Tag Archives: Widows

Elizabeth Spann Craig. Progressive Dinner Deadly. United States: Elizabeth Spann Craig, 2013.

progressivedinnerMyrtle Clover and her best friend Miles are planning a coup in the fictional town of Bradley, North Carolina. Today at book club, they’ll suggest the reading of actual literature. Myrtle even has a back-up plan, in case things aren’t looking too good for this suggestion. What Myrtle didn’t plan for is for her horrible neighbor, Erma Sherman, to chime in when the question of changing the book club is brought up.

Erma proposes a supper club, making it look like Myrtle was hinting at this suggestion. Myrtle wishes Erma would focus on the crabgrass that keeps creeping over into Myrtle’s yard and keep her proposals to herself! Nevertheless, the suggestion of a supper club is met with enthusiasm all around –even Miles is looking excited. Many in the group are even more enthusiastic for the idea of a progressive dinner, a dinner in which the group will go from house to house throughout the night, enjoying different courses at different houses. Myrtle is completely against this idea until she is complimented on her blackberry cobbler and asked to host the dessert portion of the night.

The supper club is off to a rowdy start when guests who weren’t even a part of book club show up at Miles’s house. The event soon takes a turn for the worse when Jill and her sister, Willow, get into an argument over Jill’s husband’s taste for drinking. After that, the night continues to deteriorate, from Willow’s house where the hostess isn’t there at their arrival and then rushes off, to Jill’s house where the group is greeted by a drunken Cullen, Jill’s husband. Nevertheless, that isn’t the worst of it–that comes when Myrtle finds Jill in the kitchen, lying in a puddle of blood.

Myrtle is soon using her detective skills to search out the suspects, and she isn’t against relying on charitable acts to get close to them. Just as it seems like Myrtle has solved the case and avoided danger, there is an unexpected action that sheds new light on the murder. Will Myrtle be able to outmaneuver the suspects and solve this case before she ends up being the next victim?

Progressive Dinner Deadly is the second book in the Myrtle Clover Mystery series. Originally published as an e-book, the printed version is now available. Octogenarian sleuth, Myrtle Clover got her first taste of solving crimes in Pretty is as Pretty Dies and it doesn’t look like this spry retired English teacher will be putting down her detective cane anytime soon.

Check out 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

Elizabeth Spann Craig. A Body at Book Club. United States: Elizabeth Spann Craig, 2014.

abodyatbookclubMyrtle Clover may be in her 80s but she can still think of better things to do with her time than go to book club meetings where no real literature will be discussed. But, a missing cat has forced Myrtle into attending book club in order to get the word out around the fictional town of Bradley, North Carolina. Pasha may not be a house cat, but Myrtle cares about her and wants to make sure she’s safe. After making her announcement, Myrtle finds herself quite teary-eyed and makes her way inside Rose Mayfield’s, the hostess for book club, house in search of a tissue. Instead of tissue, Myrtle stumbles upon a neighbor, Naomi Pelter, dead in Rose’s living room. Now she wasn’t there just thirty minutes ago.

Naomi had emailed Rose to let her know that she was sick and couldn’t make book club. Her death seems to be from natural causes, but Myrtle decides her son Red, the police chief, should be called anyhow. Whether or not Naomi died from natural causes, the story would still be a good one to write up for the town paper. So, of course Myrtle is determined to sniff out all the details. When it’s discovered that Naomi was poisoned, Myrtle already has her suspicions and sets out with her widower sidekick Miles to begin her investigation. Handing out flyers about Pasha is the perfect excuse to talk to suspects. Red wants her off the case and blocks her at every turn. Myrtle decides Red must be the one off his rocker when she gets a call from Greener Pastures telling her that she’s been added to their waiting list and they need to set up an interview and tour to determine if she would be a good fit for their retirement community.

