A spirited beginning to a new mystery series that’s haunted with humor.

GHOST BUSTING MYSTERY

From the Shady Hooiser Detective Agency series , Vol. 1

Senior sleuths search for ghosts, gold, and a missing dachshund in Indiana.

Sixty-seven-year-old Ruby Jane “RJ” Waskom narrates this debut mystery. RJ and her best friend, 71-year-old Veenie Goens, work as detectives-in-training with “the best—okay the only—PI agency in Knobby Waters.” The women share a house and a car (a turquoise 1960 Chevy Impala), and they like to keep an emergency pie on hand. Their neighbor Dode Schneider, who “wasn’t right in the head even before that snowplow hit him,” hires them to investigate the apparitions he claims he’s seen by the apple orchard at the Wyatt mansion, abandoned nearly 100 years ago by Jedidiah Wyatt, one of the town’s founding fathers. Wyatt operated the local bank, but when it failed in 1919, in part because a flood washed away the crops that were the residents’ source of income, he rowed out of soggy Knobby Waters with all the gold and other valuables he stole from the institution’s vault. About the only thing left in the safe was a note that read “Adios, folks.” Intrigued by the tale of the stolen gold and committed to the ghost hunt, the gumshoes also answer an ad about a missing dachshund. Finding Puddles, a much-loved pudgy “wiener dog,” would bring in a welcome reward. Plenty of silliness mixes with multiple mysteries in Pettles’ very funny series opener. Wacky but, for the most part, charming characters populate Knobby Waters. Among the townspeople are junior police officer Devon Hattabaugh, whose mutton-chop sideburns “bushed out like squirrel tails,” and Ma and Peepaw Horton, who operate an always-open pie pantry in their tool shed. Unlike most female detectives in mystery series, crusty RJ and Veenie lack any kind of civility and clearly get joy out of what others would find frightening. When agreeing to take on the paranormal assignment, RJ reckons that she and Veenie have been outwitting living people for quite some time, and “how much smarter could the dead be?” Descriptions and dialogue are clever, amusing, and often quotable. Perhaps the only unfortunate thing about the book is its uninspired title. The author, born in a small Indiana town, writes with knowledge and affection about a quirky cast of Hoosiers.

A spirited beginning to a new mystery series that’s haunted with humor.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9815678-2-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Hot Pants Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

MAGIC HOUR

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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