Category Archives: Mountains

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William Roy Pipes. Darby. Kent, U.K.: Ecanus Publishing, 2013.

darbyThe impulse for revenge consumes Andrew Woodard.  His father, George Woodard, was murdered in the woods near their home in Wilkes County, North Carolina.  Floyd Caldwell came upon the elder Woodard as he was dying and tried to save his life.  For his kindness, he is regarded with suspicion by the Woodard family, who believe that Floyd killed George over a land deal gone bad.  Even when the sheriff clears Floyd of the crime, bad feelings fester. It finally reaches the point that George’s brother, Virgil Woodard, challenges Floyd to a duel.  The  two men cross over into Tennessee, where dueling is still legal in at this time (1904), and Floyd kills Virgil.

Could that be the end of this feud?  No.  Virgil’s second at the duel was George’s son, Andrew, who vows to avenge both his father and uncle’s deaths. Although a young man, Andrew is exceptionally violent and wily.  Even as other members of the Woodard and Caldwell families move on from the past to make rich lives, Andrew plots his revenge.  Darby follows Andrew through a twenty-year period of crimes, incarceration, deception, and madness in a chilling look at the destructive power of hate and illusion.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Mountains, Pipes, William Roy, Wilkes

Robert Morgan. The Road from Gap Creek. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2013.

The Road from Gap CreekLife hasn’t gotten any easier for the Richards family. Time has only moved onward. In his sequel to Gap Creek, novelist Robert Morgan looks to the next generation to forge the way in The Road from Gap Creek. Annie Richards Powell replaces her mother, Julie Richards the original narrator of Gap Creek. Annie recounts snapshots of the Richards family during the Great Depression and World War II.

Readers are punched hard and early on with the death of Julie and Hank’s favorite son, Troy. The news devastates the family. Troy volunteered in the Civilian Conservation Corps where he met a recruiter for the Army Air Corps. The Army sent Troy to work on a base in Georgia. He reassured his family that he wouldn’t get sent into active duty. Until the Army shipped him off to England.

Annie, upon the news of Troy’s death, is propelled into the past. She recollects the family’s history in a stream of events: the move from Gap Creek to Green River, Troy’s beloved dog, Old Pat, and later Troy’s less accepted fiancée, Sharon, Velmer’s typhoid fever, fallout from the Depression, acting in high school plays, church life, bootleggers. Morgan does not adhere to chronological order, as he shifts between Annie’s recollections and present day. Her stories aren’t arranged in a strictly logical sequence. Rather, they present the effect of a patchwork memory. Morgan deftly combines Annie’s string of loosely collected memories, so that stories that seem like confined events later make sense in the scheme of the family’s history. He evokes a true feeling of everyday life where the characters on the page have breath and a pulse.

But most convincingly of all, Morgan depicts the force of family. Annie emphasizes the lack of opportunity in dead-end Green River, for herself and for Troy. She dreams of acting, traveling elsewhere, and owning fine clothes. She wants out of Green River. But when she’s offered the chance to model, possibly legitimate, possibly a scam, Annie never finds out. During that moment, she realizes she couldn’t leave her family that depends so much on her behind. Annie does not exist in isolation; she is a strand in the Richards family web. This fact becomes much truer and resonates much stronger when Annie begins her own family. The microcosm of the Richards family and its history echoes that of people and history at large.

Fans of Gap Creek will enjoy this chapter of the Richards family’s struggles and joys, but newcomers will be equally charmed by Morgan’s naturalistic story-telling. Morgan could write the Gap Creek saga ad infinitum. It’s a slice of life, and an interesting one to dig into. The Road from Gap Creek observes a period of momentous and irrevocable change in American history, and the Richards family history.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Historical, Morgan, Robert, Mountains

C. J. Lyons. Black Sheep. New York: St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 2013.

Black SheepCaitlyn Tierney likes to keep her enemies closer than her friends. In fact, she doesn’t like to be close to her friends at all. A skilled FBI agent, Tierney is a loner by choice. She pushes away well-meaning coworkers trying to bond and casual boyfriends interested in getting serious. Caitlyn isn’t much of a rule-follower. Sometimes her unorthodox approach ruffles the attitudes of more rigid agents. She suspects they would like to goad her into quitting. Tierney doesn’t have total contempt for standard regulations and textbook procedures though. She just recognizes that bad guys don’t play by the rules, so occasionally the good guys can’t either, not if they want to win.

