Category Archives: Coastal Plain


Edward Vaughn. The Forgiven. New York: Xlibris, 2007.

Kathleen Kelley grew up in a sheltered and deeply religious family in Omaha, Nebraska. Her strict parents placed well-intended expectations on her, and their daughter grew up to be very naive. When Kathleen follows her boyfriend to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, she cuts ties with her family and entrusts her future to someone she does not know very well. He quickly proves to be a poor choice, and Kathleen soon finds herself alone and penniless. She begins dancing and becomes a cocaine addict, eventually prostituting herself.

Although Kathleen is miserable at the turn in her life, she finds a glimmer of hope in her daughter. Sadly, one of her johns violates her trust and kidnaps her child, molesting the girl before killing her. Kathleen is heartbroken, but the police and media rapidly condemn her as the murderer. She does not refute her negligence, but Kathleen venomously denies committing the heinous murder.

Though most people in Cumberland County persecute Kathleen, her public defender does not believe that someone who had previously trained to become a nun would later kill her daughter. He works to clear her name and to find the criminal; he also falls in love with his client. Throughout her ordeal, Kathleen must find the strength to forgive herself for her past life in order to start anew as an exonerated citizen and loved wife.

The Forgiven is the second novel in Edward Vaughn’s “Cumberland County Series.”

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2007, Coastal Plain, Cumberland, Novels in Series, Suspense/Thriller, Vaughn, Edward

Keith Spence. The Blood of Saints. Winterville, NC: Shadow Line Press, 2009.

Law enforcement is not an easy job. Especially when dealing with criminals who will kill. Or when the offenders are high-level politicians, government officials, and business executives. Add money, national security, and ego to the mix, and police work is a very dangerous field. For Mike Saville of the F.B.I. and Lowri Pritchard of the U.S. Park Police, these are moot points. Both individuals will test the limits of their careers in order to get to the bottom of difficult cases.

Although Saville and Pritchard do not know each other, they are working on the same case. A series of suspicious deaths, officially ruled suicides, occur both in Saville’s (fictional) Kendall County (near Pitt County), North Carolina, and Pritchard’s Washington, D.C. Because the victims’ autopsies suggest self-inflicted wounds, the cases are supposed to be off-limits to Saville and Pritchard. However, they believe that something more sinister has occurred. By the time their victims’ connections unite the officers, each is in the midst of a perilous situation. Saville is beginning to uncover a multimillion dollar anti-terrorism deal gone bad, and Pritchard has connected a colleague to the killings and cover-ups involved in that tainted agreement. The information that they share with each other makes them even more unsafe. When Pritchard’s co-worker discovers what she has unearthed, he holds her captive and tortures her. Saville comes to her rescue. Their agencies officially get involved, and the criminals are arrested. Saville and Pritchard’s perseverance helps them get to the bottom of high-stakes crimes, protect national security, and find each other.

Some readers may be uncomfortable with Spence’s graphic descriptions throughout the novel. The torture scene is especially disturbing.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Coastal Plain, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Pitt, Spence, Keith, Suspense/Thriller

N.W. “Red” Pope. The Sweet Potato Caper. Scottsdale, AZ: Five Points Publishing, 2009.

Benson, North Carolina, in the fall of 1959 may appear to be a typically sleepy, small Southern town, but that simplicity is deceiving. Sure, traditional mores still dictate interactions and stores close for the noontime meal (“dinner,” not “supper”). However, Benson becomes the center of excitement when a few outsiders kick up some dust.

The strangers who cause the ruckus arrive in Benson for different reasons. Jimmy, a gambler with a losing-streak and a demanding family, is in town to train for a banking job with the People’s State Bank. He drives to work from Raleigh with Woody, a likable fellow who begins dating a teller at the bank. One afternoon, they make the acquaintance of Tom Boney, aka T-Bone, an unsuccessful crop insurance salesman from Roanoke Rapids. His infidelity leads to divorce, and he is desperate for money. Woody makes an off-handed comment about how the positioning of the train – which divides Benson and blocks five major roads in town – would make robbing the bank easy. For the next few weeks, no one thinks anything else of his remark.

