Category Archives: 2014

Ruth Moose. Doing It at the Dixie Dew. New York: Minotaur Books, 2014.

doing itBeth McKenzie was brought up by her grandmother, Mama Alice, in Littleboro, North Carolina.  Beth went off to college and rarely came back, but when Mama Alice has an accident and requires care, Beth gives up her so-so life up North and comes home.  Once there, Beth feels the tug of memories and traditions, so much so that when Mama Alice dies, Beth decides to remake the family home into a bed-and-breakfast.

Beth has bet all she has–and all she can borrow–on this new venture.  Imagine her horror when a guest dies on opening night.  Miss Lavinia Lovingood was well into her eighties, so Beth believes that her death was natural, if untimely.  But the police chief thinks otherwise–and he’s right.  Suddenly Beth’s new business is in jeopardy even as she and that handsome carpenter Scott Smith put the final touches on the sun-porch-turned-tearoom.

Scott is just one of the characters who readers can hope to see in future novels.  Local pharmacist Malinda Jones, Beth’s housekeeper, Ida Plum, and that antagonist police chief  all look to be characters who could appear in future books.  The fictional setting for the novel, Littleboro, bears a strong resemblance to Pittsboro, North Carolina, the small town that the author calls home.

Ruth Moose is an accomplished poet and short story writer.  This is her first novel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jessica Beck. Sweet Suspects. United States: Jessica Beck, 2014.

Oh those high school years–our feelings were so strong, and we were so foolish!  Suzanne Hart is not too worried about her upcoming high school reunion.  Since she’s moved back to her hometown of April Springs, she sees many of her former classmates on a regular basis, and it’s old news to them that she’s divorced from her high school boyfriend, Max.  But some of her classmates have embarrassments from high school that are less well known–minor crimes, unwise photo sessions, unfortunate hookups, unrequited loves–mistakes that they hope will stay in the past.

The last thing that any of the revelers at the April Spring High School reunion wants is to be confronted with indiscretions from their teenage years, but Zane Dunbar loves to stir things up.  Zane, a bully in high school, appears to be drinking his way through the reunion, insulting and threatening anyone who crosses his path, including his wife.  When Zane is murdered the next day, there are plenty of suspects–including Suzanne’s good friend, Grace.  To clear Grace’s name, Suzanne drops everything to investigate Dunbar’s death. (She even takes a day off from her donut shop!)

This is the twelfth novel in the Donut Mysteries series. Like the earlier books in the series, it includes recipes for some tasty morning treats

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

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

Virginia Kantra. Carolina Man. New York: Berkley Sensation, 2014.

carolinamanLuke Fletcher is a Marine serving in Afghanistan when he receives a call from Kate Nolan, a small-town lawyer. The call is to inform Luke that an ex-girlfriend from high school, Dawn Simpson, has died. Dawn left behind a ten-year old daughter, Taylor. Luke has been named as Taylor’s father and also her guardian in case something happens to Dawn. Luke must return home to Dare Island on North Carolina’s Outer Banks to take on this new responsibility. In his quest to do what’s right, Luke finds himself falling for both his little girl and the intelligent but damaged Kate, who is a former military brat herself and doubts the ability of a Marine to make a good father.

Luke will have to discover that serving his loved ones can be just as gratifying and heroic as serving his country, and that it may take just as much skill. The only roadblock to this discovery is the Simpsons, Taylor’s maternal grandparents and their son Kevin. The Simpsons are fighting for custody of Taylor even though she has expressed her desire to stay with her father and his family. When the Simpsons make a step towards being amicable, the Fletchers will discover what’s behind Taylor’s vehement declaration that she will not go back to them.

Carolina Man is the third book in Kantra’s Dare Island series focused on family, community, and love. The first two novels told the tales of Luke’s older brother and sister. Will Luke be able to find the peace his siblings have gained? Will he have what it takes to be a hero on the home front?

