Archive | October 2015

Chapter 5 – BBQ, Sweet Tea and Murder (Myrtle Mysteries)

Chapter 5:

“That’s my girl. Let’s get started.” Myrtle jumped out of her seat and started walking to the table.

“If we are working tonight, you are going to buy me dinner first. I’m a cheap date, don’t worry.” Vera stayed put in her chair knowing that if she didn’t remind Myrtle to eat, her one-track mind would leave them both starving. “What are you doing?” she asked as Myrtle picked up the phone.

“I’m ordering a large pepperoni from Pizza Hut. We can pick it up and be back here in less than 15 minutes.”

“Fine but I want the thin crust. Not the nasty pan pizza you like. Pizza should be crispy.”

After finishing their pizza, Myrtle and Vera sat down to brainstorm about the investigation. Vera wanted to go talk to Chief White immediately but Myrtle felt that would get them nowhere. Why would he share any information with two women who have no investigative experience? Instead Myrtle wanted to focus on the why of Big Pop’s murder.

“If this was a random killing, we will never be able to figure it out. We need to focus on the reason he was killed. That will give us our list of suspects.”

Vera and Myrtle spent the next several hours talking through possible motives. Did one of his ex-wives finally snap and give Pop the payback they had threatened many times? The secret recipe for his BBQ sauce was well guarded and he never shared it with anyone. Maybe a competitor decided they wanted it for his or her own. Not to mention the money that he carried around. That amount of cash would tempt a lot of desperate people. Or, given Pop’s personality, he could’ve said the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time and ended up in the crosshairs.

Feeling they made good progress, the friends called it a night. They decided Myrt would pick Vera up at 10:30 to head to the funeral. It was being held at First Baptist Church (but, of course, that’s the church for the people in town with money, you know.)

Myrtle and Vera were some of the first people to arrive for the service. They chose a seat at the back right corner so they could see everyone who came in and how they reacted during the eulogy.

As the church started to fill, Myrtle was reminded that there were a lot of good people in her town and many were coming to pay their respects to a man who wasn’t perfect but had been a business leader and local celebrity for his entire adult life. Jimmy joined Myrtle and Vera when he arrived. The Mayor sat just outside the family’s roped off area.

“Who is that?” Jimmy asked as a young, very pretty brunette entered.

“Jimmy Davis, don’t tell me you don’t recognize Ginger Jordan. She grew up around here but left when she was 16 to live with her dad in Rock Hill after her mom passed. I think she got back close to a year ago and waitressed at Big Pop’s for a little while when she got here.” Vera prided herself on knowing everyone in their corner of the world.

“Oh, I remember her. But, wow, she has really grown up.”

“Mind out of the gutter young man. She may be 21 and legal but that doesn’t mean she’s right for you. “ Vera nudged Jimmy to stop his staring.

Myrtle had almost forgotten Ginger was back in town. Her mom, Betsy, was Myrtle’s hairdresser for years and they had become good friends. Ginger was a beautiful child and sweet as could be for most of her young life. Around 14 she started to hang around with the wrong crowd and it became a struggle for Betsy. When Betsy died of breast cancer in 2010, Ginger had to go live with her father. Myrtle heard rumors that the girl was a handful for her dad and she had proven to be trouble in her short time back in town.  Pop had tried to keep the details quiet but Ginger stole one of his vintage Camaros out of the restaurant’s parking lot one night and took it for a joy ride.  Losing control, she totaled the car and was lucky she hadn’t killed herself or someone else.  She was fired immediately but Pop didn’t have the heart to press charges so he worked things out with the police.  Last Myrtle heard, he had the car buried on his property with a grave marker and everything.

Knowing that it was almost time for the family to enter, Myrtle wondered if any of the exes would show up. Almost as if she had summoned them, all three women came through the door at the same time. It was clear that each wanted to make an entrance by coming in just before the family. They just didn’t count on the other two getting in the way. The angry looks they shared should have shaken the foundation of the old brick church. For the life of her, Myrtle couldn’t understand what had possessed Pop to marry one of these women. Let alone all three of them.

