Category Archives: 2010-2019

2010-2019

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

Shelia P. Moses. The Sittin’ Up. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014.

The Sittin' UpStanbury “Bean” Jones Jr. is excited to take part in his first “sittin’ up.” Now that he’s twelve, his parents agree that he’s old enough to be a part of the custom. A “sittin’ up” is equivalent to a wake. Novelist Shelia P. Moses explains in an author’s note that this tradition occurred in the town of Rich Square, North Carolina because after embalming, the undertaker would not keep the bodies of deceased black townspeople, so they were taken home the night before the funeral. The ritual of bringing the body home was phased out over time, however, the ritual of gathering of family and friends to honor the deceased remained.  A “sittin’ up,” according to Moses, is held for the sake of living, to comfort those left behind and suffering from the loss of loved ones.

The year is 1940, and the people of Low Meadows are still struggling with the economic fallout of the Great Depression. The novel opens with Bro. Wiley on his death bed. At the ripe old age of about 100, Bro. Wiley is at peace that his death is drawing near. He is ready to join his forebears in the so-called “Slave Grave.” That sentiment is not shared with the rest of the community. News of Bro. Wiley’s passing weighs heavy with grief and sadness.

Although Bean is interested in the prospect of participating in his first “sittin’ up,” he feels regret that Bro. Wiley had to die. The novel focuses upon the process of preparing for Bro. Wiley’s sittin’ up. What should normally be a routine custom though goes awry with an impending storm that threatens to disrupt arrangements for the sittin’ up. No matter the forecast, Bro Wiley’s sittin’ up ends up being a transformative experience for Bean and the rest of Low Meadows.

Moses’ story is driven by characters, their culture, and a strong sense of place. She covers plenty of ground in 226 pages. The Sittin’ Up addresses a number of small-scale community dynamics from the local outcasts like the town drunk, Real Kill, and Florenza, a flirty bootlegger who is busy making sweet eyes at Reverend Hornbuckle, to tensions between Bean’s father Stanbury and his lazy, lying brother-in-law, Uncle Goat. The novel touches upon historical elements like the enduring effects of the Great Depression and the economic and social environment of sharecropping. Moses also creates additional tension with the town school teacher, Mr. Creecy, who refuses to excuse his students, and Mr. Thomas Wiley, the landowner who wants the children to stay home and harvest crops. Racial tensions between whites and blacks are featured.

Moses balances death and tragedy with life and new beginnings, and she explores the close bond between Bean and his friend Martha Rose “Pole” Cofield, and Bean’s maturation as a young adult. Moses includes an author note at the conclusion of the book, referenced at the beginning of this post. Read it first (there aren’t any spoilers) because it gives great context to the novel and it shows Moses’ personal experience as a native of Rich Square, North Carolina. In 2008, UNC-TV featured Moses on a half-hour Bookwatch segment. Read past blog posts on Moses’ work here.

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, Historical, Moses, Shelia P., Northampton

Deborah J. Ledford. Crescendo. Kernersville, NC: Second Wind Publishing, 2013.

cresInola Walela should be a happy woman.  She has established herself professionally as a officer in the Bryson City police department, and as this novel opens she is about to receive a medal of honor for her role in taking down a killer who was wanted in three states.  Her personal life is on the upswing too.  Her romance with Swain County Sheriff Steven Hawk has progressed to the point where the two are living together.  Despite some differences over housecleaning, they seem to be a good match.

But still, Inola worries.  She is not at ease with Steven’s family, who live nearby, and she doesn’t know how to tell Steven that she can’t have children.  Also, the alcoholism in her family haunts her, and she feels somewhat isolated professionally–always a little insecure despite her achievements and unable to confide to her colleagues.  Her new partner, Cody Sheehan, looks up to her, but he is green and a bit of a hothead.  Inola likes him, but she does not have a great deal of confidence in him.  Lori Traeger adds to Inola’s insecurity.  The good-looking redhead, newly appointed to the police force, is the niece of the chief.  Since the Bryson City force is so small, Inola worries that she will be pushed aside to clear a path for Lori to rise in the department.

With all this on her mind, it is no wonder that Inola goes off track when a traffic stop goes very wrong.  In a flash what Cody and Inola thought could be an abduction turns into a firefight and a traffic fatality that leaves two dead and Cody barely clinging to life.  One of the dead is a woman who as she was dying, begged Inola to find her kidnapped son.  Inola is placed on administrative leave, but thoughts of that little boy push her to investigate the circumstances of the dead woman’s life.  But Inola fails to recognize that the person who is most helpful to her–and most attuned to her feelings–is the person responsible for all the death and trauma.

This taut, well plotted novel is the final book in the Steven Hawk-Inola Walela supense series.  Click to see information about the first and second novels in the series.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Ledford, Deborah J., Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Swain

Annis Ward Jackson. High Country Coverup. United States: SunnyBrick Publishers, 2010.

high countryIsn’t it a truism that when a person is murdered, the police always suspect that a family member is the killer?  Then why was it that when Everett Dawson, a wealthy retiree, was murdered no one suspected his newish, stylish, younger wife?  Marcia Dawson wasn’t a suspect because her husband’s body was found hidden on Gurney Styles’ property.  Styles, who had been drinking the weekend of the murder and whose wife was out of town, didn’t have much of a memory of the night Dawson died, let alone have an alibi.  Although the case against Styles was far from airtight, the assistant district attorney prosecuted it with great energy, and Styles was convicted.  But Gurney’s wife, Dulcie, believes that her husband is innocent, and when she asks Rachel Myers for help, Rachel can’t refuse.  Soon Sheppard County’s amateur detective puts her mid-summer gardening aside to help this nice woman save her husband from a life in prison.

This is the seventh book in the Rachel Myers Murder Mysteries Series. Many of the characters in the previous books, including Isaac Starling and that handsome detective Robby Barnett, are present in this book, and Ms. Jackson’s love of gardening comes through as it did in the earlier volumes.

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

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Jackson, Annis Ward, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Elizabeth Craig. Knot What It Seams. New York: Signet Books, 2013.

Knot What It SeamsNo matter how hard she tries, it seems like Beatrice Coleman is never able to relax. Try as she might, just as she gets comfortable, something always seems to get in Beatrice’s way – a phone call, her eccentric neighbor, Meadow Downey, dropping in unexpectedly, or, even worse, a murder. Beatrice thought a cottage in Dappled Hills, North Carolina would be a nice, sleepy little place to spend her retirement. Turns out, she was wrong.

Meadow, the leader of the local Village Quilters guild, is bemoaning the recent decline in membership. She is fanatical about nipping the trend of dwindling attendance in the bud. She informs Beatrice that she has invited Jo Paxton, formerly of another area guild, the Cut-Ups, to join the Village Quilters. Beatrice is wary of the prospect of welcoming Jo to the group, especially after she observes two heated interactions between Jo and members of the Cut-Ups at the Patchwork Cottage, the go-to shop for quilting materials in Dappled Hills. The Cut-Ups kicked Jo out of the guild because she is a narrow-minded bully who only appreciates traditional quilting. Her confidence in her opinion is only reinforced by the fact that she judges for several quilting shows. But Meadow is dead set on extending the invitation, despite Jo’s tendencies to cause trouble. From her very first Village Quilter’s meeting, know-it-all Jo critiques each of the quilters’ work, one-by-one.

In the midst of inviting Jo to the Village Quilters, both quilting guilds are taken aback by the news that Mayor Booth Grayson intends to tax the quilting groups. Since the guilds are generating revenue, Grayson has decided to tax them for the benefit of the town. All the quilters dispute the decision since the bulk of the money they raise is donated to charity. During the town hall meeting, Jo picks a fight with Mayor Grayson, threatening to air his dirty laundry if he doesn’t drop his plan to tax the quilters. Jo is also the town mail carrier, and a very bad one at that. She constantly delivers mail to the wrong addresses and is known to snoop through other people’s post. Police Chief Ramsay Downey manages to diffuse the tension by suggesting that Mayor Grayson will attend the upcoming quilting show before he reaches a final conclusion on taxing the quilters.

The night of the quilting show, Jo doesn’t show up. The quilters learn that in the rainy weather, Jo drove her car off the side of a mountain in a car accident. Beatrice suspects fowl play and she urges Ramsay to investigate further. Many of the town people are struggling to display grief in response to Jo’s startling death. After a bit of nudging, Ramsay discovers that Beatrice’s instincts were correct. Jo’s unfortunate car accident was no accident–someone cut her brakes. With a murderer on the loose, the town of Dappled Hills is left reeling. Contrary to her mission to relax, Beatrice winds up collecting clues and investigating Jo’s murder, but this isn’t an easy case. So many people wanted Jo dead for very different reasons, from her husband Glen Paxton, a mechanic, to Karen Taylor and Opal Woosley, slighted Cut-Ups members, to Mayor Grayson. Beatrice better take care that she doesn’t get too hot on the trail of the killer, lest she become the next victim.

Novelist Elizabeth Craig returns with her offbeat band of characters in this second installment of the A Southern Quilting Mystery. Craig, a cozy mystery novelist, writes an absorbing mystery for readers who like the gruesome elements of a story toned down. “Cozy mysteries” feature an amateur sleuth who lives in a tight-knit small town. The focus is shifted away from the unpleasant details of the murders themselves and onto the detective work, the sleuth’s personal life, and the recurrent characters, or rather townspeople. Read more about cozy mysteries here and here. Knot What It Seams is an exemplary model of the sub-genre. As the name “cozy” implies, there’s much more humor and light-heartedness in Craig’s work than the average mystery. She even includes quilting tips and recipes at the end of the book.

If you’re interested in starting with the first novel in the series, Quilt or Innocence, take a look at our blog post on it here. Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Craig, Elizabeth Spann, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Barbara Claypole White. The In-Between Hour. Don Mills, Ontario: Harlequin Mira, 2014.

The In-Between HourWhen eighty year-old Jacob Shepard is kicked out of Hawk’s Ridge Retirement Community for his belligerent behavior, his son Will’s last nerve has already been plucked. Jacob has developed short-term memory loss. This condition, along with Jacob’s troublesome behaviors like knocking back Wild Turkey despite the community’s no-drinking policy, spouting off obscenities, and complaining about the staff and the other residents, has worn Will thin. As it stands, Will is struggling to churn out his next best-seller. He’s feeling uninspired by his formulaic yet popular thriller series, Agent Dodds, and constant calls from Jacob only interfere with his writing process. But it’s the secret Will has been hiding from his father that weighs on him the heaviest.

Will’s five year-old son, Freddie was killed in a recent car accident. Freddie’s mother, Cassandra, an irresponsible heiress, was drunk behind the wheel. She caused a single car accident that killed her, Freddie, and her current boyfriend. Since the accident, the grief has crippled Will. And re-living the painful memory every time Jacob calls him becomes too difficult for Will to bear. Will impulsively tells Jacob that he can’t see his grandson because Freddie and Cassandra are taking a long trip to Europe. After he considers his fib, Will sees it as an opportunity to re-write the truth and celebrate Freddie. The decision becomes more problematic though when Jacob gets himself booted out of Hawk’s Ridge. Now, Will must leave New York City and return home to North Carolina to figure out what to do with his lonely, rabble-rousing father. Unfortunately, that means he’s also trapped in a lie. To protect Jacob, Will must find a way to keep the charade going while he grieves in secret.

With no place to live, Jacob’s new art teacher at Hawk’s Ridge, Poppy, suggests that they visit her friend Hannah who has an extra cottage for rent. Hannah Linden is holistic veterinarian who lives in rural Orange County and struggles with plenty of familial troubles of her own. Her elder son Galen is succumbing to a battle with depression and alcoholism, diseases that run in the family. A few weeks prior he stumbled into an ER and told them he wanted to commit suicide. Will and Jacob arrive on Hannah’s doorstep on the eve of Galen’s release from a psychological ward. She agrees to let them stay, though her mind is already preoccupied. Hannah is at odds trying to understand how her calmest, sweetest son could be so dark and tormented inside. Over time, Hannah and Will are united by the difficulties in their lives. Denying the spark between them grows increasingly impossible …

Novelist Barbara Claypole White writes “love stories for damaged people.” Indeed, The In-Between Hour delves into many difficult topics (suicide, depression and mental illness, family secrets, death, divorce, alcoholism, etc.) The novel focuses upon people at a crossroads, people who have to leave behind emotional loss and upheaval in order to forge a new beginning out of old suffering. White also integrates details from her research on the Occaneechi Indians, a tribe around Hillsborough, North Carolina in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Orange, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship, White, Barbara Claypole

Larry Rochelle. Back to the Rat. Chapel Hill: Larry Rochelle, 2013.

Back to the Rat has a ripped-from-the-headlines feel: an athletic scandal is tarnishing UNC’s reputation and an NCAA investigation of it is itself a questionable endeavor; shadowy figures who may or may not work for the government drug and kidnap the hero; and locals who hope that a beloved Chapel Hill landmark may be resurrected.  Palmer Morel, a forty-something tennis pro is in the midst of all this.

Palmer lives just south of Chapel Hill and as his tennis fortunes have waned, he’s picked up a dubious second career as a bag man for a local mobster, Chucky Minori. He needs the money, but he needs something more too.  At the suggestion of a friend who notices his down mood, Palmer visits The Body Shop, a Carrboro dance therapy center.  There Palmer encounters Pris Price, who he fantasizes could cure all his ills.  Pris both rebuffs and bewitches him, drawing him into danger and an immense conspiracy.

Readers who know the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area will enjoy Mr. Rochelle’s use of local landmarks as the settings for many key scenes.  And Palmer’s confidant and caper partner, the columnist “Barry Cinders”, will bring to mind a certain News & Observer columnist.  But one need not be steeped in local lore to enjoy Back to the Rat.

Back to the Rat is fourteenth Palmer Morel thriller. Morel’s adventures have taken him across the United States, from Kansas City to Biloxi, to Chapel Hill and points in between.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Novels in Series, Orange, Piedmont, Rochelle, Larry, Suspense/Thriller

Lucy Arlington. Books, Cooks, and Crooks. New York: Berkley, 2014.

Books, Cooks, and CrooksKlara Patrick knows how to put on a good show. She’s a famous TV chef with a newly released cookbook, and the star of Inspiration Valley’s upcoming Taste of the Town festival. Or so she insists – Klara is adamant about being treated as the headliner at the festival. Lila Wilkins, one of the literary agents responsible for organizing Taste of the Town, is happy to think of Klara as the star. She’s a fan of Klara’s work and she’s excited to meet the chef in the flesh. Lila’s employer, the Novel Idea Literary Agency, is backing the Taste of the Town festival and the staff is working hard to make the event a success. However, all the employees at the agency are struggling to juggle the chefs’ enormous egos. Turns out, their pride is more sensitive than a rising soufflé.

Although Lila is won over by Klara’s generosity after their first meeting, Lila’s mother, a psychic named Althea, sees something bad in Klara right away. Althea warns her daughter that Karla doesn’t mind using others to climb her way to the top. At first, Lila places little stock in her mother’s vision. However, Klara’s kind and generous demeanor cracks quickly against any perceived slights to her stardom.  She demands a top-of-the-line gas stove for her cooking demonstration for free, and she sours when she believes another chef’s newly released cookbook will outshine her cookbook at an upcoming book signing at the festival. Even worse, Klara delights in taking digs at her peers.

The night before the cooking demonstrations for the festival, Klara belittles another chef, Joel Lang, and his trio of dishes planned for the demonstrations. In anger, Joel storms out of the party. A short while later an explosion goes off in the kitchen. Firefighters on the scene recover human remains. By process of elimination, Lila is sure that Joel, who is missing, must have died in the explosion. An explosion, as it turns out, that was caused by Klara’s specially requested six-burner stove. Following Joel’s untimely demise, the chefs and the Novel Idea staff try to remain calm and continue with the scheduled festivities, while police hunt for a killer. Suspicions against Klara cloud Lila’s mind. Klara acts unscathed by the accident and expresses irritation that her stove was ruined. But is Klara the murderer or the target? Lila soon learns that all of the chefs have vendettas of their own. Their deep-seated rivalries might just be deadly.

The two voices behind the pen name Lucy Arlington, Ellery Adams and Sylvia May, are back with a third novel in their A Novel Idea Mystery series. Novelist Ellery Adams has been featured here in the past for her Books by the Bay mysteries.  Books, Cooks, and Crooks provides plenty of intrigue and surprises for mystery loves. On a lighter note, the novel also develops the ongoing romance between Lila and police officer Seth Griffiths and introduces a secret admirer for Lila’s barista friend Makayla. Whether you’re interested in mystery, romance, or a new, fast-paced fiction read, the latest Lucy Arlington delivers.

To learn more about A Novel Idea Mystery series, read these posts covering the first two installments in the series. Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Arlington, Lucy, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Mary Flinn. The Nest. New York: Aviva Publishing, 2013.

nestA nest, yes, but whose nest?

With retirement on the horizon, her daughters out of the house, and her husband traveling for business, Cherie Johnson was looking forward to enjoying the freedom and peace of being an empty-nester.  But all that changes in a single week when her older daughter, Hope, moves home after her boyfriend announces that he is moving to Italy without her.  Hope has studied to be an art teacher, but in the down economy, she can’t get a teaching job.  She gets by–barely–by working in a high-end dress shop and bartending.  Cherie has adjusted to Hope’s situation, but she is unprepared when her husband, Dave, becomes another casualty of the economy.  After twelve years as a sales representative, a corporate restructuring leaves Dave without a job.  Dave could go to his mother, who heads a furniture manufacturing company, but neither he nor Cherie want to do that.  Instead, Dave sends out resumes, checks employment websites, and handles the household chores–including training the little Papillon puppy that Hope brought home with her.  Dave juggles this all pretty well for the first month or two, until his fruitless job search takes its toll on his spirits.

At least Cherie and Dave’s daughter Wesley is doing well.  She is about to finish her nursing degree at UNC-Chapel Hill, and she has just become engaged to a nice fellow who has a good job with Apple.  But with the cost of a wedding now on the horizon, Cherie realizes that she must put off retirement.  At least she has coworkers who lift her spirits and gently offer advice–and so does Hope.  In chapters that alternate between Cherie and Hope’s perspective, readers learn how each woman thinks and grows, and how the family rights itself.  As in Mary Flinn’s other books, The Nest includes a network of family and friends populated by well drawn characters.  Readers will be both exasperated and charmed by Dave’s mother, Toots, and it’s a testament to Flinn’s generosity that even Hope’s self-absorbed boyfriend Liam is not wholly dislikable.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Flinn, Mary, Guilford, Piedmont

Janice Lane Palko. Cape Cursed. United States: Plenum Publishing, 2013.

Relocating the Cape Destiny Lighthouse is a high stakes venture for Bliss Sherman.  Moving a structure its size and age is no easy task, and many of the locals oppose relocating the historic structure.  This project will be the first really big job that Sherman Engineering has done since Bliss create the company after splitting (personally and professionally) from the established engineering firm headed by her ex-husband.  This high profile job has brought Bliss a lot of media attention.  Since few engineering firms are headed by Amerasian women, and Bliss is an attractive woman with a compelling story, she has been asked for interviews by everyone from People to the local high school paper.  The project needs to be a success–and on budget.

Bliss is grateful to have good people working for her–Randy, a hands-on crew manager and Nancy, an administrative assistant.  Nancy is a godsend, working around Bliss’s dyslexia to keep the office running smoothly and handling dozen of small personal matters for Bliss.  But will a good plan, the right equipment, and a good crew be enough?  When the company’s equipment is vandalized and Bliss assaulted, Bliss begins to worry.  Is the lighthouse really cursed–do bad things happen to people associated with it? Is her ex-husband, now a professional rival, behind these troubles?  Or are some locals–including that handsome Parker Swain–so committed to stopping the move that they have resorted to violence?  The suspense builds as Bliss struggles to decide who to trust in a situation that has become professionally and personally perilous.

The controversy surrounding moving the fictitious Cape Destiny Lighthouse will remind many readers of the arguments over the relocation of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in 1999.

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, Palko, Janice Lane, Suspense/Thriller