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

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Coast, Dare, Kantra, Virginia, Novels in Series, Romance/Relationship

Sallie Bissell. Deadliest of Sins. Woodbury, MN: Midnight Ink, 2014.

Deadliest of SinsA simple runaway or a more sinister case of kidnapping? Sixteen year-old Samantha Buchanan was last seen driving home late one night from a babysitting job. Her stepfather Gudger’s car was found on the side of Highway 74 with the keys in the ignition and Samantha’s wallet and purse inside the car. But there was no trace of Samantha and no sign of a struggle that would indicate her disappearance as foul play. Campbell County cops are sure that Samantha must have run off with her boyfriend. Gudger, ex-military and a former cop, close with his fellow officers, has supported this conclusion. Samantha’s younger brother Chase is driven by his intuition that Samantha didn’t intentionally flee from their rural town, bordering Charlotte and Gastonia. He’s convinced that Sam was targeted and taken, and he has an awful feeling that Grudger was somehow involved.

Meanwhile, at the whim of North Carolina governor Ann Chandler, special prosecutor Mary Crow finds herself temporarily and involuntarily reassigned to Campbell County. The governor wants Mary to investigate the recent murder of Brandon Taylor, a young gay man who was brutally beaten and his body dumped in the county. One year earlier, another gay man was found murdered in a nearby county. Governor Chandler believes that the infamous Reverend Trull might have some connection to the attacks – or at least, she would like to believe so. A video of one of Reverend Trull’s homophobic sermons, proclaiming that gays and lesbians should be separated and contained, has gone viral on YouTube. Ever since, the governor has struggled in negotiations to bring businesses to the state. She’s concerned about an upcoming meeting with Ecotron Corporation, a company that could offer 500 new jobs to Campbell County. With Reverend Trull in the headlines, Governor Chandler is worried that he will scare off their best chance to improve the county’s deplorable ten percent unemployment rate. She hopes to mitigate Reverend Trull’s extreme sermons and high-profile with the assurance that special prosecutor Mary Crow is examining traces of homophobic conspiracies down in Campbell County.

Mary isn’t interested in digging through the Taylor case – especially since she’s sure the local DAs will feel threatened by her presence, encroaching on their turf – and she is less certain than Governor Chandler that a case can be brought against Reverend Trull. Hateful though his words may be, his sermons are still protected speech. As the Governor’s special prosecutor though, she’s prepared to fulfill her obligations. Before Mary departs, she discovers Chase Buchanan sitting on her doorstep. He managed to hitch a ride on a peach truck from Campbell County to Asheville. After reading Mary’s name in the Campbell County Clarion, he is set on seeking out Mary. Chase implores Mary to track down his missing sister. He fills her in on all the details of Samantha’s disappearance. However, Mary again is skeptical; she appreciate Chase’s concern about his sister, but from her outside viewpoint, her instinct tells her that Sam escaped from a dead-end town and a lousy stepfather.

But Mary ought to tread with caution. There’s a nickname for Highway 74: la carretera del dolor, “the road of sorrows.” The area’s Latino population named it such because “it carries them far from home to a lot of hard work and pain.” There’s something darker than she expects linked to Highway 74 and Campbell County. She better keep her wits sharp, lest she fall prey to the disturbing truth herself.

Sallie Bissell writes another gripping thriller for her Mary Crow series. Deadliest of Sins is the sixth book in the series, and like the first five, it covers some hard territory. Read about Bissell’s other novels in past blog posts here. Mary Crow is a tough, level-headed protagonist with plenty of moxie, and the plot lines are reminiscent of cases you might see on Law & Order, and its spinoffs, Special Victims Unit and Criminal Intent. Readers who favor suspense and mystery are sure to get hooked on Mary Crow, but they might be haunted by the fictionalized events that seem all too real in Bissell’s unflinching reflection of the dark side of human nature and its rapacious hunger for flesh and profit.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Bissell, Sallie, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Suspense/Thriller

Ann B. Ross. Miss Julia’s Marvelous Makeover. New York: Viking, 2014.

makeoverFear not, gentle reader–Miss Julia is not giving up her classic, understated, age-appropriate look.  The subject of the makeover is Trixie, a twenty-something distant relative who has been sent to live with Miss Julia.  Trixie’s “Meemaw” thinks that Miss Julia is rich and uppity, but Meemaw wants the girl off her hands, so she puts Trixie on a bus to Abbotsville. Meemaw hopes that Julia will spruce up Trixie and find her a suitable husband.

