Myrtle Mysteries: BBQ, Sweet Tea and Murder – Chapter 12

“Well hello to you too Miss Vera.  I could say the same to you.”  Ginger Jordan smiled until she heard Laura walking up behind her.  “I was just on my way out.”  As she passed Myrtle, she reached to her and surprised them both with a hug.  She whispered in Myrtle’s ear, “My mother always talked about how nice you were.”  She let her go so quickly Myrtle wasn’t sure it had really happened.

“Bye, ladies.”  She said without a look back.

As Laura took in Vera and Myrtle standing on her doorstep, it was clear that she wasn’t impressed with what she saw.  “To what do I owe this honor?”

“Hi, Laura.  Vera and I were in the area and thought we would stop in to see you.”  Myrtle took the lead knowing the Vera was never able to hold her tongue with Laura.  “Is it okay if we come in for a minute?”

“Really?  You just stopped in.  I don’t think so Myrtle.  Don’t forget I’ve know you for a million years and you’ve hated me for most of those.  You would never come to see me willingly.”

“Fair enough, Laura.”  Myrtle could feel her pulse rising and decide to cut to the chase.  “We are looking into Pop’s murder and thought we should talk to you.”

“You’re joking, right?  You think I killed Pop and now you want me to invite you in and offer tea?  I don’t think so.”  She started to close the door and Vera decided it was time to step in so she put her foot in the door to keep it from closing.

“Listen up, Laura Bell.  Yes, I remember that is what everyone called you in kindergarten.  Do we hate you?  Yep, pretty much.  But as much as I would love to see you get your comeuppance, I don’t think you killed Pop.  You were a part of his life, though, and you might know something that could help us.”

“Why are the two of you here anyway?  Are they hiring senior citizens as detectives now?”  Laura roller her eyes but hadn’t slammed the door.  Vera’s still stuck foot might have had something to do with that but Myrtle felt like they were making headway.

“We aren’t detectives, Laura.” Myrtle calmly told her.  “We just want to help and, honestly, we don’t like the thought of a killer being loose in Pageland.”

Laura sighed and opened the door.  “Fine, come in.  But I don’t have all day.”

As Myrtle walked into Laura’s living room, she was surprised at the understated decorating.  The walls were all a warm beige and the carpet a few shades darker.  The furniture was nice but not extravagant.  A cream covered leather couch was covered in soft brown pillows and a cozy-looking throw blanket.  Side tables and a coffee table surrounded the couch.  On the opposite was a large built in bookcase flanked by two leather chairs.  Everything was situated to bring your eye to the focal point of the room – a large fireplace.  Myrtle tried to keep her face neutral but was trying to take it all in so that she and Vera could discuss it later.

“You two can sit on the couch.”  Laura said as she sat in on of the leather chairs.  “Now let’s get to it so we can all get back to our lives.”

“Were you surprised when you heard Pop had been killed?”  Myrtle wasn’t sure why that was the first thing to come out of her mouth but went with it anyway.

Laura appeared to be taken aback but then decided to actually think about the question.  “I was surprised but not overly shocked.”  She looked over to see Vera shaking her head.  “I know that sounds stupid, Vera.  But that’s the truth.  Anytime someone is killed in a small town like Pageland it is surprising.  Noone expects it.  But we all know that Pop carried around a lot of cash and that had to be tempting to a lot of people.”

“You are right, Laura.  It is surprising for this to happen in Pageland.  But, I’m just not sure he was killed for money.”  Myrtle leaned slightly forward and continued, “We have been looking into some other people that might have had reason to want him dead.  Don’t interrupt me yet, Laura.  I’m not saying you wanted him dead.  Just someone.”

Feeling that she had appeased Laura slightly, Myrtle decided to get to the point.  “We heard through the grapevine that you and Pop had an argument at his restaurant a long time ago and we wondered if you remembered what it was about.”

“Pop and I had many arguments.  Everyone knows that.  You will have to be way more specific than that.”