The case is looking like a no-brainer for Myrtle. There are other suspects, but Rose Mayfield had a grudge against the victim and was very vocal about it. However, there is a twist; another murder knocks out the biggest suspect. On top of that, Myrtle and Miles have a falling out over his not caring about Pasha. Nevertheless, Myrtle is not giving up on solving these crimes. The return of Pasha and reconciliation with Miles helps Myrtle to focus on the case. As Myrtle draws ever closer to the killer, the danger to her life continues to increase. Confronted with death, who would have ever thought Greener Pastures would be Myrtle’s salvation?

A Body at Book Club is the sixth novel in the Myrtle Clover Mysteries. Read on to find out if our favorite octogenarian sleuth will retire for good.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Craig, Elizabeth Spann, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Elizabeth Spann Craig. A Body in the Backyard. United States: Elizabeth Spann Craig, 2013.

abodyinthebackyardOctogenarian Myrtle Clover has finally gotten her yardman, Dusty, and his wife Puddin over to work on her house in the fictional town of Bradley, North Carolina. Puddin might not make a great housemaid but Dusty does a good job on the yard, whenever they make it over to Myrtle’s. So, Myrtle’s excitement is dampened just a bit when Dusty discovers a body in her backyard. Of course this provides Myrtle with the perfect excuse to get some information on the case. But, it also gives Dusty and Puddin an excuse to stop their work. And Myrtle can’t help but be disappointed in herself for having no idea that a murder occurred in her own backyard.

Myrtle’s neighbor and closest friend Miles soon identifies the victim as his cousin Charles. Cousin Charles isn’t the kind of cousin you claim, he’s the black sheep that you hope never gets mentioned. Myrtle and Miles suspect that Charles had come back to Bradley to beg Miles for money. But Myrtle and Miles soon discover that there are a few people who would have had a motive to kill Cousin Charles, including a cuckolded husband, a scorned woman, and a protective father. When the protective father, Lee Woosley, turns up murdered in Myrtle’s backyard as well, Myrtle’s son, Red, starts to be concern for her safety at the house. In order to scuttle Red’s plan to send her to Greener Pastures Retirement Home, Myrtle knows she must solve this mystery fast. In their search for the murderer, Myrtle and Miles discover that Miles wasn’t the only one hiding his connection to Cousin Charles–there may be even more suspects to consider.

A Body in the Backyard is the fourth title in the Myrtle Clover Mysteries. Myrtle Clover has an uncanny talent for finding bodies in her small town, so it’s a good thing she also has the ability to solve these crimes.

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

Kim Wright. The Unexpected Waltz. New York: Gallery Books, 2014.

theunexpectedwaltzKelly Wilder Madison finds that she has walked into Canterbury Ballroom in Charlotte, North Carolina, when she meant to walk into the grocery store next door. At fifty-two, she has recently lost her older husband and has no idea what the next step in her life should be. Kelly never thought of making that next step dancing. But Kelly has never believed in accidents either. So when she is offered a free introductory lesson, she takes it and decides to come back for more.

After spending the past twenty years of her life, “pretending to be a whole lot nicer, stupider, and more conservative than she really is,” Kelly must step out of her comfort zone in order to succeed in an activity that requires her to stand out, take big steps, and risk it all. Soon, Kelly realizes that she enjoys the demands put upon her by dance and is feeling more herself than she has in years. At first, Kelly is reluctant to venture into the group class. When she does, she begins to make friends in this new world, which reminds her that there was more to her life before she settled down and became a homemaker.

On the road to rediscovering life, Kelly bonds with Carolina, a young mother in hospice. Carolina shows Kelly that it is never too late to begin anew. Also, Kelly forms an attachment to her dance instructor, Nik, who she longs to protect like he’s the son she never had. Free-spirited Elyse, who has been Kelly’s best friend since their days of youth, also inspires Kelly to breakout. These connections all help Kelly to regain confidence in herself. She gains the courage to confront the fact that she failed her marriage as much as it failed her. She also develops the strength to face the man who got away. Finally, she learns to embrace the little moments that can lead to life changing experiences.

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

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Mecklenburg, Piedmont, Wright, Kim

Elizabeth Spann Craig. Death at a Drop-In. United States: CreateSpace, 2013.

In the fictional town of Bradley, North Carolina, Myrtle Clover isn’t looking forward to attending “society matron,” Cosette Whitlow’s drop-in. Myrtle has only agreed to attend because her best friend, Miles, has asked her to come and deter the widows from descending upon him. As a lady in her 80s, Myrtle might not look too threatening, but at six feet tall and toting a cane, she can intimidate when she wants.

Cosette is always mentioning to Myrtle’s son Red how much her own mother enjoys living in Greener Pastures Retirement Home. If not talking about that, she’s bragging on how advanced her grandson is or trying to take over someone’s charity position. She kindly lends a hand throughout all of town, but there is nothing kindly about the way she deals with people. Myrtle and Miles hope to show their faces and head out soon afterwards. But, when the two walk in on a small spectacle in the kitchen involving Cosette, Felix, and an enraged Sybil, Myrtle’s interest is peaked. Is there an affair going on between Felix and Cosette?

However, things soon settle back down into boring sophistication and Miles and Myrtle are ready to make their exit. When the two can’t find Cosette to thank her, Cosette’s husband Lucas enlists them to help search her out. Myrtle discovers Cosette in the yard; she’s been hit over the head with a croquet mallet and Red, the chief of police, is called in. There are many suspects in this case and Myrtle is determined to investigate and write up the story for the town newspaper. There’s a new cub reporter in town though who might stand in her way. But, when a second murder occurs, Myrtle starts putting information together, and it looks like she’ll either end up with the scoop or in a grave of her own. How will Myrtle Clover work her way out of this one?

Death at a Drop-In is the fifth book in the Myrtle Clover Mystery series. Myrtle Clover remains just as sprightly as ever and is written proof that the young aren’t the only ones who can be the center of an exciting story.

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

Lights, Camera, Novel: Allan Gurganus’s Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All.

Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells AllOn-screen, the Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All is much like its novel counterpart. Clocking in at a hefty 718 pages, Allan Gurganus’ debut work is no quick read. And the miniseries isn’t exactly a half-hour sitcom either. Given the length and the detail of the novel, it’s not surprising it would take four hours to adapt the epic life story of Confederate widow, Lucy Marsden.

Lucy’s life story was heavily influenced by her marriage at age fifteen to Captain Willie Marsden, thirty-five years her senior, and, until his death, the last surviving Confederate soldier. Gurganus’ celebrated novel is told from the perspective of the still spunky ninety-nine year-old Lucy who resides in a North Carolina nursing home.

Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All spent eight months on the New York Times Best Seller list and sold more than four million copies. The novel also won Gurganus the Sue Kaufman Prize from The American Academy of Arts and Letters. All this proving it was worth the seven long years it took to Gurganus to write Confederate Widow.

Gurganus was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He drew a great amount of inspiration from his grandmother, Willie Ethel Pitt Gurganus, who he would visit during his lunch breaks when in grade school. Despite their time together, she never shared her life stories with him. Lucy is his imagination of his grandmother’s experiences as a Confederate-era woman.

Right around the release of the novel in 1989, New York Magazine wrote a detailed profile on Gurganus, still available here through Google Books. The miniseries, which was broadcast on CBS, starred Diane Lane, Donald Sutherland, Cicely Tyson, Anne Bancroft and Blythe Danner. Lane played Lucy from teenage to middle age. Bancroft portrayed elderly Lucy.

Confederate Widow Miniseries

Photo courtesy of the Sonar Entertainment website.

The adaptation won four Emmys (Art Direction, Costume Design, Hairstyling, and Best Supporting Actress) out of its nine nominations. The miniseries was filmed in Madison, Georgia rather than North Carolina. The novel was set in the fictional town of Falls, North Carolina.

Gurganus did not write the screenplay, which was instead adapted by Joyce Eliason. The New York Times review of the miniseries indicates that Gurganus played a small part in the production. And, Gurganus in turn spoke positively of the television adaptation.

In 2003, Ellen Burstyn starred as Lucy in a theatrical adaptation of Confederate Widow on Broadway. A critic from Variety notes that it was a very long two hours and twenty minutes, attributed partially to the fact that the page-to-stage adaptation was conceived as a one-woman show. Apparently the production closed after one official show. A few years later in 2007, the novel was adapted again for the stage, this time by Gurganus, as a part of the Theater of the American South Festival. The production was pared down to a one-act, one-woman play that was better received than its ill-fated Broadway predecessor.