Trixie’s visit comes at an inopportune time. Miss Julia and Sam are about to embark on a new adventure as Sam runs for a seat in the state senate.  Just as Sam’s campaign is taking off, he has to have surgery for a cantankerous gallbladder.  Suddenly, Miss Julia has to stand in for Sam at various campaign events.  Public speaking terrifies Julia, but little Lloyd adds moral support by accompanying her and even doing a little speech writing.

At least all is well again with the Pickens family.  Hazel Marie–with help from from James and Granny Wiggins–has her household back in order, with the twins well cared for and Hazel Marie feeling like her old self.  Hazel Marie helps Julia by taking Trixie off her hands.  Under Hazel Marie’s gentle guidance, and in a two-steps-forward, one-step-back process, Trixie begins to groom and dress herself better.  Unfortunately, Trixie attracts the attention of Rodney Pace, a young man on the make–for money.  Pace’s ambitions are focused on setting up a new funeral parlor in town–on land that Julia owns.  Soon Julia needs her full team of family and friends to thwart his plot, and what was to be a quiet summer in Abbotsville gets very hectic even before the Fourth of July fireworks get cold.

This is the fifteen novel in the Miss Julia series.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Henderson, Humor, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Ross, Ann B.

Jane Tesh. A Bad Reputation. Scottsdale, AZ: Poisoned Pen Press, 2014.

bad repMadeline (Mac) Maclin loves her husband Jerry, but that doesn’t stop her from worrying about him.  Good-looking, musically gifted, rich-boy Jerry had a short career as a con man.  Since Mac and Jerry moved into a house that Jerry inherited in little Celosia, North Carolina, Jerry has been at loose ends.  He needs to work or he may get into some mischief.  When one of Jerry’s former associates comes to town, Mac starts to worry–about Jerry’s commitment to reform and his commitment to their marriage.

Jerry’s been thinking about the marriage too.  He loves Madeline with all his heart, and he wants them to have a baby.  Madeline is not sure that she’s ready for children–both her detective business and her art career are just getting off the ground, and Jerry still has some emotional scars from his childhood.  Plus, Jerry doesn’t really work and doesn’t want any of his family’s money, so the Maclin-Fairweather family budget is already stretched.  And, they are both busy.  Jerry will play in the local production of Oklahoma, Madeline has a new case, and the whole town is abuzz about a new art gallery that will be opening downtown.

When Madeline tags along to a reception for the new gallery owner, she gets an earful of backbiting comments.  It seems that the local arts community is a hotbed of personal rivalries, long-remembered slights, and sharp elbows.  The new gallery owner, Wendall Clarke, is not surprised by this.  He’s a local boy who went off to make good.  Now he’s back with lots of money and a new wife.  His ex-wife, Larissa Norton, is at the reception, ready with verbal jabs for one and all.  When Wendall is found murdered the next day, Larissa is Suspect #1.  But as Madeline soon finds out, there is no shortage of people who wanted Wendall dead.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Tesh, Jane

Kim Church. Byrd. Ann Arbor, MI: Dzanc Books, 2014.

ByrdAddie Lockwood notices Roland Rhodes the first day he appears in her fourth grade class. He’s the new boy in town, the son of a doctor. Roland doesn’t notice Addie until his senior year of high school. By then, she knows all sorts of personal details about him. Roland is a talented musician. He favors the Blues. Impressed by Addie’s outspoken intellect during an elective class (“The American Counterculture”), he invites her over to write lyrics to accompany a song. They quickly become friends, but after an awkward encounter, they drift apart just as quickly. Roland places a wedge between them, and Addie accepts it without much of a fight. They never write a song. After graduation, they part ways, for what seems like good.