Ex-wife number one, Laura, was the mother to Pop’s two children. While she was the same age as Myrtle and Vera, she refused to accept that she was getting older and continued to wear leopard print mini-skirts and way too much makeup. Myrtle knew that Laura thought she had locked up her marriage to Pop by producing two children. The couple lived in a beautiful home and seemed to have everything. Laura was never satisfied, though, pushing for bigger houses, designer clothes and expensive jewelry. Pop started to see his mother in Laura and by the time his son was 12, Pop met…

Ex-wife number two. Shelby was in many ways the anti-Laura. She was a member of the local Church of God and had never worn pants in her life. Her belief was that a woman should dress and act appropriately while being subservient to her husband. At 55, she still had her signature long red hair that was showing only a few strands of silver. If it weren’t for the sneer on her face, she would have been a knockout.   Myrtle could see why Pop would have been attracted to her. Beautiful and a challenge. An irresistible combination to him. She refused to have any physical relationship with him until he divorced Laura and then recited the old story about free milk and a cow. Pop married her to get her in bed and that’s just the truth of the matter. When the newness wore off, he quickly discovered that she was not the woman for him. He went to a Southern Baptist church but was in no way a holy man. Shelby wanted a fellow bible-lover and he couldn’t be that person. So, he filed for divorce number two and swore that he would live the bachelor life for the rest of his days.

Pop kept his word for a long time. He dated many women and enjoyed the single life of a wealthy man who was a big fish in a small pond. When Pop opened his restaurant, he made a promise to himself that he wouldn’t date any of the waitresses. Unfortunately, when Rhonda started working for him, that all went to hell.

Ex-wife number 3 pursued Pop relentlessly. She didn’t seem to care that he was 55 and she was 30. Instead his rejection seemed to stoke her desire for him. Myrtle heard many stories about the Rhonda-Pop mating dance. About a month before the two were married, they apparently sealed the deal in his office. Truth is, Myrtle couldn’t believe he held out as long as he did. They fell head over heels in love and went to Vegas for a quickie wedding. It didn’t take long for problems to start coming to the surface. The lovebirds had nothing in common other than a high sex drive. Rhonda pushed Pop to get his vasectomy reversed so they could have a child together and when he refused, she left him and took a hefty payout in lieu of support payments.

When the exes were seated as far apart as possible in the church, the family was finally ushered in. Both Pop’s parents and his sister Libby died years before so only the younger generations were present. Paul Jr. led the way with his wife and two young children. He was the spitting image of his father physically except for his eyes. Even with all that had transpired over their lives, Myrtle never saw the sparkle leave Pop’s blue eyes. Jr.’s eyes were a cold gray that showed no warmth or humor. He lived in town and had been the manager of the BBQ place for about 10 years.

Elizabeth, Paul’s daughter, had her mother’s features but softened just enough. While she looked like Laura, her personality couldn’t have been more different. A sweet girl who was smart and popular, her strained relationship with her mother was clear only to those who knew her well. She left Pageland at 18 for college and never came back except for occasional holiday visits. Myrtle remembered that she had been recently divorced and had no children. Her heart went out to the younger woman when her mother, Laura, stepped out to hug Paul Jr. and then turned her back to Elizabeth.

As the pastor stepped up to the podium, Vera poked Myrtle in the ribs. “How long do you think this will take? I’m hungry.”

“You are always hungry, Vera. Show some respect. Be a good girl and I’ll buy you an ice cream cone.”

“Myrt, you can go…”

“We’re in church. Behave.” Myrtle smiled at her friend and they laughed quietly together. With a pang, Myrtle realized they were getting older and one day she might lose her best friend. She quickly put her arm around Vera’s shoulder and squeezed. “I love you, girl.”

“Don’t get all maudlin on me, Myrt. Funerals are depressing enough without you getting all mushy.”

The service was over very quickly and before she knew it, Myrtle was watching the family being led out to the cemetery. Most of the mourners were heading straight to the restaurant for the reception. But, Myrtle and Vera decided they should go to the graveside burial. Even though the funeral had gone very smoothly, the burial was a different story altogether. The friends were still talking about it the next day over lunch.

© Mary Brown, Lowcountry Book Lover and lowcountrybooklover.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mary Brown and lowcountrybooklover.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any publication for profit is strictly prohibited without specific written consent by owner.

Review – Listening Woman (Navajo Mysteries #3) by Tony Hillerman

425099Book 3 and I’m still a little on the fence.

The Listening Woman, Margaret Cigaret, is a shaman who talks to those who need healing, meditates and then prescribes a Sing or Way to help cure them.  When she is meditating about Hosteen Tso, both he and her young assistant are murdered.  Luckily the killer didn’t see Margaret and given that she was meditating (and is blind) she was unable to provide any help to the police.  Several months later, a man wearing Goldrims tries to run over Lt. Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police.  As he investigates he finds references to the Listening Woman case, an old stolen helicopter and a boy scout troop visiting the area.