Myrtle looked at Vera and saw her slight nod.  “Well, Laura, it was about an affair that Pop had that resulted in a child, a daughter.  Do you remember that, Laura Bell?”

Laura opened and closed her mouth several times but nothing came out.  ‘I guess I figured out what it takes to make her shut up’, thought Myrtle with a inner chuckle.

“Who told you that?”  Myrtle was sure she could almost see Laura’s blood pressure rising as she finally responded.

“I can’t tell you.  All I can say is that it came up.  I told you we don’t think you killed him but you did threaten him that day and we’d like to know who you were arguing about.”  Somehow Myrtle was maintaining her composure and knew that she would be proud of herself for that later.  “Do you remember who left his office that day and who gave birth to his daughter?”

“Even if I did know what you are taking about, and I’m not saying that I do, why would I tell you two gossips?  If I kept a secret for twenty-two years, why would I share it now?”

“Because it might be important.”  Vera was quickly losing her patience and decided to jump in.  “And if you don’t want to tell us maybe the police can get it out of you.”

“Vera!  You don’t mean that.”  Myrtle knew that threats wouldn’t work with Laura but it was too late.

“Both of you can just get the hell out of my house.  Don’t think you will come in here and threaten me.”  Laura stood up and started walking towards the door.  Myrtle threw a glare at Vera who just shrugged.  Both of them knew the visit was over so they picked up their purses and stood to leave.

“Laura, I’m sorry.” Myrtle tried to calm her down.

“I don’t care.  Get out.”  Laura was shaking at this point.

“Okay, we are leaving.  Again, I’m sorry.”  As they passed through the door, Myrtle decided to try one more question.  “What was Ginger doing here Laura?”

Laura stopped cold but recovered herself quickly.  “None of your business, Myrtle Mills,” she said just before slamming the door in her face.

“That went well, don’t you think?”  Vera commented as they walked to the car.

“Oh shut up, Vera.”

Review: A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by VE Schwab

20764879

A Gathering of Shadows is the second installment in the Shades of Magic series and is a strong follow-up to A Darker Shade of Magic.  It’s extremely easy to read with strong world building and character development.  It has all the makings of a 5-star read for me.

However, I just can’t click on the 5th star so I’ve decided to live with a 4-star rating.  When I examine my feelings against that 5th star, I can only come up with one explanation – I don’t like Lila.  You see, Kell was the main character in book one but it’s Lila who takes center stage in AGOS.

On paper, she should be one of my favorite female characters.  She is sassy, strong, tenacious and smart.  But she is also selfish – like wrapped up completely in herself to the detriment of almost everyone around her, selfish.  I know, I know.  She has…reasons…to be the way she is.  Don’t care.  Selfish annoys me.  I will avoid spoilers but what cemented my feelings was one scene towards the end where she smiles at someone when something happens.  (Vague enough for you?)  It’s a smarmy, smug smile and she’s proud of the fact that she is getting away with something yet they aren’t.  This person didn’t deserve to be on the receiving end of that smile and it sealed her fate with me.  I’m hopeful that she can redeem herself in book three but we shall see.

4/5 stars.

Mini-Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

22544764

Uprooted was a perfect selection for my September #girlsrule reading challenge.  It is part fantasy and part fairy tale.  Action and emotion run through the entire story.

Agnieszka is a simple girl that lives in a simple village.  The valley relies on the Dragon, a warlock, to protect them from the evil Wood.  In exchange, every ten years he chooses one village girl to live with him for a secret purpose.  Everyone is sure that Agnieszka’s best friend Kasia will be selected this time.  When he chooses Agnieszka instead, her life is changed forever.

I loved it.  It was easy to read and just so much fun.  Highly recommended.  5/5 stars.

Mini-Review: Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb

12479382

There are a lot of fantasy series to choose from and only so many hours in the day for reading.  So, sometimes you have to make hard choices.  I’ve seen Robin Hobb’s name around for a while and saw that Assassin’s Apprentice was the start of everything.  I knew that at some point I would read it but I just never made it a priority.  Then, one day, I was browsing bookdepository.com (as one does) and saw this beautiful UK cover.  It was a done deal before I could click “add to cart”.