Roland pursues his dreams of musical stardom in Los Angeles and Addie attends college in Greensboro, nearby to her fictional home town of Carswell. Although their lives are set on two different tracks, Addie refuses to give up on the idea of Roland. Now in her early thirties, she gets Roland’s contact information from high school friends and calls him up.

His musical career, as it happens, hasn’t panned out. He still plays, but he works for a company that constructs movie sets. Roland struggles with the practical details of life, like making rent or picking people up from the airport on time. All of his friends, Addie included, have heard the story of his childhood swimming pool accident and the resultant head injury that left him not quite right. Addie, meanwhile, has remained working at the same secondhand bookstore in her college town. Emboldened by a bottle of Beaujolais, she arranges to visit California after she and Roland catch up over the phone. During the visit, Addie becomes pregnant. On a promptly scheduled return trip, she informs Roland in person that she will terminate the pregnancy. But mysteriously, the abortion fails and Addie gives birth to a son that she names Byrd. She puts up Byrd for adoption without notifying Roland. The adoption colors Addie’s life well into her middle age. Surrendering her son becomes her and Roland’s most life-altering secret.

Byrd is Kim Church’s first novel. The novel focuses on the two main characters from childhood to middle age, showing their influences on each other’s lives. The story concentrates primarily on Addie and Roland’s perspectives, with imaginary letters from Addie to her forfeited son, Byrd spliced in between. Church represents the pieces of Addie and Roland’s lives with prose that feels simultaneously removed yet intimate. Characters are observed with a detached eye from the third-person, but their emotions and inner thoughts are conveyed openly on the page. Addie is wistful, longing first over Roland, and later over Byrd. As a daughter, she shies away from her parents, keeping them at arm’s length. As a sister, she doesn’t have much contact with her brother, Sam, following her high school graduation. As a mother, she loses the chance to experience motherhood with Byrd. Addie, Roland, and the other characters contend with relationships and love, accepting regret and shame, and coming to terms with loss.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Church, Kim, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship

Sheila Turnage. The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing. New York: Kathy Dawson Books, 2014.

The Ghosts of Tupelo LandingA laugh floated down the stairway, secret and low. My heart jumped. So did Dale. “Steady, Dale,” I said, my voice shaking. “Don’t leap to conclusions. A good detective starts with the obvious and works toward the strange.”

Sixth grade is about to start, and scrappy orphan Mo LoBeau is convinced that the Desperado Detective Agency needs a new case to crack. Since the Agency (comprised of Mo, her friend, Dale Earnhart Johnson III, and his dog, Queen Elizabeth) successfully solved a murder, they’ve only been hired on for two lost pet cases. Mo wants something ground-breaking to rev up business and make a name for Dale and herself as sixth grade sleuths. Luckily, she doesn’t have to wait for long–a new case is right about to fall into her lap.

The novel opens the day of the auction of The Old Tupelo Inn, which creates big buzz around the small town of Tupelo Landing (population now 147, following the past summer’s murder). Just about everyone in the town is at the auction, including Mo, Dale and one of Mo’s caretakers, Miss Lana, the owner of the local diner and Old Hollywood aficionado. Miss Lana has her heart set on an umbrella stand, but after an unfriendly woman from out of town (dubbed “Rat Face,” by Mo) makes a move to buy the Inn, Miss Lana hastily outbids her and by accident becomes the new owner of The Old Tupelo Inn along with the partial contents of the property and some very serious fine print.

According to the fine print, the inn is haunted by a ghost. Mo, and Dale after plenty of coaxing, set out to identify the ghost. Their mission couldn’t have come at a better time. A few days later, Miss Retzyl, their new teacher, tells the class that as part of the 250th anniversary of Tupelo Landing, she wants each student to interview a town elder. Mo’s arch-enemy Anna Celeste Simpson (aka Attila) somewhat unfairly claims Mo’s adoptive grandmother and the richest and nicest old person in town, Miss Lacy Thornton.