As Jimmy’s and T-Bone’s situations worsen, Jimmy decides to put Woody’s observation to the test. He gets T-Bone in on the plan, arranging for him to find two associates to help with the robbery. Although the burglary goes off without a hitch, the criminals leave damning clues that the FBI uses to catch two of the crooks; the other pair are off the hook to live luxuriously in Costa Rica.

And for Benson, this alarming episode signals a change in its once-trusting community – simply that “times ain’t like they used to be.”

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Coastal Plain, Johnston, Pope, N. W., Suspense/Thriller, Wake

Margaret Maron. Christmas Mourning. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2010.

It’s the week before Christmas and Judge Deborah Knott is in good spirits. Her judicial docket appears to be routine and she is looking forward to participating in the holiday activities of the extended Knott clan.  The first anniversary of Deborah’s marriage to sheriff’s deputy Dwight Bryant is just days away.  They are happier than ever, and Dwight’s son, Cal, has started to warm up to Deborah.  Cal is also becoming friends with some of Deborah’s nieces and nephews.

All the youngsters, and most of community, are thrown for a loss when Mallory Johnson, one of the golden girls at West Colleton High, dies in a single car accident.  Mallory was the homecoming queen, a cheerleader, and a fine student.  She also had a reputation as a good girl—someone who resisted the temptations of drinking, drugs, and casual sex.  Mallory’s parents are shocked when they learn that she had alcohol and a drug in her system when she died.  They press the sheriff’s office to investigate the party that Mallory attended before the crash.

As Dwight investigates Mallory and her circle of friends, he finds that Mallory was not quite the girl her parents thought.  Still, Dwight is ambivalent about continuing the investigation.  The department has been trying to a catch meth cooker in the county, and this seems a bigger issue than what Mallory was doing in the hours before her accident.  Soon even the meth investigation becomes a lesser priority when two young men are gunned down outside a trailer out in the county.  The two brothers were from a very different social sphere than the Johnsons, yet Dwight must look for connections between their deaths and Mallory’s when he learns that the younger brother claimed to be Mallory’s boyfriend.

As in so many of the Judge Deborah Knott novels, the present is strongly connected to the past, and the deaths this sad December lead Dwight to reexamine an accident that occurred almost twenty years ago. While Dwight and Deborah piece the puzzle together, they (and the reader) enjoy some of the holiday get-togethers (and a few surprises) that make up the Christmas season in Colleton County.

This is the sixteenth novel in the Judge Deborah Knott series

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

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Coastal Plain, Maron, Margaret, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Kathy Reichs. Spider Bones. New York: Scribner, 2010.

Most of the action in this latest Temperance Brennan novel takes places in Hawaii, but the case originates in the actions of two young men in Lumberton, North Carolina in the 1960s.  Authorities in Quebec are puzzled as to  how an American soldier thought to have died in the Vietnam War could turn up a corpse in Canada  forty years later. Tempe Brennan is called in.  Her visit to the man’s father will introduce readers to Lumberton, but the Vietnam War and drug smuggling are the true subjects of the novel.

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

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Coastal Plain, Mystery, Novels in Series, Reichs, Kathy, Robeson

Diana Gabaldon. An Echo in the Bone. New York: Delacorte Press, 2009.

War is upon the Carolinas in this, the seventh novel in the Outlander series.  Jamie Fraser and his time-traveling wife Claire leave North Carolina aboard the inappropriately named Tranquil Teal. Jamie and Claire’s experiences at sea are part of the mix, along with much about the war in the northern colonies, and Brianna’s new life in twentieth century Scotland.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Coastal Plain, Gabaldon, Diana, Historical, Novels in Series, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Lynn Boyd. The Awakened Heart.Mustang,OK:Tate Publishing, 2009.