Without friendships, Tierney’s life is her work, and she feels no regrets for committing herself fully to her job, even though it has nearly killed her twice. She is dedicated to her career despite recent difficulty that has left her scarred, literally and figuratively. However, Caitlyn is no stranger to trauma. And regardless of the physical danger and the strict protocol, she loves teaching fledgling officers. Also, her work fulfills her beloved, deceased father’s unrealized aspiration of joining the FBI.

Caitlyn grew up in the fictional mountain town of Evergreen, North Carolina. Her father, Sean, dreamed of joining the FBI, but once he met Caitlyn’s mother, Jessalyn, he abandoned his goals and became a sheriff’s deputy instead. Love overruled his ambitions. Although Sean found contentment in a future different from his initial life plan, Jessalyn never seemed satisfied with their lives. The Tierney family’s farmhouse and their small-town disappointed Jessalyn. She juggled two jobs and strove to improve their standing. When Caitlyn decided to join the FBI, Jessalyn did not approve of her only child’s career choice. Rather, Jessalyn considered it a waste of all her effort to improve the family’s stature. Needless to say, Caitlyn and Jessalyn’s relationship is strained.

But mysterious circumstances surrounding Caitlyn’s father, Sean, and her childhood friend Vonnie’s father, Eli Hale is the major source of strain within the Tierney family. After Eli was accused of murdering a Cherokee tribal elder, Sean was forced to arrest him. Like Caitlyn and Vonnie, Sean and Eli were close friends, so the arrest disturbed Sean. He argued in defense of Eli and believed firmly in his friend’s innocence. Sean’s persistence came close to costing him his job. More unfortunately however, it cost him his life. After the toll of sticking up for Eli, Sean committed suicide. Eli was convicted. And Caitlyn carried indelible scars into her future.

Now, twenty-six years later, the man Tierney holds responsible for her father’s death attempts to contact her. Eli’s youngest daughter Lena has gone missing and he begs Caitlyn to help look for her. At first, Caitlyn refuses to listen to Eli’s desperate request. Strong, unsettled memories of the past draw her into the case. Before she went missing, Lena was rooting around for evidence to verify her father’s innocence. During the unofficial manhunt, Tierney runs across a distinctive collection of clues–zoo animals, a casino, and a motorcycle club–that relate to Lena’s disappearance and her father’s strange suicide.

Before she started writing, novelist C.J. Lyons was a pediatric ER doctor. This is her second novel focused on FBI agent Caitlyn Tierney, yet it could be read easily as a stand-alone story. Lyons’ first Caitlyn Tierney novel was Hollow Bones. Black Sheep packs a surprising ending that might hoodwink even the best armchair mystery detectives.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Granville, Jackson, Lyons, C. J., Mountains, Piedmont

Ann Hite. The Storycatcher. New York: Gallery Books, 2013.

The Storycatcher“I heard tell there was a colored woman’s ghost who walked the Ridge. She was what old-timers called a story-catcher. Her job was to set life stories straight, ‘cause the Lord only knew how many were all twisted in a knot.”

Ann Hite’s The Storycatcher is a Southern Gothic that will keep readers awake at night tracing the interconnections between the different families and characters. Hite’s novel is lush, complex and ambitious in style. She splits the tale between location: Black Mountain, North Carolina and Darien, Georgia and time: the action occurs in the 1930s but there are letters and recollections from the late 1800s. Like any true Gothic, Hite incorporates paranormal elements. A few of the primary characters are no longer living. They are known as “haints” to the people of Black Mountain. Essentially, they are ghosts who are waiting for their stories to be finished.

Although the story has several voices, it centers around two young girls named Shelly Parker and Faith Dobbins. Shelly is a servant to the Dobbins family. As a rule, she dislikes the Dobbins clan. Pastor Dobbins, the patriarch of the family, exerts his influence over the town. The mountain people of the area relent before Pastor Dobbins’ divine authority. Although his title gives him power however, the locals doesn’t respect Pastor Dobbins so much as fear him. Pastor Dobbins is a fire and brimstone preacher who speaks of eternal damnation. Regardless of his theological trade, he is an evil man motivated by secrets and violence. But Shelly has greater initial contempt for Pastor Dobbins’ spoiled daughter, Faith, who orders her around on silly tasks. “Miss Prissy” Faith is “the neediest white girl,” who, in Shelly’s eyes, doesn’t lift a finger. What truly agitates Shelly is Faith’s closeness to her mother, Amanda, and her brother, Will.

