Sherry Harris has delivered two exciting new books in her Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery series. “The Gun Also Rises” and “Let’s Fake a Deal” continue to follow Sarah’s life as a former military spouse who is (mostly) successful at navigating singlehood and establishing her own identity and livelihood.
Sarah Winston is a warm, relatable character and when she has moments of doubt, we struggle with her, weigh the pluses and minuses of her romantic choices, cheer her achievements, and groan when tragic/terrible events take over her life. She has a delightfully varied recurring support system of friends who lend texture to the stories and act as sounding boards. Sarah even has a serious ‘don’t-ask-what-he-does-for-a-living’ backup guy when needed in tight situations. We know that Sarah will eventually get through the latest challenge, but Harris creates a world so compelling that we enjoy every question, every impulsive move, and every ‘gotcha’ moment along the way.
In “The Gun Also Rises,” Sarah takes on her wealthiest client yet, the owner of perhaps the most extensive collection of mystery novels ever assembled. While Sarah appraises and prices the books, a treasure is uncovered – so valuable that people are willing to kill for it. Complete with scheming relatives, a stalker, a group of cult-like League of Literary Treasure Hunters, Sarah’s reporter brother Luke, clever plotting, and an original take on a famous real life missing manuscript, “The Gun Also Rises” surprises and entertains from start to finish.
“Two police cars squealed to a halt at the end of the driveway, lights flashing, front bumpers almost touching.” That’s the eye-popping beginning line for “Let’s Fake a Deal.” Everything at Sarah Winston’s latest garage sale has been stolen from the actual homeowners and Sarah is arrested for being in possession of those stolen goods. Worse yet, the storage unit that contained the goods until the sale, had been rented using her credit card. Say what? Sarah Winston is the victim of identity theft.
In addition to that hot topic, Harris takes a look at sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the military in “Let’s Fake a Deal.” The decisions that women in the military must make – that men rarely face – are highlighted: report the incidents and face the innuendo and name-calling (and worse) while the case is adjudicated – or accept the objectionable behavior and keep to the chosen career path. Another timely theme, indeed.
Several great characters assist Sarah’s efforts to find the real thieves and to prove that her friend did not commit murder. Angelo and Rosalie are back and supportive as ever, dishing out advice and the best pizza anywhere in New England. Luke makes a brotherly appearance in tandem with another character, help comes from an unexpected source, and investigations reveal some astonishing associations – including a shocking link with the past. “Let’s Fake a Deal” includes an important romantic turn of events and if she can stay out of jail, Sarah’s future is hers to choose.
One of the reasons that the Sarah Winston series works so well is the importance of relationships between the characters. There are natural, warm connections that evolve with the storylines, that ebb and flow as they would with real friends and family. I come to the end of each book, wishing the next one was already at my fingertips.
Start with the first book in the series, “Tagged for Death,” and read them all.
2 thoughts on ““The Gun Also Rises” & “Let’s Fake a Deal” by Sherry Harris”
Thank you for bringing a new author and series to our attention and pointing out its success may be as simple as the warm interaction among characters. How do you choose your review material, considering the number of books out there? And all these awards such as Bloody Scotland Crime Book of the Year, do they search out contenders, do others nominate, or must authors enter a contest? I've seen authors debate what constitutes 'crime' and they all seem to have different ideas.
Please give us your best definition of 'cozy.'
For me, the relationship between the characters is what keeps me coming back to that author. It might not be the affection or warm support the characters give each other, because I do review not-so-cuddly thrillers and sci-fi books as well, but there has to be an authentic connection between the lead protagonist and another character. That relationship must develop/change over time.
That said, I choose new authors at conventions, seminars, retreats, and online. The first few pages have to hook me. I only recommend books that I feel would appeal to my readership, hence no horror, erotica, or graphic novels.
Each of the mystery/crime awards has different criteria for entering and different ways of judging the winners. Some books are entered for competition by the publishers, others by the writers themselves. Some of the awards have a committee that looks at the submissions, then whittles the books down to a manageable 5-10. That final list can be voted upon by the attendees at the yearly conference or by a final judging panel. Depends on the award. Check out the websites for the awards that fit your genre to see what’s available to you.
Do you have to win a contest to be reviewed? Does it help? Many of the writers I review have never won a major industry award, but hit the best seller list all the time. Others have won prestigious awards without attaining financial success. Several have won awards and are doing nicely financially. I also review authors that nobody has ever heard of, but have written entertaining books.
What is your measure of success? Look at an author in your genre that you admire and see what their career path has been. It usually takes years of hard work and a ton of luck to achieve success in this industry, but several of the writers I review were debut authors when I first reviewed them.
I follow the Malice Domestic (Agatha Awards) definition of a cozy: a mystery/puzzle to be solved without excessive violence, offensive language, or explicit sex.
Thanks for stopping by, and for your great questions. 🙂