Leaphorn is a great character.  Slowly, as we learn more about him, we are getting to know his personality.  His need for order and precision along with his almost unmatched tracking ability.  I enjoy reading this series because of him.

On the other hand, I’ve found that the stories themselves aren’t quite clicking with me as a reader.  Book 2’s mystery was a little too simple.  And while I felt the story was stronger in book 3, there was still something missing.  Certain plot points were drawn out over several pages and in one case several chapters (which I understand – he was trying to build tension) but others were glossed over too quickly in just a few paragraphs.  I would have preferred a more consistent writing style and, if need be, a longer book to fully flesh out those scenes.

I guess I feel like Hillerman hadn’t yet matured as a writer when this was published.  My hope is to continue to see growth as the series progresses.

Even considering my issues with the writing, I would still recommend this series to anyone who enjoys mysteries or Native American literature.  3.5/5 stars.

Review – Bag of Bones by Stephen King

12958450Bag of Bones has been on my to-read list for quite a while and I held it in backup for a time when I needed a King fix.

Last week, I decided it was time.  It’s the Halloween season so a little ghost story seemed appropriate.  Plus, I’ve been on a mystery kick lately and this seemed to have just the right combination.

I’ve seen others list this as their favorite King.  I won’t go quite that far – my favorite is The Stand or Wizard and Glass depending on my mood that day.  But…this is most definitely a 5-star read for me.  King’s writing doesn’t work for everyone but, boy, do I love it.  I always feel like I am part of the story.  Each character and their emotions resonate.

Mike Noonan, the MC, is a writer.  Early in the novel he loses his wife unexpectedly.  What follows includes 4 years of writer’s block and celibacy.  When he decides on a change of scenery to his summerhouse he hasn’t been to since his wife died, he is drawn into a custody battle gone wrong.  He learns secrets about his family history, his wife and some people he thought were friends.  King loves to write about writers.  It’s always interesting to try to figure out (if that’s even possible) how much of himself he’s put into these characters.  Mike is a prolific writer and is able to fake his way with his publisher for 4 years because he had stockpiled manuscripts he had already written but not published.  He was the only one who knew about them so he was able to present them as ‘new’ work.  King seems to be a writer who would do this.  I’ve told my husband that I sometimes think he is a machine given the amount of output he creates.  It’s almost unbelievable.  Seriously, Stephen, how many completed books do you have in your safe deposit box?

As usual, the secondary characters are key to the story.  From Mattie, the young mother Mike helps, to the caretaker for his property.  Each one plays an integral role and even if they are only present for a few pages, you can picture them in your mind’s eye.

I remember someone telling me a while back that they didn’t read King because they felt it was all horror.  I tried to show them the error of their ways but was unsuccessful.  That saddens me.  While Bag of Bones could be considered horror (not really by me, though) or a ghost story, it really is a psychological thriller that focuses on people and what they do when things go bad.  How does Mattie handle someone trying to take her daughter from her?  Will Mike be able to fight his growing attraction to a woman who is by most accounts too young for him?  When people of a small town are threatened, who do they turn against?

Bag of Bones is excellent.  I guess that’s all I really have left to say.

Chapter 4 – BBQ, Sweet Tea and Murder (Myrtle Mysteries)

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4:

For two days, Myrtle answered phones, made coffee and handled the daily tasks needed to run a small office. She also kept her ears open for any news about Pop’s murder. The police refused to release any new information and the residents of Pageland were getting antsy. Was their neighbor a killer? Crazy theories were being thrown around and town gossip was at an all-time high.

Wednesday evening, Myrtle came home to find Vera sitting on her front porch steps.

“Have you seen the news?”

“Why, hello to you too, Vera. Nice to see you. And don’t you look nice?” Myrtle replied with a roll of her eyes.

“Blah, blah, blah. We know each other too well for that. Although, I do look nice, don’t I? This is a new lipstick from Merle Norman. It’s Age Defying Hussy.” Vera decided to strike a pose like Marilyn Monroe and the old friends were holding onto each other laughing when they noticed Mrs. Barry driving by and staring straight at them. Myrtle waved heartily and kept laughing. As Vera started to send an age-old hand gesture to signify her feelings, Myrtle grabbed her arm and insisted that they go inside before they got into trouble.