However, when shrouded secrets emerge and point toward Pastor Dobbins, the girls investigate. In fact, they are forced together out of necessity. Shelly can see spirits; Faith is haunted by spirits, namely Arleen Brown who died during childbirth five years prior and was buried with her infant boy. Arleen alludes to the fact that she did not become pregnant of her own accord. Arleen occupies Faith’s body and compels the novel forward. What stories will Shelly and Faith find that are left to be told?

The Storycatcher dwells on the theme of retribution. Hite adopts a splintered narrative that features multiple perspectives, specifically six female point-of-view characters. She also braids in mountain superstitions and pieces of folklore, including charm quilts, death quilts, and hoodoo. These traditions, along with the racially-charged environment of the South during the 1800s and 1930s, reiterate the sense of interrelation and the desire for vengeance to adjust past inequities.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Buncombe, Historical, Hite, Ann, Mountains, Suspense/Thriller

Cassandra King. Moonrise. Bronxville, NY: Maiden Lane Press, 2013.

MoonriseRosalyn Harmon Justice is the perfect wife. She is aristocratic in appearance and attitude. The women of Atlanta’s high society envy her for everything that she has: her refined beauty and cool grace, her family and her friends, and her incredible estate, Moonrise, located in Highlands, North Carolina. When the Victorian home was passed down to Rosalyn through her mother, she spent her summers at Moonrise obsessively – not to mention single-handedly – maintaining its historical authenticity and its splendid moon garden. She was an exemplary woman. Everyone in Rosalyn’s life loved her dearly.

So how can Helen Honeycutt ever try to replace her?

Helen Honeycutt is a divorcée and dietician who recently landed a segment as a TV cook at a news station in Fort Lauderdale. She comes from humble, blue collar origins. The last thing she expected was to become involved with newly widowed Emmet Justice. After his wife Rosalyn’s shocking car accident, Emmet left his anchor position at CNN in Atlanta and relocated to the small-time Fort Lauderdale news station, much to the chagrin of his closest friends. Justice’s esteemed reputation as a TV journalist precedes him. He intimidates most of the employees with his caustic wit and air of gruff authority.

Despite their differences, Helen and Emmet fall in love and marry after only four months of courtship. Their marriage occurs not even a year after Rosalyn’s passing, and Emmet’s core group of friends deem the union in poor taste. Yet the newlyweds seem happy. That is, until Helen discovers Rosalyn’s partially filled scrapbook. Once she pours over the photos and examines the former Mrs. Justice with a magnifying glass, Helen’s imagination goes wild. The disparity between Rosalyn and herself intrigues Helen, of course; Emmet describes Rosalyn as “delicate” and Helen as “earthy.” And she fantasizes about Rosalyn and Emmet’s sophisticated friends: Kit Rutherford, Tansy Dunwoody, Noel Clements, and Dr. Linc and Myna Varner.  But what really grabs Helen’s attention is Moonrise. She demands, uncharacteristically, that she and Emmet spend the summer at Moonrise. After Helen’s entreaties wear him down, Emmet concedes.

But Helen regrets her insistence almost immediately after she and Emmet arrive. When she comes face-to-face with a portrait of Rosalyn in all of her patrician, Nordic beauty, Helen feels gauche and self-conscious. As if the veneer of Rosalyn’s perfection wasn’t enough to rip off the lid on all of Helen’s insecurities, Rosalyn and Emmet’s group of close friends are poised to dislike Helen. They are baffled that Emmet replaced Rosalyn so abruptly after her accident, and with Helen of all women. Comparatively, the men are more charming to Helen. The women are ready to rip “the Bride,” as they call Helen, to shreds with catty comments and gossip. Piled on top of the stress of ostracization, Helen struggles to sleep. Moonrise frightens her.  At night she hears voices and sleeps fitfully. Helen finds that she must exhaust herself, staying up late working on a healthy eating cookbook, before she can fall asleep. With all of this pressure, Helen is nervous and anxious, which drives her to reckless decisions. The memory and mystery of Rosalyn’s death, plus a few nasty tricks played by Kit and Tansy, just might be Emmet and Helen’s undoing.