Visit Sonar Entertainment’s site for a short clip from the miniseries and some production shots. But if you’re interested in watching the miniseries for yourself, copies of the movie are available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog in two locations in addition to the novel. The original blog post on Gurganus’ novel is available here.

Sources consulted: Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Magazine, New York Times, News & Observer (two different articles), People, Sonar Entertainment, Variety (two different articles), Wikipedia (Allan Gurganus, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All)

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1994, Gurganus, Allan, Historical, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Edward P. Norvell. Ocracoke between the Storms. Winston Salem, NC: Distributed by John F. Blair, 2013.

Ocracoke between the StormsFour months ago, Luke Harrison lost his wife of four years, Karen, in a fatal car accident. Without Karen, Luke cannot find much purpose in his life. Luke’s father died when he was a baby and his mother was incarcerated following her addiction to drugs, so he spent his adolescence drifting through foster homes. Karen was Luke’s closest and only true family. Wracked with grief, Luke drives from his home in Kannapolis to Ocracoke Island where he intends to end his suffering by drowning himself. But just as the rough whitecaps are dragging him under, an unexpected bystander rescues Luke from the freezing water. Hank Kilgo, a retired Coast Guard officer, is Luke’s savior. After Hank pulls Luke to safety, he insists that Luke rest for the night at his home with him and his wife, Cora.

Luke continues to stay with the Kilgo family much longer than his initial invitation. The natives welcome Luke unconditionally. Before he knows it, Luke is immersed in the area’s island culture and takes on odd jobs. Novelist Edward P. Norvell portrays the intimate community of Ocracoke with painstaking detail. Norvell’s Ocracoke is a vibrant small town brimming with special traditions such as the Ocracoke Festival, volunteer efforts like a radio station-sponsored bachelor auction, and of course, local politics concerning the invasive Park Service and their protection of the loggerhead turtle population. The most colorful town character is Thomas Michael Joiner or TMJ for short. TMJ and Luke are a union of opposites. Where Luke is humble and modest, TMJ is gregarious and brazen. Despite the pair’s differences, Luke and TMJ become close friends, and TMJ helps Luke feel at home in Ocracoke, particularly amongst the other single twentysomethings on the island.

Slowly but surely, Luke forms a lasting attachment to Ocracoke. At first he tries to keep the situation casual–from his living arrangements, to his employment, to even his love life. The fact that Luke develops a love life only a few months after Karen’s death confuses him. During the night, he dreams of Karen and copes with his guilt over her accident and what he might have done to prevent it. The idea of replacing Karen so quickly strikes Luke as callous. Whether Luke is aware or not, Ocracoke and its people restore meaning to his life and help Luke survive his heartbreak. Ocracoke between the Storms is a tale of redemption and moving past tragedy in life. Norvell has written three other novels, Southport, Shadows, and Portsmouth, all of which occur in coastal locations around the state. Clearly, Norvell derives a large amount of inspiration from the beaches of North Carolina.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Hyde, Norvell, Edward P., Romance/Relationship

Tyora Moody. When Rain Falls. Deer Park, NY: Urban Christian, 2012.

whenWhen she was a young girl, Candace Johnson was present when her mother was killed by a drunken, abusive lover.  Aunt Maggie took Candace in but her home was one of harsh, religious judgments, and Candace fled as soon as she could.  In the years since Candace made a good life for herself, marrying a police detective, raising two children, and opening her own beauty salon in Charlotte, North Carolina.

But good friends and a loving spouse are no protection from the violence of the world.  Candace’s husband is killed, and two years later the murder remains unsolved. Candace has kept herself together for the sake of her children, but as When Rain Falls opens, she is hit with another hard blow: her best friend, Pamela Coleman, is murdered in her own garage.  Her husband’s former partner is one of the detectives investigating Pamela’s murder.  The other investigator, Darnell Jackson, is new to the Charlotte police force, but not new to Charlotte.  The failure of the police department to solve her husband’s murder prompts Candace to investigate Pamela’s death; she just can’t loose her two soul mates without getting some answers–and some justice.