This brief, moving novel recounts the early adult years of a Halifax County man.  Told in the form of a memoir, seventy-five year old Vernon Lee (Buddy) Young reflects on working on his family’s farm, serving in the Korean War, and meeting and marrying the love of his life, Emma Jean.  Buddy’s life was hard. His family was poor and his father was cruel.  Meeting Emma Jean changed Buddy–he found acceptance and love, and through Emma Jean’s influence he came to believe in a loving God.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Boyd, Lynn, Coastal Plain, Halifax, Religious/Inspirational

James Boyd. Marching On. New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1927.

James Boyd followed up the success of his Revolutionary War novel, Drums, with this novel, set during the 1860s.

James Fraser, a descendant of the hero of Drums, is the son of a small farmer with land along the Cape Fear River.  Even as he sees that the cards are stacked against small landowners like his family, James falls in love with Stewart Prevost, the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner.  Frustrated in love and with his economic prospects, James goes to Wilmington.  Once the Civil War begins, James joins the Confederate army and becomes part of Stonewall Jackson’s army.  He is capture by the Yankees but is freed just as the tide of war turns in the North’s favor.  After making his way back home, he attempts to protect the Prevost plantation. In that he fails, but the war has both changed the Prevost family fortunes and their daughter’s opinion of James.

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

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Filed under 1920-1929, 1927, Boyd, James, Coastal Plain, Historical, New Hanover

Bob Boan. Bobby Becomes Bob. Kingsport, TN: Twilight Times Books, 2009.

As the title suggests, Bobby Becomes Bob is a coming-of-age story.  At twenty-eight Bobby Padgett has returned to his childhood home of St. Umblers, North Carolina.  Before the reader learns why he is back or what his mission there is, we follow Bobby as his mind flashes back to the experiences of his childhood – from his first broken bone to his first love, Sam.  He also recalls experiences such as finding a wallet on the sidewalk, working hard to pay for college, and twice avoiding the Army draft.  As he grew up, Bobby’s parents taught him how to be honorable, a gentleman; they also instilled in him strong family values.

Bobby was drafted for a third time and quickly sent to Vietnam. This altered the course of his life. On his second day in Vietnam, Bobby and his squad were captured. In captivity they were brutally and repeatedly tortured. When Bobby was rescued by American soldiers three and a half years later, he was a different person.  After spending months in Japan, Germany, and Washington, D.C. recovering, Bobby resolves to go by “Robert” or “Bob” from now on as a sign of his maturity.

When he finally returns to St. Umblers, Bob finds a street named in his honor, and Sam walks by him without recognizing her former flame. Bob realizes that his family and friends believe that he died in Vietnam, and that they have changed as much as he has. Although he plans to set the record straight eventually, Bob decides that this day would not be the day for his homecoming, and he returns to Washington.

Small-town North Carolina in the 1950s and 1960s is vividly portrayed in this novel.

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

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Boan. Bob, Coastal Plain, Johnston, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Romance/Relationship

Vicki Sterling Hasty. Eliza and the Analogies of Burnshire. Baltimore: PublishAmerica, 2009.

Eliza wasn’t exactly thrilled about going to summer camp. She would have preferred to stay at home with her mother to practice her favorite activity—solving analogies. However, when her mother says she’s enrolled Eliza at Camp Camden, Eliza bravely packs a few trusty analogy books and gives camp a chance.

But then, just as Eliza begins to settle into the rhythm of camp, she stumbles upon a magic portal in the camp stable. It leads to the mystical land of Burnshire, where animals talk and the wicked king incinerates anyone who opposes him! The persecuted animals recruit Eliza and her friends to save Burnshire from the king by solving a series of analogies. Eliza’s skills are put to the test in this fast-paced fantasy adventure.

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


Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Children & Young Adults, Coastal Plain, Hasty, Vicki Sterling, Hoke, Science Fiction/Fantasy