While the world-building isn’t quite as lush as with some other fantasy series (Sanderson’s Mistborn, Jemisin’s Broken Earth, etc.), it is still a great start for book one.  The plot and pacing are well done.  But it is the characters that make this a 5-star read.  Well, one character – Fitz.  We meet him as a young boy who is brought to his father’s house by his maternal grandfather.  You see, Fitz is a bastard and the grandfather feels it is time for the father, who never knew him, to care for him.  Problem is that the father is not in residence.  And, yeah, he’s the king in waiting.  Over the next 392 pages, we follow Fitz on his journey.  He is used, abused and has major self esteem issues.  Because he’s a young and inexperienced boy he doesn’t know who to trust and makes assumptions that hurt him.  Through it all we fall in love with his character.

I cannot wait to read books 2 and 3 to see more of Fitz and his story.

 

Review: The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth #2) by NK Jemisin

26228034

The Obelisk Gate deserves 5-stars for the writing – character development, world-building, pacing, etc.  But, what really stood out to me was that Jemisin found a way to weave real world issues into the story seamlessly.   I won’t go into everything so as not to spoil (and also because, frankly, I’m not sure I’m smart enough to break down her work – she is just way too good at what she does.)  There are a few things I want to talk about though.

Xenophobia and Racism.  We hear those words every day and way too often in news stories.  This series tackles ‘irrational fear of those different from yourself’ head on.  The main character, Essun, is an orogene.  She has powers that frighten the stills (those that don’t have the power).  Orogenes are called roggas as a slur.  Some orogenes start to take the word back and use it themselves.  Others, like Essun, have a very hard time with that.  Many stills don’t want orogenes in their community and are willing to give away their children and / or kill to keep them out. The reader’s focus is on Essun so we understand that this fear and hatred is ridiculous, harmful and, ultimately, will hurt the stills.  Because we put ourselves in Essun’s shoes.

There is also a thread throughout both books in the series thus far that discusses the variations in how people from different areas look.  Some have straight hair, others curly.  It might be coarse or more fine.  As you read, you learn that some hair is considered more desirable, more accepted.  There are different skin tones, eye color, etc.  And people are judged based on these physical characteristics.  What I appreciated most is that Jemisin doesn’t preach to the reader about these judgements.  She simply writes the story and leaves us to come to our own conclusions.  (My conclusion?  People can be awful to each other for no good reason, other than ‘it’s different’, whether in ficition or real life.)

The second thing that really stood out to me, specifically in this installment, is the brilliant portrayal of the sometimes confusing and contentious relationship that is mother-daughter.  (Slight spoiler coming because I really do want to talk about this.)  We get to spend some time with Nassun, Essun’s daughter and she’s kind of a mess – probably like most pre-teen girls.  She hates her mother for several reasons but primarily because her mother was hard on her.  Keep in mind that Essun was trying to save Nassun’s life.  When Nassun showed that she had orogenic powers, Essun knew that she would have to hide it and train Nassun to control herself.  Problem is that she had to do this alone.  Her husband didn’t know about their power (and we know where that led for their son, Uche, when he found out…)  So, Essun became the bad guy; the one who was the disciplinarian in all things.  Nassun’s father became this fictional figure to her of a protector.  Even when she knows that he would kill her for her power, she still prefers him to her mother.  Jemisin, quite honestly, took my breath away with how well she wrote the relationship between Essun and Nassun.  My guess is that the struggle between them and their respective power will be the driving force of the plot for book three and I cannot wait.

Lastly, let’s talk about love.  Not physical or sexual love.  But, just love.  Essun reaches a few epiphanies about prior and current relationships as she makes her way through book two.  Simply beautiful.  (There is more I want to say but can’t.  Because spoilers.)

Ok…one more thing.  Have you ever had a moment when reading where you thought you had figured something out and you think to yourself “oh, that’s what’s happening”?  Sometimes you are right and sometimes, sadly, you are wrong.  In this case, I had an aha moment about 80% in and when I found out I was right, I screamed out loud “I KNEW IT!”  My husband was not impressed but my fellow book geeks might be.