“Now what were you saying about the news you old hussy?” Myrtle asked with a wink.

“The chief gave an interview to that new young reporter at the Pageland Progressive Journal. He didn’t give her a whole lot but it’s more than anyone else has gotten out of him. Let’s go online so you can read it.”

Myrtle went to the kitchen table, which doubled as her craft station and desk. Opening the MacBook Vivian and Steve bought for her Christmas last year, she entered her password. The kids setup a Facebook account for her so that she could see pictures of her Grandkids and maybe even reconnect with some people from high school. So far, the computer was used for crosswords and the daily news.

The website for the local paper was saved as a favorite so Myrtle went directly to the page. “Restaurant Owner Murdered. Police Suspect Foul Play.”

“Really, they suspect foul play? You just said he was murdered. I think this reporter might need to retake English 101. Or, just invest in a dictionary.” Myrtle had little patience when seemingly smart people couldn’t string two sentences together. Her family was unable to afford college even though her grades were excellent. She and Bradford made sure that all of their kids had the chance to finish school because she secretly regretted that she’d never been able to attend.

“Put away your Grammar Police badge and just read the dang article, Myrt.”

“Fine. But when we communicate only through grunts within the next 100 years, it will be too late.” Myrtle turned back to the computer and started to read.

Restaurant Owner Murdered. Police Suspect Foul Play.

By: Meghan Kilpatrick

Sunday night, Paul “Big Pop” Jordan was found dead in his 1957 Cadillac Coupe deVille. Police were called to the scene by two young men who found the car with Jordan inside. According to Chief White the boys were out driving on Philadelphia Church Road when they saw a car parked on the side of the road. They decided to investigate on their own and walked over to the driver’s window. After knocking with no response from the person they could see in the car, they opened the door. Both became ill when they realized that the driver had been shot. One of them recognized Big Pop’s car and called 911. Chief White confirmed that the young men are not suspects in the killing.

Chief White is well aware that the town is nervous that there is a killer in their midst. He assured me that they are taking all precautions and there appears to be no danger to the public. “While I can’t promise anything, I will say that this looks like an isolated incident. We have no reason to believe that other citizens of Pageland are in danger.”

When asked for details, the chief of police was unwilling to give this reporter much information. “Miss Kilpatrick, as you know, murder is not an everyday occurrence in Pageland. My team and I are going to do whatever is necessary to find the person who committed this terrible act. We would like to ask that anyone with information call or come by the station. Even if you think it isn’t important, it might be. My officers have also informed local businesses to be on the lookout for unusual cash transactions. We can confirm that Big Pop appeared to have been robbed of all cash and valuables.”

Many long time customers of Big Pop’s Place will remember that he was known to carry large amounts of cash. From the Cadillac, to the cash and his over-the-top wardrobe, Big Pop seemed to revel in the larger than life persona he created. Married three times with two children from his first marriage, his one true love seemed to be his restaurant.

Founded in 1980 with one stove and an outdoor smoker, Big Pop’s Place became a town institution.   Serving BBQ, brisket, cole slaw and more, he grew the restaurant into a 2000-square-foot meeting place for locals and visitors. Big Pop’s is most famous for his secret BBQ sauce. Pop himself created each batch and guarded the recipe. When asked, he would always laugh and say that the secret ingredient was the tears of his ex-wives. The restaurant has not yet reopened and we don’t know if there will be any more of Big Pop’s BBQ Sauce. We can only hope he shared it with someone.

“Tears of his ex-wives. That definitely sounds like Pop.” Myrtle couldn’t help but smile as she thought of him stirring the pot – pun intended.

“Well at least now we know he was killed for the money. I never understood why that knucklehead carried around wads of cash. Just showing off if you ask me.”

Myrtle didn’t agree with Vera about Pop showing off. But she didn’t want to argue. “Maybe it is as simple as a robbery. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still awful but at least that would explain things. I don’t know, though, something isn’t sitting right with me. You know I’ve watched too many crime shows to believe the easy answer.”

“That’s true. After all the CSI, NCIS and Longmire we’ve seen, we should investigate this ourselves. I’ve always said you and I could solve most mysteries with your brains and my sneakiness. “ Vera snickered and looked over expecting a laugh from Myrtle.

Instead Myrtle said, “You’re right. We should look into this. We knew Pop for over 55 years and he deserves a little justice. Even if he was a knucklehead.”

“Ummm, you’re crazy, lady. I was joking.”

“Vera Carnes, are you telling me that you won’t help me? Do I need to remind you of the time I sat in the car all through the night with you? What were we doing? Oh, yes. We were watching your husband through binoculars. You thought he was cheating on you so when he said he had to work late you convinced me to follow and then spy on him.”

“I was right, wasn’t I? He was a cheating bastard.”

“That’s beside the point. Number one, you asked and I did it. Number two, and you know this, we make a good team. Say you are in.” Myrtle stared hard at her friend, knowing that she was wearing her down. “Say it.”

“I’m in. God help me. I’m in.”

© Mary Brown, Lowcountry Book Lover and lowcountrybooklover.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mary Brown and lowcountrybooklover.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any publication for profit is strictly prohibited without specific written consent by owner.

 

Chapter 3 – BBQ, Sweet Tea and Murder (Myrtle Mysteries)

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3:

Late Monday night, Myrtle finally convinced Vera to go home. “I love you, Vera, and thank you for the homemade meal, but I’m ready to get in bed and sleep. I promise I will call you tomorrow.”

As sad as Myrtle felt, she had not been able to resist dinner. Fried pork chops, potato salad, lima beans, sliced tomatoes and biscuits. A large glass of iced sweet tea washed everything down and Vera even brought over one of her famous pecan pies. With full stomachs, the old friends spent the next several hours talking about Pop and what could have happened. Myrtle was exhausted and just wanted to have some time alone with her thoughts.

Face washed, teeth brushed and nightgown on, she prepared her bed. Myrtle knew that her young granddaughters thought her bedtime rituals were funny but they would understand one day that a good night’s sleep was priceless. Two pillows for her head, one behind her back and one to cushion between her knees – this was all she needed tonight. If one of the girls were sleeping over, she would have added two more between them. After all, a grandmother doesn’t want to get kicked in the back by a 10-year old.

Myrtle laid down and closed her eyes. Then opened them. Squeezed them shut. Opened and stared at the ceiling. ‘Grrrr…is it too much to ask for a good night’s sleep? I guess so.’ Sitting up slightly in bed, she pulled out her journal. ‘Let’s try some of the touchy-feely, get out my emotions writing. Don’t they say that’s supposed to help?’ Putting the pen to the paper, Myrtle’s mind wandered as it always did at night. ‘Focus. Stay on target.’ With a laugh Myrtle realized she had just quoted Star Wars. Those crazy kids made her watch them over and over. ‘Do. Or do not. There is no try.’ Chuckling, she tried writing again.

The first several lines Myrtle wrote were the standard Today I… Slowly she realized she was writing about the first time she met Pop all those years ago.

January 1960

The first day back to school after Christmas vacation was always a mixture of sadness, excitement and dread. Sadness that we had to wait another 12 months for Christmas presents. Excitement to show off our new clothes at school. Dread when thinking of the next several months of winter.

 Vera and I met outside her house to walk to Pageland Elementary School. My 8th birthday was in a few weeks and I was telling her about the cake Momma had promised to make me. Going into Miss Baker’s 2nd grade classroom, we weren’t paying attention to anything except each other. That’s when I ran into a brick wall. Not really, but it felt like it. Sprawled across the floor with my books everywhere, I could see a pair of brand new name brand sneakers. As I raised my eyes I saw nice pants with no signs of patches and a red sweater covering a blue button down shirt. On top of all this was the cutest face I had ever seen in my life. Blue eyes and blonde hair weren’t uncommon but boy did they look good on him. He looked down at me with a quick smile and reached out a hand to help me up. Before I could react to his outstretched hand, Vera smacked him across the back of the head and said, “You big dummy. You just knocked down my best friend.” She helped me up then, finally, and I could see Miss Baker walking over to check on us. I assured her I was fine but in truth I was mortified. The entire class had seen me fall and I was convinced everyone knew I had an instant crush on the new boy in class.

 Quickly taking our seats, Vera and I stole looks at each other. Her smirk told me she hadn’t missed my flushed face. Miss Baker called the class to attention and introduced HIM. Paul Jordan.

 Somehow I made it through the rest of the day without embarrassing myself anymore and Vera seemed content to keep her mouth shut for once. On the front steps of the school, I was almost home free and then I heard a voice calling from behind me.

 “Hey wait up.”

 I knew before I turned around that it was HIM.

“Wait a second.” Catching his breath, Paul said, “I’m sorry I knocked you down earlier. I must not have seen you. My name is Paul.”

Staring at his outstretched hand, I was struck mute. Luckily, that never happens to Vera. “Hey. I’m Vera.” She said as she grabbed his hand. I’m pretty sure she had never shaken hands with anyone before but she pulled it off. “This here is my friend Myrtle. She normally talks but I think you knocked around her brain some.”

“Vera, shut up. He didn’t knock around my brain and he didn’t even knock me down. I ran into him. I’m sorry about that Paul.   It’s very nice to meet you.” I then shook hands for the very first time too.

“Would you guys like to go get a soda at the drug store? I’m headed in that direction.” Looking at each other, Vera and I both shrugged.

“Okay. I have to be home in an hour so we’ll need to make it fast and you are buying Paul.” Vera was always bossy. It’s one of the things I love about her.

Paul gladly bought our sodas that day and even told us a little about himself after being grilled by Vera. His father came to Pageland to be the new President of the local bank and they bought the big house on McGregor Street. Of course, his mother stayed home with the kids – Paul and his younger sister, Elizabeth. Vera asked him why they had such stuffy names and he actually laughed. He said that he liked to be called Pop and explained that his sister couldn’t say his name when she was very young; it had come out as “Pop” and it stuck. He called her Libby – mostly to annoy their mother but also because she seemed more like a Libby than Elizabeth.

Pop (yes, we started calling him by his nickname that day) wanted to know more about us but we had to get home. I knew if I were late I would not only risk missing the afternoon snack but also might get a switch to the rear end. Vera and I waved goodbye. As we started running, I looked back at Pop. He seemed sad, standing there alone. I determined then and there that Vera and I would be his friends.

And we were. At least for the next ten years.

© Mary Brown, Lowcountry Book Lover and lowcountrybooklover.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mary Brown and lowcountrybooklover.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any publication for profit is strictly prohibited without specific written consent by owner.

Review – And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

9646992“The World’s Bestselling Mystery”.  I have no idea if that is true but, regardless, you cannot talk about mysteries without Agatha Christie.  And any Christie discussion usually begins or ends with And Then There Were None (originally published as Ten Little Indians.)

Ten seemingly unrelated people are tricked into coming to an island and one by one they are killed.  And Then There Were None.  

What makes this story so brilliant isn’t the famous red herring (more on that in a bit) but the fact that this isn’t just a mystery.  It is an examination of human nature, a psychological experiment, a thriller that sneaks up on you.  Originally published in 1939, ATTWN is outstanding in the characterizations and the intricacy of the plot.  Readers will theorize throughout the pages as to the identity of the killer but you really have no idea of the truth until you reach the end.

Red Herring* – something intended to divert attention from the real problem ormatter at hand; a misleading clue.

Is Christie the master of the red herring in literature?  I have debated this with myself since I finished reading yesterday and I haven’t come up with my answer.  About 50% through the book, my hands started shaking. The excitement to finish and get to the denouement was physically affecting me.  When the red herring was finally revealed, I felt both satisfaction and disappointment.  It’s hard to explain the mixture of emotion.  On one hand, I firmly believe that ATTWN is a masterpiece and Christie is a genius.  However, there was something in the ending that left me wanting.  At first, I was a bit confused at my reaction.  Then I realized – this is what Christie wanted the reader to feel.  We aren’t meant to have everything tied up in a neat bow.  There isn’t a happy ending.  Just the cold, hard truth.  And, she expertly led us there.

5/5 stars.

 

P.S. Before I published this review, I read through one final time.  I used the word “brilliant” no less than 3 times in just a few sentences without even realizing it.  Of course, I’ve changed a few of those uses now but that should tell you how I feel about ATTWN.

*source: dictionary.com

Chapter 2 – Myrtle Mysteries

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2:

Myrtle lifted her eyes to meet those of her lifelong best friend. “Vera Carnes if you are pulling one of your pranks, it isn’t funny. People don’t get murdered in Pageland.”

“Myrt, you know I wouldn’t joke about this. He is gone.”