If novelist Cassandra King’s Moonrise bears a striking resemblance to Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, that’s because the book is directly inspired by the classic Gothic tale. King explains on the dust jacket that she brought a copy of Rebecca with her while vacationing in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She and her husband, novelist Pat Conroy, rented a summer home in the mountains and Moonrise was inspired by reading DuMaurier’s classic and roaming the gardens of their rented house. King uses a split first-person perspective so that the story is told through Helen, Willa (Moonrise’s housekeeper), and Tansy’s eyes, which succeeds in building upon the atmosphere of gossip and duplicity. At first the Southern Gothic feels supernatural with its shadowy hints of the spectral. By the book’s conclusion, however, the surprising revelation is quite grounded in its secular motivations of covetous and vile human desire.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, King, Cassandra, Macon, Mountains, 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, Terrell, Joseph L. S.

Robin Weaver. Blue Ridge Fear. Adams Basin, NY: Wild Rose Press, 2012.

Sienna Saunders forfeited her condo in Atlanta to a relocate to a ramshackle cabin in the woods with her self-absorbed cousin, Bethany Larkin. As one character puts it, Bethany is something of a “Blue Ridge Barbie,” always busy twisting two or three different guys around her pinky.  Moving wasn’t so much a choice as the only option left for Sienna though. After her relationship with her boss fizzled out and she lost her graphic design job, Sienna decided to start up her own company. Unfortunately for Sienna, her former boss was not pleased by her new venture or by the fact that Sienna managed to steal a few clients away. So he slapped Sienna with a lawsuit.

Broke, jobless, and soon to be homeless, when Sienna heard about her inheritance from her uncle, a cabin in the mountains of North Carolina, she jumped at the opportunity. Even though that opportunity means living with Bethany for a year. According to the terms of the will, Bethany and Sienna must live together in the cabin for a full year. If either one moves then neither can claim their inheritance. Sienna and Bethany have never gotten along, and Sienna speculates that the pairing is one last attempt from her uncle to force them to bond. She doesn’t hold out much hope for the relationship. But she does need a place to stay.

On an ill-advised hiking trip, Bethany drops her purse into a river. Sienna nimbly climbs over the slippery river rocks to retrieve the bag. Before she reaches dry land, Bethany’s scream (an animal frightened her) surprises Sienna, and she slips and twists her ankle. While Bethany sets out for help, Sienna waits alone in the woods, with dripping wet clothes and a pounding ankle. A mysterious stranger appears and helps Sienna with her injury. She doesn’t trust him, yet she doesn’t have any alternatives with a useless ankle. He warns Sienna about a killer on the loose and the three women who have been found murdered around the area in the last three months. When Bethany returns with two park rangers, named Lars and Anton, the mysterious stranger disappears.

Once she is safely returned to the cabin, Sienna feels befuddled. Part of her longs to bump into the mysterious stranger again. She scolds herself for feeling so entranced by a complete stranger. After all, he might just be the killer. Soon after her accident however, he materializes. Sienna learns that the stranger’s name is Carson Addison, but that is just about the only information she can seem to weasel out of him. He advises her to return to Atlanta for her safety. Apparently, the killer targets blonde, blue-eyed women – women exactly like Sienna. Sienna wonders if Carson is toying with her, if she can trust him, and, most importantly whether she should leave now, before she becomes victim number four.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Mountains, Suspense/Thriller, Weaver, Robin

Rebecca Lee Smith. A Dance to Die For. Adams Basin, NY: Wild Rose Press, 2012.

Annabel Maitland is a dedicated ballet dancer. So dedicated that she chokes down handfuls of ibuprofen to numb her pounding hip for practices and performances.  Since Annabel is older than most of the other ballerinas (she’s 34), she strives to work twice as hard to compensate for her age. When the novel begins, she is dancing in an off-Broadway production called Moondance.  During one of the performances, Annabel and her friend, Quinn Wolcott, break into a stash of pain relievers to heavily medicate their aches and pains before the show. As Annabel waits for the ballet to begin, her head is spinning and she feels unsteady on her feet; she’s woozy rather than relaxed.

Despite concerned comments from the stage manager and her dance partner Byron, Annabel insists she is well enough to dance. Not long after the performance begins, Quinn experiences anaphylactic shock. The other dancers continue the piece, ignoring Quinn as she gasps for air. Annabel, the only dancer not callously concerned with maintaining a professional veneer, breaks formation and grabs Quinn just before she topples off the stage. Quinn falls on top of Annabel, seriously injuring Annabel’s weak hip. Quinn’s dying words are a cryptic jumble of names and a request to find her killer.