I am in love with this series.  5/5 stars.

 

Myrtle Mysteries: BBQ, Sweet Tea and Murder – Chapter 11

**I had a little free time today so decided to visit the world of Myrtle and Vera for a while.  It was nice to have them in my head for a few hours.  This is a very short snippet where they continue to investigate Big Pop’s murder.  Enjoy. **

 

The next two weeks were frustrating for both Myrtle and Vera.  They knew that at some point they needed to talk to Laura about the confrontation she had with Pop all those years ago.  Myrtle was sure that it was important.  Who was the woman he got pregnant?  And, did he have another child out there that noone knew about?

Myrtle knew that these were vital questions but she just couldn’t bring herself to talk to Laura and each time Vera brought it up, she found an excuse.

“Myrt, it’s been two weeks since we talked to Rhonda.  What the heck is wrong with you?  It’s Saturday, let’s go see Laura today.  Don’t you want to know about her fight with Pop?”  The friends were spending Saturday morning shelling beans on Vera’s porch.  Their fingers worked on autopilot after so many years practice.

“Of course I do, Vera.”  Myrtle sighed and tried to put her feelings, confused as they were, into words.  “Every time I think about what she could say, I get cold feet.  Truth is that I simply don’t want to talk to her.  There’s too much history.  You know she isn’t my favorite person but I just can’t see her killing anyone.  But we’ve got to find out who Pop had an affair with.”

“And maybe a child.” Vera added.  Setting her bowl aside and looking at Myrtle, she tried to gauge her reaction.  Her friend seemed to be in her own world but Vera noticed that her fingers were slowing down.  “Listen, I know this is weird for you but I’ve never known you to back down from anything.  Let’s go over there today.  Right now.”

With a resigned huff, Myrtle agreed.  Both went inside and put their bowls in the kitchen.  The beans could wait.

The two friends were quiet as they drove to Laura’s house on Outen Street.  Myrtle had always avoided driving by if at all possible and wasn’t anxious to see the house or its’ occupant.

Vera pulled into the driveway and turned to the woman she was closest to in the world.  “Myrt, you’ve got this.  And, if she gives you a hard time, I’ll be there to clean her clock.”

Myrtle laughed then squeezed Vera’s hand.  “Let’s go, Miss Marple.”

As they walked along the bluestone walkway to the front porch, Myrtle couldn’t help but notice all of the beautiful landscaping.  Loropetalum, tea olives and knockout roses were in bloom.  The ground was covered in lantana and carpet rosemary.  In the shaded areas, hydrangea were popping open to show blue, pink, purple and white blooms.  She saw one of her favorite plants, camellia, also tucked away in several spots where they could wait to show off their beautiful blooms in the late fall and winter.

When they reached the red front door of the large brick house, Vera stepped up to ring the doorbell.  In just a few seconds, they could hear footsteps and the door opened.  Vera was the first to speak.  “What are you doing here?”

Mini-Review: Maplecroft (The Borden Dispatches #1) by Cherie Priest

20821288

I know I’m not the only one fascinated by Lizzie Borden and her story.  That’s why it’s been told for years in different forms.  This book, by Cherie Priest, is one of the most creative.  The foundation is the same – “Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks;…” – but there is also some bad business going on in Fall River.  Something is slowly finding its’ way into people’s heads and it isn’t pretty.  Lizzie, with a little help, is trying to save her town and the people.

This was a good book and I enjoyed it.  There were times when I felt it dragged and my attention wavered.  But, overall, I would recommend it for something a little different.  3/5 stars.

P.S. A few months ago, I watched The Lizzie Borden Chronicles on Netflix.  As a result, I couldn’t get Christina Ricci out of my head as Lizzie Borden along with Clea DuVall as her sister, Emma.  Usually that would bother me but in this case, it worked.

the-lizzie-borden-chronicles-tv-review

Photo from Variety.com