“But I don’t understand. I just saw him last night when I went into his BBQ place to pick up a quart of coleslaw. What the heck happened?” Myrtle could feel her legs trembling and had to hold on to the front edge of her brand new desk to keep from falling into a puddle on the floor. Her chest ached and she was sure she was about to faint. Remembering a television special about avoiding panic attacks, she looked frantically for something neutral to hold her focus. Her eyes fell on the checkered pillows that didn’t really match the couch. ‘Good Lord, they are ugly. I bet Big Pop hated sitting next to them when he came in here. He loves pretty things. Loved. Crap. Past tense, Myrtle.’ she thought to herself as a small tremor worked its way through her. Slowly she realized that Vera had started talking again so she forced thoughts of Pop back into a hidden compartment of her mind and gave her attention back to the gray-haired woman standing in front of her with concerned eyes.

“I don’t really know. In the middle of the night I heard some sirens headed out of town but didn’t think much of it. I figured it was a car accident or something. Not this. Never this.” Even though Vera had refused to forgive Big Pop for hurting Myrtle all those years ago, she still had fond memories of their childhood friendship and wouldn’t have wished this end for him in a thousand years.

“Just like every other Monday morning, I stopped for gas at Grits and ran into Officer Murray.   He seemed in a hurry and when I asked him where the fire was, he told me about Pop. I guess the entire police force of Pageland is now on duty and they’ve even called in SLED. Chief White is a good chief of police but he isn’t prepared for a murder investigation.” Vera stopped talking and took a long look at her friend.

“Do they know who did this or why?” Jimmy asked. He was struggling to keep his thoughts off insurance and was ashamed to be thinking about how much money Pop’s beneficiaries were going to have in a few short weeks. Shaking his head with guilt at his train of thought, he looked to Vera.

“Officer Murray wouldn’t tell me much. I think secretly he was excited to have something interesting to work on for once. Sure, they get an occasional meth lab, moonshine still or home break-ins. But nothing like a murder. He did say that Pop was shot in the chest and his car was ransacked. He swore me to secrecy but whatever. I didn’t sign anything. He should know better than to tell me if it’s confidential. The whole town knows I can’t keep a secret. Right, Myrt?”

“Right,” Myrtle replied distractedly. “That’s it. Nothing else?”

“Not really, hon. It just happened so I’m sure they need time to investigate.”

Myrtle took a deep breath and started to demand more information. With an audible snap, she closed her mouth. ‘What’s the use, anyway?’ she thought. Snapping her fingers lightly, she turned on her heel and went around the desk. As she sat down and pulled her chair forward, she first looked at Vera then at Jimmy. “Well, I guess that is that. Jimmy, you need to head out to your lunch and I’ve got a lot of filing to do.”

Seeing her pale face and shaking hands, Jimmy was not willing to leave and looked to Vera for support. “Miss Myrtle, why don’t you head on home for the day? I can reschedule my lunch and keep things under control here.”

“Nonsense, we’ve both got work to do. Life goes on.”

“Myrt, don’t be silly. Let me take you home and we can talk.” Vera had heard the snapping fingers and knew Myrtle was on the brink of an explosion. The result could be screaming or sobbing, either of which would mortify Myrtle when she calmed down later. She also knew her stubborn friend well enough to realize that she wouldn’t listen to reason right now.

“I’ve made up my mind, Vera. Now leave me alone.” Myrtle gave both Vera and Jimmy a look that brooked no questions.

With a sigh, Vera decided that she was not willing to fight a losing battle. “Ok, Myrt. Call me if you need me. I will bring dinner to your house tonight around 6:00.” Vera could see Myrtle opening her mouth to argue. “NO! This is non-negotiable. If I am going to leave you here now against my better judgment, I will, by God, be there for you later.”

On the verge of tears, she picked up her pocketbook and opened the door to leave. “Bye Jimmy,” she said softly.

“Bye Miss Vera.” Jimmy turned to look again at Myrtle. He knew he should just walk out the door and go to lunch. Risking her wrath, he instead went around the desk and pulled on Myrtle’s hand until she stood up. Then he wrapped his arms around her and just held on. “It’s going to be okay, Miss Myrtle. I’m fixing to leave and give you some space but I will lock the door behind me so no one else can come in. You can do your filing in peace or just sit here quietly. Don’t worry about answering the phone. Voice mail is there for just this reason. I’ll be back in about an hour but I have my cell phone so just call if you need me.”

With that, he grabbed his things and went to lunch. Somehow meeting about liability coverage didn’t seem that important anymore but Miss Myrtle was right. Life goes on. Sadly, though, Jimmy knew life in Pageland was never going to be the same.

 

 

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