But Mo is ready to one-up Attila. She names the unidentified ghost of The Old Tupelo Inn as her interview subject. To Mo, “there ain’t nobody older than dead.” If she and Dale can determine the ghost’s identity, then they’re sure to have the best report and earn themselves a little extra credit in the process. Finding a ghost and convincing it to reveal who it is and why it’s haunting the inn isn’t an open-and-shut case however. Meanwhile, the presence of a new boy called Harm Crenshaw in Mo’s class irks Mo almost as much as living in Tupelo Landing irks Harm. He informs everyone he meets that he is only temporarily staying in Tupelo Landing until his brother Flick (a confirmed, good-for-nothing punk) can collect him to return to Greensboro. And Miss Lacy signs on to bankroll Miss Lana’s staggering bid for the ramshackle Old Tupelo Inn, yet it surfaces that Miss Lacy might not be as rich as everyone believes her to be. Could Miss Lana and Miss Lacy’s ownership of the inn be in jeopardy?

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing is novelist Shelia Turnage’s second Mo LoBeau mystery. Turnage creates a magical setting in the fictional Tupelo Landing — it’s a wacky, charming small town. Outrageously spunky and spirited Mo has a lively voice and her narration makes the pages turn quickly. Don’t let the young adult packaging stop you from picking up Turnage’s follow-up to Three Times Lucky. With Mo as your guide, Tupelo Landing is quite an entertaining place to pass some time. Click here to read a blog post on the first novel in the series, Three Times Lucky.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Children & Young Adults, Coastal Plain, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Turnage, Sheila

Brynn Bonner. Death in Reel Time. New York: Gallery Books, 2014.

reel timeSophreena McClure and Esme Sabatier are back in this, the second novel in the Family History Mystery Series. Their client, Olivia Clement, is recovering from treatment for breast cancer.  Her illness has shaken her and upset her family and friends too.  The friends banded together to help Olivia through her treatment, but they also want to give Olivia something special for her birthday—Sophreena and Esme’s genealogical research services.

Olivia is thrilled.  Both her maternal and paternal grandparents died before she knew  them.  She grew up as an only child, raised by her mother and and aunt and uncle who lived next door.  The adults in her life rarely spoke about her father who disgraced the family by running away during World War II to avoid the draft.  Olivia really wants to know about her father–What kind of man was he? Why did he leave? Could he still be alive?

Soph and Esme get to work right away, visiting Olivia almost daily to ask her questions, review boxes of family memorabilia, and bring Olivia up-to-date on leads they found searching the web.  These daily interactions cause the women to notice certain things about Olivia’s family–her son’s great cooking and his dissatisfaction with his legal career; her daughter Beth’s deference to her bullying husband Blaine; and Beth’s unsettled relationship with Blaine’s brother.  Creating an unwelcome distraction is a young filmmaker, Tony Barrett, who is staying with Olivia while he interviews an elderly local man.  He has recently enlisted Beth to help him with the interviews.  Beth enjoys this work, and the old man seems to have taken a shine to her

But when Beth arrives injured and a bit incoherent for her mother’s birthday party, everything changes.  Just as dessert is being served, Detective Denton Carlson arrives to tell Beth that her husband has been murdered.  Soph and Esme (who has been dating Detective Carlson) pump him for information, but little is known about Blaine’s death other than how he died.  The where, when, why, and who did it are unknown.  As the police work on the case, Soph and Esme try to continue their research while treading very gently with a family that has had more than its share of trauma. To take some pressure off Beth, Soph steps in to help Tony complete his interviews.  Little does anyone know how important his work will be to Olivia’s family.

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

For the first book in the Family History Mystery Series, see Paging the Dead.

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Bonner, Brynn, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont