mystery

The “Tell Me…” series by Lynn Chandler Willis

 

North Carolina author, Lynn Chandler Willis, has written an engrossing three book “Tell Me…” series set in Appalachia. “Tell Me No Lies,” the first in the series, introduces us to Ava Logan, newspaper owner/publisher/editor/reporter, as the lead protagonist. Willis’ personal background as a former newspaper owner that did everything except print the Pleasant Garden Post, lends wonderful authenticity to the newspaper life both in and out of Ava’s office.

 

“Tell Me No Lies” deals with ginseng poaching, betrayal, a love lost and found, and of course, a murder. Ava’s complex relationship with Sheriff Grayson Ridge makes for gasp-out-loud reading as their astonishing secrets are revealed little by little in the middle of the murder and ginseng poaching investigations. How far can Ava go in crossing the line to ‘get the story’ without getting into trouble with the law herself? Will she put her family at risk with her decisions? Can she protect the baby she rescued from the murder scene? With a diverse cast of characters and a well-developed, layered plot, “TMNL” is a solid beginning to the Ava Logan stories.

 


“Tell Me You Love Me,” the third in the series, opens with rich descriptions of a shivering hike through the winter gloom of leafless woods and surroundings. Ava is there to do a feature story about a local legend and his rabbit-hunting beagles, but one of the dogs finds bones. What follows is an absorbing search for the identity of the remains. An anthropologist is called in to help with the cold case, but Ava has deep roots in Jackson Creek, a nose for a big story, and has her own methods of uncovering old connections.

 

Willis’ core people are gradually developed through the three books, and Doretha, a recurring character, takes on a bigger role in “Tell Me You Love Me.” As Ava’s former foster mother, Doretha protects and advises Ava. But Doretha has a secret or two of her own, one of which could drive the two women apart for good. Ridge has a larger personal role in Ava’s life, but they continue to have trouble with boundaries between the needs of the newspaper and the restrictions that murder investigations place on Ava’s need to know. Willis has a special knack for writing about the children in the series and anyone with teenagers of their own will laugh and moan while reading about the trials the son puts Ava through. Priceless.

 

In a fascinating subplot, Willis’ page-turner explores an Appalachian tradition of using a granny witch for healing. Locals rely on her for medical treatment since traditional medicine is too far away and too expensive for people in need without insurance. Differences between Appalachia and the world outside the misty hills, in both cultural beliefs and traditional practices, drive the sometimes tragic motives in “Tell Me You Love Me.”

 

Fall in love with Ava as she balances family, work, and love, while solving crimes in Appalachia.

 

Please visit www.lynnchandlerwillis.com for information about Willis’ appearances and her award-winning books.

 

 

“Murder in an English Village” by Jessica Ellicott

 

“Murder in an English Village” is the first title in the wonderful new Beryl and Edwina Mystery series by Jessica Ellicott (aka Jessie Crockett/Jessica Estevao). Old school mates, Beryl Helliwell and Edwina Davenport, have lived wildly different lives since leaving Finishing School. American Beryl has been a world traveler and well known adventuress, while English Edwina has lived quietly in Walmsley Parva in picturesque southern England. But Beryl is tired of the demands of public life and Edwina needs a boarder now that her post WW1 income has shriveled. A perfect setup for the old chums to meet again after all these years.

 

Beryl discovers the seriousness of Edwina’s plight, but when she takes it upon herself to pay the shopkeepers for some of Edwina’s bills, she also attempts to divert the gossip about Edwina’s situation with an outlandish lie she reveals to the biggest gossip in town.

 

Beryl persuades Edwina that the BIG LIE will not remain one if they work together to solve a few crimes. What crimes? Warmsley Parva is a fairly quiet place…or is it? The seemingly peaceful village has a great many secrets, some tragically kept to preserve reputations. Villains parade as upstanding citizens with devastating consequences.

 

Ellicott’s marvelously descriptive writing transports us to rustic English cottages, dressed country fields, one phone in a sparsely populated countryside, and small shops showing their wear, while revealing societal views about women of 100 years ago. It was a hard life for everyone worldwide that lived during WW1, but England took years longer to adjust to the new economic reality with money, food, and manpower shortages. In a masterful touch of subtlety, Ellicott shows how Edwina’s financial circumstances change because of Beryl’s presence, and dinners become more varied. Even the occasional outing for tea can be enjoyed.

 

One of the interesting historical references in “Murder in an English Village” is The Women’s Land Army, a government program initiated because able-bodied men that might otherwise have been farming the land, were off fighting for home and country. Women committed to a year to work the land, but despite doing a great service, the women were not always looked upon with favor, considered by some to be a lesser class of citizen. This attitude was exploited by some and used to great effect in the book through Ellicott’s deft character development.

 

“Murder in an English Village” is both historically enlightening and entertaining, launching the new series with two engaging, intelligent women who will capture your hearts and minds.

 

Please visit https://www.jessicaellicott.com for more information about the talented Ms. Ellicott and the next book in the series, “Murder Flies the Coop,” out in September, 2019.

 

“Pruning the Dead” by Julia Henry

 

“Pruning the Dead” is the first book in the marvelous new Garden Squad Mystery series from Julia Henry (aka JA Hennrikus/Julianne Holmes). Lilly Jayne is a charming 65 y.o. expert gardener, quietly accepting of her beloved husband’s illness and passing. In the real world, it takes a while to heal emotionally from that kind of life trauma and Henry hits all the right notes of grief and recovery, including the friends that nudge Lilly ever so gently to return to former activities.

 

Pat French, the Queen of Bureaucrats at City Hall, fines people that have slightly oversized mailboxes and leave trash receptacles too close to the street. Except for foreclosure notices, there are no warnings, merely multiplying fines. This is not a gated community with strict compliance expected by the residents, this is a diverse small town. French's  regulations are so ridiculous as to keep repairs from getting completed – because the repairs might not live up to code? As we say in the South, “Good grief, she needs a whoopin’ – her mama didn’t raise her right!”

 

A park cleanup is underway when the body of a conniving moneygrubber is discovered on top of the mulch, and the Garden Squad gets organized. They must dig into the many secrets of the dead woman that almost everyone hated, while solving the mystery of the zealous city hall clerk. The picture of stealthy Goosebush Garden Squad do-gooders of a certain age weeding and plotting at midnight, is a hoot to imagine as they skulk and whisper through the neighborhoods.

 

“Pruning the Dead” has a lively cast of business owners and friends with roots in Goosebush that go way back, plus a newbie garden lover that may be the perfect more-than-friend companion for Lilly in the future. And he just happens to live next door… Henry's descriptive phrasing delivers fully-fleshed out characters we'd love to serve on committees with and take out to lunch. They feel like friends for life, delightful for a continuing series. The villains are equally well drawn, creating off-center realities and excuses for themselves while wreaking havoc on everyone else.

 

Henry gives a nod to aching knees and creaky backs of senior citizens, while also showing that brains don’t shrivel just by virtue of reaching the ripe young age of 60. Each of the members provides different skill sets: organization/planning, computer knowledge, horticultural expertise, close connection to the police department, and deep pockets. Combining skills with savvy life experiences, “Pruning the Dead” is a terrific homage to the active, productive boomer crowd that runs the real world. Never underestimate the power of senior citizens. You’ll never, ever outsmart them.

 

There are helpful gardening tips throughout “Pruning the Dead,” and a special list at the end. I can’t wait to see what happens to Lilly Jayne and her Goosebush Garden Squad in book #2, “Tilling the Truth.” Is it August yet? (update: It's out now!)

 

Please visit www.jhauthors.com for more about this multi-talented author and her other work, as well as the books written under her other names.   

 

 

 

Take Something Different to the Beach

 

Every once in a while, we should stretch our reading horizons and try something completely different. Just for fun. You may think that straying out of your tried and true and thoroughly enjoyed genre is a bad idea, but here is a batch of books that may change your mind. Go ahead. Take a peek.  🙂

 

Adventure/Sci-Fi

 

 

James Rollins writes the exceptional Sigma Force adventure series, which incorporates archeology, historical events, science, a bit of technology, and always a dash of romance. Rollins’ research is so thorough and his writing so skilled that the readers often wonder which parts are true and which are a figment of his incredible imagination. He always includes sections in the books to answer the questions that might arise. Spanning 50,000 years, “The Bone Labyrinth” focuses on the discovery of a subterranean Catholic chapel holding the bones of a Neanderthal woman, as well as revealing a brutal attack on a primate research center. The Sigma Force teams are tasked with finding a connection between the two, taking them to three continents, while being tested as never before by unexpected enemies. The action never stops, with twists and turns until the very last page in this search for the explanations of human intelligence development. “The Bone Labyrinth” is the 11th full length book in the Sigma Force Series, with #14, “Crucible,” out this year.