Two months later, Annabel departs New York and journeys to Asheville under the pretense of establishing and managing a dinner theater at the Sheffield Inn. Her dancing career is finished. Annabel’s age was enough of a detriment, but her wounded hip guarantees that she is permanently out of commission. She can teach for the Sheffield Inn, but it’s doubtful if she can dance for a professional company again. The worn-out mountain inn, a little ways outside of town, is in Annabel’s words, “a rundown, miniature version of Tara.” Annabel sought out the position to fulfill her promise to Quinn to investigate her murder. Quinn lived in nearby Black Mountain, but she was romantically linked to the owners of the inn, brothers Trent and Gil Sheffield. Gil was Quinn’s fiancé and Trent was Quinn’s former boyfriend.

Gil welcomes Annabel warmly and shows her around the inn. He sets her to work immediately on preparing the space with two carpenters. Midway through hanging lights, Trent interrupts the crew. Evidently he was out of town and not privy to Gil’s dinner theater plans. Trent fires Annabel on the spot. The brothers already have invested in repairs to restore the building so they, according to Trent, shouldn’t throw extra money toward a harebrained non-necessity that Gil cooked up. Trent is stable and orderly while Gil is impractical and affable. After some finagling, Gil and Annabel persuade Trent the dinner theater is a lucrative opportunity.

Trent is not convinced that he can trust Annabel and her connections to Quinn. But the show goes on and Annabel’s investigation continues. She doesn’t have to snoop around for long before she discovers that Quinn had plenty of enemies who are much happier now that she’s dead. Yet regardless of Quinn’s negative reputation, as the evidence stacks up Annabel starts to wonder if Quinn’s death was a mistake and if she was the original target all along. If her suspicions are right, then Annabel might be searching for her own killer.

Novelist Rebecca Lee Smith’s case is hard to crack until the final twist is revealed. Smith provides intrigue through the romance triangle backstory between Trent, Gil and Quinn. Her portrayal of the competitive New York dancing world feels believable in its heartlessness. A Dance to Die For is a mystery readers could easily lose themselves in for a few hours.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Buncombe, Mountains, Romance/Relationship, Smith, Rebecca Lee, Suspense/Thriller

Jessica Beck. Deadly Donuts. United States : CreateSpace, 2013.

Deadly DonutsThanks to the summer heat, Suzanne Hart’s donut sales are lagging. Turns out nobody in April Springs craves a freshly fried donut and a piping hot cup of coffee with sky-rocketing temperatures and soupy humidity that keep them just as shiny as Suzanne’s glazed donuts. So her shop, Donut Hearts, has been quiet, verging on deserted. Suzanne doesn’t mind the lack of foot traffic. She is glad to have her college-aged assistant Emma out of classes and in the shop and she maintains high spirits despite the disappointing turn in business. Unfortunately, her most recent customer delivers a nasty little treat. The mystery man alleges to have proof that Suzanne’s father was a cold-blooded killer. After a bit of initial contempt, Suzanne arranges to meet the mystery man beneath the town clock at one in the morning to see his supposed evidence and decide if his half-baked claim is truer than she would like to believe. If it is true, then it might just cost Suzanne more than she can afford.

Unfortunately, when Suzanne meets the mystery man under the clock at the designated time, she finds him – very dead. Minutes after Suzanne arrives on the scene and stumbles upon the unlucky corpse, the cops show up. At first things don’t look good for Suzanne, but then they look even worse for her mother who was suspiciously absent prior to the murder. Yet again, Suzanne and her closest friend, Grace Gauge, start examining the case. Suzanne is determined to find out who murdered the mystery man and if, in turn, his allegations about her father were accurate. As Suzanne and Grace sniff out all the possible leads, they discover that Suzanne was not the only person the mystery man tried to blackmail.

Meanwhile, Suzanne’s philandering ex-husband, Max, begs for her help. Max claims he is a changed man. The changes, he insists, are all due to his love for Emily Hargraves, the owner of Two Cows and a Moose, the local newsstand. Emily is a peculiar character with a whimsical penchant for dressing up her stuffed animals (two cows and a moose, of course) in costumes. Max has resolved to abandon his slick charm if can get a chance with Emily. He waxes poetic about his newfound love and sincerity. But since his odds seem weak, he is hoping for reinforcement. More specifically, Suzanne. Unwittingly, Suzanne is pulled into playing matchmaker for the very odd pairing. She has no qualms about lending Max a hand, but she is surprised that another woman could truly reform her chronically charming ex-husband.

