Courtney, Mecklenburg, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship

Robert G. Edwards. An Image of Us. United States: 1st Ride Publishing, 2013.

image ofSam Fenton and Kathryn Ackart were high school sweethearts in the small coastal town of Meylor, North Carolina.  Sam’s dad ran a scrap metal business in town and battled a drinking problem, but that didn’t stop Kathryn and her family from welcoming Sam into their hearts.  After high school, Sam got on as a reporter with the local paper, while Kathryn left for UNC to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor.  The distance between the coast and Chapel Hill did not dampen the young couple’s love.  When Kathryn began to apply to medical schools, she and Sam discussed where they wanted to live–their life together was assumed.

All that changed when Sam received a phone call from family in Arizona.  Decades earlier, his mother’s family founded a store in the small town of Sterling.  That business was now failing–could Sam come and help save it?  Sam’s decision to go to Arizona led to a break with Kathryn.  For Kathryn, it wasn’t so much the decision itself, but how quickly Sam made it.  The life that Kathryn thought they were building was put aside in an instant.  Even as Kathryn moved on with her life–becoming a doctor, then a surgeon, marrying–she harbored bitterness and sadness about the breakup.

As An Image of Us opens, it is dozen years later.  The Meylor high school has undergone a major renovation and alums have been invited back for a tour and celebration.  Sam’s family business has failed due to the competition from big-box stores, and he is at loose ends.  Kathryn has just started her first vacation in two years, and what better way to spend it than with her family and old friends?  Sam hopes that he will see Kathryn at the celebration; Kathryn is not sure what she wants.  An Image of Us follows these two as they consider what they once had and what might still be possible for them.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Edwards, Robert G, Romance/Relationship

David Manning. Dead Letters. New York:imPRESSions, 2013.

Duncan Twist struggles to gain his bearings in the small, coastal North Carolina town of Dusktide Beach. Although middle-aged Twist self-identifies as a New Yorker, he did once live in Durham. Nevertheless, Duncan experiences serious culture shock in Dusktide Beach. The locals don’t exactly make Duncan welcome. They remind him that he’s New Yorker who sticks out like sore, Yankee thumb. But Duncan has no intention to stay in Dusktide Beach permanently. His client, Nick Varnish, has loaned him a cottage there for vacation. Duncan works odd jobs, like writing, editing, and researching, for Nick who owns the Brooklyn Bridge Cable Company. Despite his semi-regular freelancing, Nick does not warrant investing a full-time position over Duncan’s services.

When Duncan arrives at the cottage, the key that Nick swore would be waiting for him is not there. Irritated, Duncan speeds back into town in search of a phone, only to be cut off for a parking spot by Lump Whitefish. Duncan later learns that the Whitefish family owns a large stretch of undeveloped land that is the focus of a controversial pending six lane wide bridge. Despite their slightly hostile exchange, Lump sends his aunt, a real estate agent for most of the beach-side properties, to deliver a key to Duncan. Lump’s aunt does not bring the key to Duncan however. A familiar yet unexpected face plays messenger. Tendency Specter, Duncan’s old girlfriend, has relocated to Dusktide Beach, of all places. She acts as the town’s part-time archivist, and is, conveniently, divorced.

Reunited, Tendency and Duncan reflect on their previous relationship and their youthful counterculture days in the 1970s filled with bean sprouts, soy burgers, and the Peace Corps. Tendency wastes no time at introducing Duncan to the local tradition of the Kindred Spirit. The Kindred Spirit occupies Lorne Island in the form of a mailbox and can only be reached by crossing an inlet during low tide. Within the mailbox are two spiral-bound notebooks filled with messages addressed to the Kindred Spirit. The understanding behind the concept is that every person who contributes messages to the notebooks shares a kindred spirit. Townspeople started the tradition in 1968 and Tendency is interested in the phenomenon as the area’s archivist.

A mystery surrounding one of the messages draws in Duncan and Tendency. The message implores the Kindred Spirit for help in locating a notebook missing from the mystical mailbox, as well as a missing person. Things take a turn for the weird when not one, but two, possibly Confederate skeletons turn up. Are the skeletons actually the remains of Confederate soldiers or is it a ruse? As Tendency and Duncan try to uncover the notebook and determine the identity of the missing person, they exhume a host of rivalries and petty squabbles. But this very mystery that has helped to fan the last embers of their former relationship might just tear Tendency and Duncan apart again. After they become deeply involved they realize that someone is not pleased about their investigation and might take ruthless measures to cease their sleuthing.

Manning’s inspiration for the Kindred Spirit is likely drawn from the Kindred Spirit mailbox on Bird Island near Sunset Beach, North Carolina. For other North Carolina novels that feature the Kindred Spirit, look at blog posts on Marybeth Whalen’s romance novel, The Mailbox and Jacqueline DeGroot’s mystery novel, The Secret of the Kindred Spirit.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Manning, David, Mystery

Joseph L. S. Terrell. Not Our Kind of Killing. Rock Hill, SC: Bella Rosa Books, 2013.

not our kindCrime writer Harrison Weaver made a frustrating trip to the North Carolina mountains in April.  A young woman had been murdered and left hogtied in her own car.  Harrison’s editor asked him to head up to the mountains to get the story but when Harrison found out that the crime was poorly investigated and the woman’s body cremated without an autopsy, there was not much he could do.  This was one crime that would remain unsolved.  Now it’s May and Harrison is thinking about other things, like his relationship with Elly Pederson. Elly is a widow who works for the county and through her Harrison has gotten to know many locals. After two years on the Outer Banks, he is starting to feel like he might fit in.

But Harrison does not fit in with everyone–not all the county deputies appreciate his style or the way he pokes his nose into police business, and District Attorney Rick Schweikert is especially antagonistic toward him.  So when Harrison finds a young woman’s body near a local kayaking spot, he has some explaining to do.  Not everyone wants to hear about how much this murder resembles the earlier murder in the mountains. But Harrison’s friend SBI agent Thomas Twiddy is open to the connection. As they investigate the local crime, Harrison remembers what the mountain people said about that murder being “not our kind of killing.”  Following this thought leads him to a pair of serial killers.

This is the third Harrison Weaver mystery. The series begins with Tide of Darkness.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Dare, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Terrell, Joseph L. S.

Bennett Madison. September Girls. New York: HarperTeen, 2013.

September GirlsSeventeen-year old Sam isn’t excited by his dad’s resolution to spend the summer at a quiet little beach town on the Outer Banks, but he isn’t surprised by the scheme either. Earlier that winter Sam’s mother dropped all her responsibilities and abandoned her husband and her son to spend time at Women’s Land, which the book implies is something of a feminist commune. Prior to her departure, Sam’s mother, a “frumpy kindergarten teacher,” adopted radical feminist tenants, like the SCUM Manifesto, so the act is something of personal (or self-satisfying) liberation for her.

Sam’s dad has dealt with the change by throwing himself into hobbies from yoga to knitting to cooking. Sam jokes “if there was a tear-off sheet on a bulletin board in Starbucks he was willing to give it a try.” So his latest idea to relocate temporarily to the Outer Banks is one of many distractions from the reality of his wife’s abandonment. Jeff, Sam’s brother, has returned from college recently and helps somewhat to plug the hole left by their mother. With Jeff and Sam in tow, their father packs everything up and heads for the beach, even before Sam’s school year ends.

After several months of dealing with his fragile father and pressure from his friends–and now Jeff– to “man up” and “get laid,” Sam wants to escape. He is troubled by ideas of love and manhood. The men in his life don’t exactly provide a shining paragon of masculinity. But soon Sam’s attention is diverted by another presence on at the beach, the Girls. They are blonde and beautiful and, to Sam, interchangeable. Sam watches them working menial summer jobs around town, taking cigarette breaks, flipping through magazines, lying on the beach. Yet the strangest part is not that the Girls are everywhere, but that they are all interested in Sam. They eye him with a lustful hunger.

Sam is befuddled that the Girls notice him rather than his hunky brother, or any other hunky guy around the town for that matter. He is scrawny and awkward, hardly a chick magnet. Then he meets one of the Girls, DeeDee. Normally they travel in pairs, but DeeDee seems different from the rest of the Girls. She and Sam bond, and he feels genuine affection for her. But she hesitates. There is a mystery of an otherworldly nature surrounding her and the rest of the Girls. When Sam learns the truth behind the secret, it alters his relationship with DeeDee irreparably.

Novelist Bennett Madison captures pitch-perfect the crude exchanges between Sam, Jeff, and their father, and Sam’s constant cynicism sounds like a teenager attempting jaded and world-weary angst. Madison structures the novel traditionally and from Sam’s perspective with numbered chapters, but he weaves in parallel chapters from the Girls with named chapters. The interspersed chapters from the Girls read like an echo and function similarly to a Greek chorus, summarizing background information and responding to and supplementing the story’s action. These chapters also successfully bolster the mythic quality of the story. However, Madison maintains a clean balance between the fairy tale and the reality. Madison’s treatment of Sam and his story is based the development of a boy tripping around the edge of manhood and a confused family trying to mend life’s rips and holes.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Currituck, Dare, Hyde, Madison, Bennett

Joyce and Jim Lavene. A Haunting Dream. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 2012.

hauntingDae O’Donnell has been enjoying her life.  She’s in her first term as the mayor of Duck, North Carolina and her popularity is high, in part because of her role in keeping the local bookshop and coffee house open.  Dae’s also in a relationship with a very nice man, Kevin Brickman, who’s been running the Blue Whale Inn for the past year.  Kevin is from away, but he fits in with the locals the way few outsiders do.  His background as an FBI agent never comes up, and although Dae knows that Kevin was once engaged to an FBI colleague, she doesn’t dwell on it.

But suddenly, she has to.  Kevin’s former fiancée, Ann, shows up, seemingly wanting to pick up where they left off.  But Kevin is not the same person, and neither is Ann.  As work partners, Kevin and Ann pulled a number of missing child cases.  When they they failed to find a child alive, it was hard on them, so hard that Ann eventually broke down.  The woman who shows up in Duck is a wraith, still showing evidence of her trauma and institutionalization.  Given Ann’s state, Dae decides that she needs to keep some distance from Kevin while he and Ann sort things out.  And Dae has some business to attend to.  Her elderly neighbor, Mac Sweeney, enlists Dae’s help in finding a missing medallion, one that Old Man Sweeney had picked up in a grocery store parking lot.  When Dae calls upon her psychic gift to find the medallion, she sees a vision of its true owner, local realtor Chuck Sparks, being shot.  Soon she finds his body, but not his young daughter.  As she attempts to find the girl, Dae learns about a criminal ring trading in stolen artifacts, people who will do anything to get their hands on certain treasures.  The FBI are called in, but when Dae senses that time is running out for the girl, she and Ann join forces.

This is the fourth Missing Pieces Mystery.  To start the series at the beginning, read A Spirited Gift.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Coast, Dare, Lavene, Jim and Joyce, Mystery, Novels in Series