 

Amish Fiction

 

Laura Bradford writes the wonderful, bestselling Amish Mysteries. “Just Plain Murder” is the sixth installment, with “A Killer Carol” due out in September. In “Just Plain Murder,” Claire Weatherly and Jakob Fisher grow closer and Jakob’s relationship with the family that shunned him shows signs of warming a bit. Jakob’s mentor and retired police chief, Russ Granger, has returned to town, but soon Claire must help Jakob solve the mystery of Russ’ death and so much more. Shocking secrets and lies are uncovered and long-standing relationships are questioned in this marvelous entry in the series. Read them all.
 

 

Christian Fiction

 

 

Terri Blackstock writes entertaining fiction that has wowed her fans for decades. The If I Run Series finishes with book #3, “If I Live.” Casey Cox is still running for her life after being wrongfully indicted for murder. She teams with the investigator on her case to help find the real killers, with consequences for each of them. Blackstock creates a sense of urgency that will keep you spellbound with surprises throughout.

 


 

Non-Fiction

 

 

Gretchen Rubin’s “Happiness Project” is an uplifting way to look at your life and change it for the better. If you’re not happy with the way things are going and want to make some adjustments, this book is for you. Ms. Rubin talks about her own life and how she came to believe that she could be happier. She took a year to experiment with advice given by experts and came up with some ideas of her own, including strategies for each month of the year. It’s a personal plan that can easily be applied to anyone willing to ‘be more present’ in their own life.
 

 

Thriller

 

Internationally bestselling author, Jamie Freveletti, writes the multi-award winning Emma Caldridge Series. Emma Caldridge is a brilliant biochemist who enjoys extreme distance running. She uses both skills while undertaking missions around the world that would reduce the ordinary person to a puddle of fear and mumbling. In “Blood Run,” Caldridge is tasked with delivering vaccines to villages in Africa, but the big pharma CEO accompanying her and providing the financial and logistical support for the operation, is holding out on her. They find themselves in the middle of a war zone between brutal African factions with no way out except through even more dangerous territory. If that weren’t enough, an extra challenge involves an international terrorist who will stop at nothing to achieve his goal, complete with a target on Emma’s back. This pulse-pounding story will keep you turning the pages and wondering how in the world Caldridge will make it out alive.

 

Happy reading!  🙂

 

 

Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction – 2019

 

The Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction was established to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” written by former Alabama law student, Harper Lee. For the past several years, the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal have partnered to award the prize to a published work of fiction from the previous year that best demonstrates “the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change.”

Congratulations to the finalists and winner (noted in red) for the 2019 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction:

 

“The Boat People” by Sharon Bala


“Class Action” by Steven B. Frank


“The Widows of Malabar Hill” by Sujata Massey
 

 As in the past, readers had a chance to participate in choosing the winner. Voting closed at 11:59 p.m. CT on Sunday, June 30. The award ceremony took place in late August during the Library of Congress National Book Festival.

 

Previous winners:

 

2011 – John Grisham, “The Confession”

 

2012 – Michael Connelly, “The Fifth Witness”

 

2013 – Paul Goldstein, “Havana Requiem”

 

2014 – John Grisham, “Sycamore Row”

 

2015 – Deborah Johnson, “The Secret of Magic”  

 

2016 – Attica Locke, “Pleasantville”

 

2017 – James Grippando, “Gone Again”

 

2018 – C.E. Tobisman, “Proof.”

 

 

The National Park Mystery Series by Scott Graham

 

The National Park Mystery Series, by Scott Graham, features contract archaeologist Chuck Bender, Chuck’s paramedic wife, Janelle Ortega, and Chuck’s new stepdaughters. The contract archeological work moves Chuck Bender and the family to different parks each summer vacation, setting the scene for stories dealing with environmental, political, and social justice issues. Janelle lends her objective suggestions to help solve the mysteries, sometimes uses her paramedic expertise, and always displays a steadying influence on Chuck and the girls.

 

The series began in the Grand Canyon with “Canyon Sacrifice,” a resounding success as a debut novel. A kidnapping and a murder place the family in harm’s way on the Bender honeymoon camping trip as Chuck navigates parenthood and spousal responsibilities for the first time. Readers will be mesmerized by Graham’s imageries of the Grand Canyon and the achievements/artifacts of the ancient Anasazi Indians that Bender discovered on an earlier contract dig. Prepare to be swept into the world of outdoor recreation and the wonders of archeology in the West.

 

Book #2, “Mountain Rampage,” moves Bender and the family to Rocky Mountain National Park where he runs a college archeology field school. The book takes place over a three-day period, with murder and mayhem that involves his brother-in-law and false accusations, and plenty of adventure to go around.

 

“Yellowstone Standoff,” set in Yellowstone National Park, has a hair-raising premise involving rogue wolves, grizzlies, and a murdered researcher. As always, Graham delivers breathtaking descriptions of the wild and puts the reader in the middle of the terrifying action. An exciting page-turner, and the Bender family is smack dab in the middle of it all.

 

Book #4, “Yosemite Fall,” brings Janelle and the older daughter more to the forefront of the multi-layered storylines, with a rock-climbing competition, a deadly reunion, and a contract to solve a 150-year-old mystery as the backdrop. Janelle and Chuck are the suspects in a present-day murder, and once again, the national park is a character in the book.

 

“Arches Enemy” is the fifth entry in the National Park Mystery Series. It’s set in Utah, not too far from Graham’s home in southwest Colorado. What seems like a straight forward accidental death turns into something much more. An astounding archeological find that disrupts the known timeline of interaction between several Native American tribes, is threatened by a fracking operation, and the locals are being manipulated by an unlikely source.

 

The core characters have developed naturally with each book as Chuck and his immediate family respond to the unfolding narratives and explore their evolving relationships. The mother subplot in “Arches Enemy” feels like Chuck is trying to herd cats – words have no influence and she is going to do what she wants to anyway. Her effect on the plot will curl your hair and remind you how nice your own mother is.

 

Chuck is still learning his role as a step-dad in “Arches Enemy” – what works and what doesn’t. He’s been used to making decisions without regard for the impact on others, sometimes being unnecessarily hot-headed. Janelle reigns in well-meaning Chuck when she can in their personal life and supports his fascinating professional endeavors, as long as the family remains safe.

 

Graham’s books are especially topical given our real-world loss of national park acreage to recent administration policy, which has been chipping away at the protected lands, potentially losing ancient sites, all for the search for oil and other energy sources.


The official launch date for “Arches Enemy” is June 11th. Look for it.  🙂
 

Please visit www.scottfranklingraham.com for more information about Graham and his work.
 

 

 

Book List: Author Liz Mugavero

 

Liz Mugavero, a delightful New England writer that lives in Connecticut, has written two series, both with animals as pals (and clue finders) for the lead characters. The first book in her first series, “Kneading to Die,” garnered her an Agatha nomination for Best First Mystery. It was clever, funny, and the beginning of one of the best cozy series out there, the Pawsatively Organic Mysteries. Who can forget the kibble on the body?  Lolol  Cate Conte, Mugavero’s alter ego, pens the second series, the Cat Café Mysteries, also a big hit with the fans. Click on the titles (and a few reviews) to find out more about the enjoyable, wonderfully written books.

 

As Liz Mugavero:  www.lizmugavero.com

 

Pawsatively Organic Mysteries:

Features Stan (Kristan) Connor, an Ex-Corporate PR Exec, & Nutty, her Maine Coon Cat. Among the fully fleshed out characters is a hunky bar owner boyfriend and his dog, making Stan’s life interesting as she navigates her new life in a small town and keeps finding bodies. Why the name for the series? Stan wants to open an organic animal treats business. Recipes included!
 

 

Kneading to Die” –   review here

 

A Biscuit, A Casket”   review  here

 

The Icing on the Corpse

 

"Murder Most Finicky

 

Custom Baked Murder”    review here

 

Purring Around the Christmas Tree

 

Murder, She Meowed

 

As Cate Conte:   https://www.cateconte.com

The Cat Café Mysteries

Maddie James has a successful juice bar business on the west coast, but returns to her hometown of Daybreak Island off the coast of Massachusetts to take care of family matters. Maddie and a stray cat (based on one of Liz’ own cats) get caught up in murder! Maddie is a thoroughly enjoyable new character, with equally appealing love interests. The reason for the title of the series? Maddie is opening up a Cat Café, complete with cats for locals to adopt.

 

 

Cat About Town”  – review here

 

Purrder She Wrote

 

Tell Tail Heart”  – coming in June, 2019. Look for it!

 

 

You can read Liz Mugavero’s Author Profile here.

 

Liz has a new series is in the works (also as Liz Mugavero). The first title in The Full Moon Mystery series is "Witch Hunt." Look for it next year.

 

Happy Reading!  🙂 

 

 

 

 

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