This is the tenth installment in Jessica Beck’s Donut Shop Mystery series. If you’re new to the series, jump back to this blog post that covers the first book, Glazed Murder. Beck wields self-reflective humor by referencing the cozy mystery sub-genre on a few occasions throughout the novel. In one particularly navel-gazing instance, Suzanne quips that her mother had “even read a series based on a donut-shop, of all things.”

Beck offers four enticing donut recipes: two traditional recipes from scratch and two recipes relying on some prepackaged ingredients, which should satisfy readers of all cooking levels. She integrates the recipes within the text of the story. If you’re based in the Triangle area and don’t feel in the mood to slave over a deep fryer, then you could always enjoy this book over some Monuts or Rise donuts and coffee!

After

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Beck, Jessica, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Elizabeth Craig. Quilt or Innocence. New York: Signet, 2012.

Quilt or InnocenceAll Beatrice Coleman wants is a nice, quiet retirement. Now that she’s moved to small town Dappled Hills, North Carolina she is closer to her daughter, Piper, and has plenty of free time to catch up on her reading. Beatrice has visions of spending her days lying in a backyard hammock sipping leisurely on a mint julep. Almost immediately, Beatrice’s fantasy is interrupted by her intrusive next-door neighbor, Meadow Downey, who barges in and forces Beatrice to attend one of her Village Quilters guild meetings. Although Meadow pulls her into the group, Beatrice is reluctant to get involved. She didn’t come to Dappled Hills for the company. Prior to her retirement, Beatrice worked as a folk art curator in Atlanta. Coincidentally enough, she is familiar with all of the technical details of quilts and has even appraised some in the past. But Beatrice has never attempted to make a quilt herself – nor did she have any inclination to. Quite frankly, she resents been torn away from her sweet corgi, Noo-noo, and her current read, Whispers in Summer.

Before she can say “backstitch,” Beatrice is embroiled in the local quilting scene, and all of the drama that comes with it. She learns quickly that the beloved Patchwork Cottage, which supplies all the town quilters with material, is set to close. Most of the guild members support Posy, the shop owner, and a couple members implore her to stand her ground against Judith, her landlord. Judith is forcing Posy out by raising the rent. Surprisingly, Judith is also a quilter and active with the guild. Despite the shared hobby and associations, Judith is interested in launching a high-end women’s boutique in the space, which she believes will be a more lucrative venture. Judith is not exactly popular in the guild. Fellow members tell Beatrice how Judith often stoops to blackmail and delights in meanness. The night of a quilting bee, for instance, Beatrice catches Judith in the act of ripping off another member.

More than a few people wouldn’t mind Judith gone, obviously. When she turns up dead the morning after the quilting bee, fingers point in every direction. Many possible motives arise and novelist Elizabeth Craig believably shifts among all of the reasonable alternatives. Just as Beatrice fell into the Village Quilters guild by accident, so too does she become embroiled in the mystery of Judith’s murder. Beatrice asks lots of questions and uncovers a number of intriguing, if not incriminating, tidbits about the guild members. Although Beatrice doesn’t claim to carry on an investigation, her sleuthing clearly rattles the murderer, who leaves threatening notes on her doorstep stuffed inside of empty Nehi bottles.  Even with the prospect of continued and escalated threats, Beatrice does not cease asking questions nor remove herself from the case. She’s in too far now to stop – with the murder and the quilting. As Beatrice probes further, she realizes that maybe she didn’t want the sleepy retirement she hoped for all along.

Much like one of the quilts Beatrice admires in the novel, “It looks like a quilt to curl up in on a cold night. With a mug of hot chocolate,” Quilt or Innocence, is a comfortable, engaging read. Although Meadow is the designated eccentric oddball of the bunch, Craig delivers many distinctive characters. At the end of the book, Craig rewards readers with quilting tips and four tempting recipes. This is the first book in Craig’s A Southern Quilting Mystery series. For readers who want more: the second book in the series has been released and the third will come out in December of this year.

We previously covered one of Craig’s books in her Myrtle Clover Mystery series, A Dyeing Shame.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Craig, Elizabeth Spann, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places