Sarah Winston is back in “The Longest Yard Sale,” the second installment in Sherry Harris’ habit-forming Garage Sale Mysteries. In addition to conducting her usual private home tag sales, Sarah has taken on the enormous job of running a one-day, town-wide event. And almost everybody has a great time. Including the thief that steals a valuable painting from an art studio belonging to Sarah’s friend, Carol. Law enforcement is focused on putting out fires as well as the Yard Sale crowds, so they don’t have quite as much fun.
Art theft? Fires? Add in a murder, a mayor who is never where she’s supposed to be, embezzlement, possible forgery, a ‘framed’ body discovered the day after the theft occurs, and we have a great mystery that intrigues and satisfies. Why was the body found at Carol’s studio? Is the body connected to the theft or merely a wild coincidence? And, what’s really going on in that studio?
CJ, the Chief of Police and Sarah’s ex, warns Sarah to stay out of it, but she can’t help herself. She needs to collect information to save Carol from being prosecuted and her own reputation from being smeared. There are plenty of suspects to go around in “The Longest Yard Sale,” and Harris deftly deals with throwing suspicion in all the right places while the layered plot unfolds.
Although Sarah has divorced her former Air Force husband, she still has ties to the local Base and the thrift store there, and maybe even to said hubby, CJ. Just because she now has to be buzzed onto the Base to gain access to the thrift store (and a possible new crime) Sarah’s interest in getting to the bottom of the bargain bins and ferreting out suspicious scams never wanes.
Life in and after the Air Force is further explored in “The Longest Yard Sale,” and all is not as it should be. One of the subplots discusses a normal real-life pre-retirement activity: officers that use military connections to help set up post military life. In this case, people may have lost money in the process, but were they actually swindled? How? By whom?
There is a new guy in Sarah’s life, but is CJ still in the picture as well? She struggles with why she was so quick to believe the worst about him and so ready to divorce. Harris creates a believable mental tug-of-war for Sarah, with CJ and the new guy playing strong male roles, each unaware of the feelings that Sarah may have for the other. An interesting balancing act that adds another layer to the tale. Which guy will she choose? Will she wait too long to make that decision? Does she need to make any decision at all?
The great dynamic between Sarah and the men in her life, the nicely developed cast of characters, the twists in the engaging plot(s) in “The Longest Yard Sale,” all drive me to one conclusion: can’t wait to see what happens in the next book!
Harris’ debut novel, “Tagged for Death,” an Agatha Award nominee, is reviewed here.
Please visit www.sherryharrisauthor.com for more information about Sherry Harris and her work.
“Tagged for Death,” Sherry Harris’ debut novel, tells the story of Air Force wife, Sarah Winston, recovering from her husband’s betrayal. She can’t forgive him getting drunk at a party and winding up in bed with a young female airman under his authority. Especially when the gal gets pregnant during the supposedly one-night stand. That indiscretion causes the hubby to lose his command, as well as Sarah, in a matter of a few short months.
After CJ (the ex) becomes Chief of Police in the neighboring town, Sarah gets crank phone calls with gunshots in the background, and is harassed by his cop cronies – pulled over for bogus tickets. Sarah can't go to CJ to complain, not sure if the pranksters aren’t following his orders.
Sarah, ever resilient, uses her knack for bargain shopping at garage sales for distraction, but finds bloodied evidence in one of her collection bags that probably belonged to CJ. To make matters worse, CJs ‘one night stand’ goes missing. When blood (and lots of it) is found in the woman’s room, CJ comes under suspicion. Inexplicably, Sarah wants to help. I did say they were exes. The cops and even her old friends on base are wary of her motives. Harris does a nice job of teasing us along, while we wonder ‘why in the world is she doing that?’ and has the characters ask questions at just the right moments in order to move the story forward.
Sarah is a bit nosier than she should be, but how else would our amateur sleuth solve the likely crime(s) and uncover the truth? She doesn’t see that her actions could get her dead, as the pranks turn lethal and enemies pop up in unexpected places. She doesn’t know whom to trust, but there are secrets to be found and as she works her suspicious, naïve way through the twists and turns of the plot, she uncovers all.
Harris, no stranger to military living herself, gives us an insider’s look at life on an Air Force base: the many fundraising events, short-term friendships that are the norm, how personal mistakes become career nightmares, and friendships are sometimes based on spousal rank rather than on how the gals hit it off. It is great to discover that more experienced military couples do mentor the younger people on base.
Harris’ personal knowledge of garage sales (something she discovered back in the second grade) weaves a convincing thread to tie the action and sub-plots together. Through Sarah’s character, we learn how to organize a successful sale, even how to create a part-time job out of it. She includes great tips at the end of “Tagged for Death.”
Harris also explores the idea of second chances in a marriage. Sometimes people have poor judgment, but leaping to conclusions before all the facts are in? can cause irreparable harm.
Harris’ “Tagged for Death” has just been nominated for an Agatha Award-2015 in the best first novel category. Well-deserved recognition for this enjoyable read. It is the first in the ‘Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery’ series.
Please visit www.sherryharrisauthor.com for more information about Ms. Harris and her other projects.