The two investigations–Candace’s and the official one–turn up unpleasant facts about Pamela, her law firm, and some respected people in her social circle.  Candace and Detective Jackson butt heads over Candace’s activities even as they find themselves thrown together (and attracted to each other) in various social situations.  The author does a good job of balancing several threads of the story–Candace’s backstory, her struggle as a mother and as a Christian, the possibility of a new romance, and the murder investigations–and concluding them in a satisfying way.  The community of family, friends, and clients who support Candace is well drawn, adding another layer to the novel.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Mecklenburg, Moody, Tyora, Mystery, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational

Lucy Arlington. Every Trick in the Book. New York: Berkley, 2013.

everytrickinthebookLila Wilkins has reached her goal of becoming a literary agent at A Novel Idea, a publishing house in small-town Inspiration Valley, North Carolina. The position is a serious step up from her first job at A Novel Idea as an intern, and with her new title comes a salary allowing her to purchase a dream home in the cozy town. Everything seems perfect — her twenty-something son, Trey, is happy living and working at the nearby Red Fox Co-operative farm, and she has an exciting new relationship with handsome local police officer Sean Griffiths. Of course, just when everything is looking up, an element of danger appears.

The trouble starts with an unsettling horror manuscript Lila receives by mistake. As the agent assigned to romance and cozy mysteries, Lila’s usual reading is lighthearted and fun. This manuscript is full of blood and gore, and she passes it off to her colleague, the literary agent assigned to thrillers and horror novels. Unfortunately, the manuscript has no contact information for the author– just an attached note saying that he will be pitching the novel to the agents at their upcoming Book and Author festival. Lila simply dismisses the manuscript as not in her area, but when she is nearly murdered at the book festival, she’s convinced it must be the mysterious author. Then, she finds the body of another editor nearby. Shortly after, a local author is killed, and the two murders appear to Lila to be connected. Will Lila find the murderer in time to prevent her own death? And could clues to his or her identity be written into the grisly manuscript?

Lila Wilkins is determined that she will have the final word.

Check out this second installment in the Novel Idea Mysteries in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Arlington, Lucy, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Jean Reynolds Page. Safe Within. New York: William Morrow Paperbacks, 2012.

safewithinElaine and Carson Forsyth have been married and living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina for nearly thirty years when he is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. At first Elaine and Carson carry on with their lives but later Carson decides he wants to spend his remaining weeks in Elaine’s childhood home–a whimsical house her parents built in the trees above a lake just outside of the Triangle. Elaine is devastated at losing her husband, but what’s worse when he passes on she’ll be left with her acerbic mother-in-law. Greta Forsyth does not like her daughter-in-law. Although both her son and his wife have tried to convince her otherwise, Greta knows what the woman who walked in on Elaine and that other boy saw all those years ago. She knows that her supposed grandson, a handsome young man in his late twenties called Mick, is really a cuckoo’s child. Her son might be taken in, but Greta is not that kind of fool.

Elaine doesn’t know how to get through to Greta; at this point in their long, bitter relationship, she’s stopped trying. Mick, her son, knows to leave his grandmother alone, but he can’t be absent for his father’s last few weeks of life. He comes home to Carolina from his shipyard job in Rhode Island, but runs into trouble he doesn’t expect when he stops to catch up with some old acquaintances. His high school sweetheart, a beautiful local girl named Kayla, went away for a time with her mother after she and Mick broke up. When the two returned, they brought Kayla’s new little brother with them. Kyle is six now, and everyone but Mick is sure they know who his parents are in reality. Caught between Greta’s accusation that he’s not his father’s son and Kayla’s family’s anxiety over his attempt to reach out to little Kyle, Mick must decide who he will be for himself. As the family dynamics shift with Carson’s death, Greta and Elaine must also reconsider their assumptions.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Orange, Page, Jean Reynolds, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship