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Courting Misfortune by Regina Jennings

America’s first detective agency, the Pinkerton Detective Agency, was started in 1850. Kate Warne, the first female detective, was hired in 1856. The widowed Mrs. Warne proved to be very effective and would eventually lead a division of female detectives at the agency. One of whom may have been like Calista York, Regina Jennings’ heroine in Courting Misfortune.

This title is the first in a Christian historical romance series called The Joplin Chronicles. Set in Joplin around the end of the 1890’s it portrays a city emerging from its mining camp origins but still plenty rough around the edges.

Calista found life as a Kansas City debutante less than satisfying and believes she has found her calling as a Pinkerton detective.  Even though she has completed two successful assignments she is still on probation. Now Calista has one month to complete her next case and prove to the skeptical Mr. Pinkerton that she can do the job.

The case is finding Lila Seaton. Lila is the daughter of Chicago mobster Jinxy Seaton. Calista is less than thrilled about working for a gangster but seeing the haunted eyes in a photo of the missing young woman she is convinced she must help. Lila has been missing 8 months without a trace. Jinxy has learned from an associate that Lila was spotted in Joplin, Missouri in the disreputable House of Lords. Jinxy is certain Lila was kidnapped and is being exploited by the same people who murdered her sister.

Calista knows Joplin well as her Granny Laura lives just outside of town. During summer visits Calista was closely guarded when they made the trip into the rough and tumble mining town.  Now to do her job she must dodge her family and venture to the very places Granny avoided. Making the Keystone Hotel her base of operation, Calista heads for the House of Lords.

Matthew Cook grew up in Pine Gap and when he decided to answer God’s call to be a missionary he thought he might be sent to a foreign locale. Instead he found himself a short train ride away in Joplin, Missouri.

As he walks the streets of Joplin Matthew sees plenty of souls in need of guidance including the young woman who is pacing in front of the House of Lords.  She seems to be working up her nerve to go in and he steps in to warn her. But Calista does not welcome this good-looking stranger’s attention nor his desire to save her from poor decisions. Matthew however is determined to rescue her.

Matthew’s persistence is annoying but Calista is still able to pursue contacts that might lead her to Lila. Then her family discovers she’s in town.  Keeping her job and quest to find Lila a secret is proving difficult as her family joins Matthew in trying to keep Calista from the people and places that might lead her to the missing woman. Can she find Lila before her time runs out?

As for Matthew, besides his worry and growing attraction for Calista, he has taken a job in the mines to be closer to the people he hopes to help. Plus he must try to stop an outrageous plan to auction off a baby to raise money for the Children’s Home!

This is an entertaining read and the author is well-versed in Joplin history.  There is a little mystery, fun characters, and a developing romance with faith the underlying motivation for our two protagonists.

The library has this title in our fiction collection and you can find the ebook and eaudiobook on Hoopla. Plus there are 5 paperback copies available to be read then either passed on to a fellow reader to enjoy or returned to the library. Just ask us to see if one is available.

Plus you heard it here first! (or maybe second or third) – the author, Regina Jennings, will be in Joplin on December 9th for a presentation on Pinkerton Detective Kate Warne. Please join us at the Joplin Public Library on Thursday, December 9th, at 6pm in our Community Room. A book signing will follow the presentation.

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Random Road by Thomas Kies

Geneva Chase is a really good reporter. She writes well, has great instincts and her resume includes jobs at major newspapers, magazines and even Fox News. But Geneva, the person, is a mess. Her poor choices and drinking has cost her all those resume filling jobs.

In Thomas Kies’ debut novel, Random Road, Geneva finds herself on probation at the only job she could get, crime beat reporter for the Sheffield Post. Sheffield, Connecticut is where she grew up and where hopefully she can start over.

The start over has not gone well. Out with Frank, her married lover, she encounters his wife and in the ensuing drunken brawl Geneva punches an off-duty cop. Hence her probation and mandated AA meetings.

Okay before I go further, you are probably asking yourself why I picked this title. I’m a mystery reader and I like character-driven novels. However, I usually like those characters, if flawed, to at least be striving for something better. But Geneva is likeable and her self-destructive tendencies are revealed over time. Plus I was hooked on the whodunit.

And who can resist a novel with the opening line ‘Last night Hieronymus Bosch met the rich and famous’? The scene this line describes may be the career remake Geneva needs. She has an exclusive on a multiple homicide in the gated community of Connor’s Landing. Six bodies, hacked to death, in the beautiful Queen Anne home of a multi-million dollar estate. The police aren’t giving much away other than the brutality of the crime and that there are at least 2 perpetrators.

She has other stories to follow as well. One is Jimmy Fitzgerald. Jimmy has been in trouble and gotten off lots of times thanks to his rich father. But this time he killed a mother of three in a hit and run. Another is the Home Alone Gang, burglars targeting the very affluent in Fairfield and West Chester counties.

But her story on the murders is picked up nationally and she has drawn the attention of a possible tipster.  A message in her voice mail says “I know who killed those people”. The male caller states he knows who and why but cannot go to the police. Geneva has no way to trace the call and doesn’t know if it’s legitimate or a crackpot. So as she waits for another call, she starts digging for her own clues.

On the personal front, she reconnects with Kevin Bell after seeing him at an AA meeting. Kevin, widowed with a teen daughter, was her best friend in school. Their reunion soon leads to deeper feelings but Frank is proving hard to dump.

There is a lot going on in this novel and Geneva’s personal relationships seem to go at the same speed as her breaking news stories. As tragedy strikes at home, her different news stories coalesce. Geneva’s search for the killers takes her unexpected places and exposes the sometimes lethal results of too much money and privilege.

This story has the potential to restart her career if she can stay sober, keep her job, work out her personal relationships, and not get killed in her search for suspects.

This is an older title and the first in the Geneva Chase Mystery series. The following titles are “Darkness Lane”, “Graveyard Bay”, and “Shadow Hill”.  “Shadow Hill” published this summer to some really good reviews. It is also a recommended title for fans of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series. Other series read-alike are the Jane Ryland mysteries by Hank Phillippi Ryan and the Hollows novels by Lisa Unger.

 

Our Team: the Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series that Changed Baseball by Luke Epplin

When thinking of historic moments or teams in Major League Baseball, the 1948 Cleveland Indians did not leap to mind. That changed when I read Luke Epplin’s new book, Our Team: the Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series that Changed Baseball.

A very good friend recommended that I read “Our Team”. He said I would like it and, as is often the case, he was right. It is in turns biography, social history, sports history, and a recap of the crucial games in Cleveland’s 1948 season and World Series win.

Epplin focuses on four people: owner Bill Veeck, fielder Larry Doby, and pitchers Bob Feller and Satchel Paige. He introduces each man while telling us about the time in which they were living. If you didn’t already know, you’ll find out how very different it was to play baseball professionally if you were Black.

Bob Feller was a pitching phenom. His dad recognized and nurtured his talent. From his home field to high school and semi-professional baseball, crowds showed up to watch Feller pitch. He drew the attention of the Cleveland Indians and was signed to a contract in 1935, his junior year in high school.

Originally set to start in the minor leagues he pitched against the Cardinals in an exhibition game and skipped straight to the majors. Feller worked 3 innings and struck out 8 batters – sending him to the minors didn’t make sense.

In contrast Satchel Paige’s path to the Majors was long and arduous. He didn’t have a father to nurture his talent. He worked from a young age and actually learned to pitch at the Alabama Reform School for Juvenile Negro Lawbreakers. When he was released at 17 he signed with a Black semi-professional team to study the game and hone his talents.

He soon learned that people would pay to watch him pitch. Like Feller he was a phenomenal pitcher but Paige was also a showman. He was good at gauging the crowd and keeping them entertained. He played in the Negro League during the season and then, as many League players did, went south to keep playing to make a living.

To earn some extra money Major Leaguers also played after the season was over. Barnstorming games often pitted Negro Leaguers against Major Leaguers. In October 1936 Paige and Feller met for the first of many games they would pitch against each other. Neither allowed a run with Feller striking out 8 and Paige 7.

Paige was such a dominant pitcher and had so much success against Major League players that League executives deemed a white player that could hit off Paige ready to play in the Majors. Despite this, he would not get his chance in the Major Leagues until the summer of 1948 when he was 42 years old.

Larry Doby was born in the south but his family moved north to find work. With his father was mostly absent and his mother working as a live-in domestic, he lived with his grandmother in Camden, NJ. He spent his free time playing stickball. Before high school his mother moved him to Paterson, NJ so he could attend an integrated school. A natural gifted athlete he was a 3 sport star and welcome to socialize with all his teammates.

Unlike Paige, Doby never aspired to play in the Major Leagues. He had his pick of sports but wanted to play Negro League baseball. He signed with the Newark Eagles and was an instant success. World War II interrupted his stint with the Eagles but after the war he resigned and continued to improve.

His talent drew the eye of both the Dodgers and the Indians with the Indians buying his contract from the Eagles in the summer of 1947. Unlike what the Dodgers did with Jackie Robinson, Doby did not go into the Minor League system. He went straight to the Majors.

The man who brought Feller, Paige and Doby together for that championship year was Bill Veeck. Bill loved baseball. His father was team president of the Chicago Cubs and Bill worked for the Cubs himself until he had the opportunity to buy the Milwaukee Brewers. In Milwaukee he perfected what he would eventually bring to the Indians. He roamed the crowds during the games talking to people, he gave away prizes, and had firework shows.

He wanted to win almost as badly as he wanted to fill the stands and make sure the fans had a good time. He also wanted to integrate baseball. He did it with personnel and eventually his Indians became the first American League team to sign a Black player.

There is so much more about each of these men that Epplin explores – how World War II affected each man, Feller’s quest to secure his financial future, Paige’s style and remarkable longevity, Veeck’s energy, and Doby’s ability to excel amid the isolation and injustices he endured integrating the game while living in a segregated society.

Then of course there is the season. The ups and downs in the race for the pennant against the Yankees and the Red Sox. The season came down to a one game playoff against the Sox to determine who would face the Boston Braves in the series. Even though we know the result, Epplin keeps you turning the pages to see what happens next.

Epplin did his research and brought to life these four remarkable men and the time in which they lived. It is both an entertaining and sobering book you don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy.

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We Came, We Saw, We Left: a Family Gap Year by Charles Wheelan

Charlie Wheelan is standing on a train platform in Medellin, Colombia and two of his children are missing. So begins Charles Wheelan’s account of his family’s gap year adventure. Charlie and Leah decided to take a year (or 9 months) and travel around the world with their children ages 13-18. We Came, We Saw, We Left: a Family Gap Year is an entertaining chronicle of seeing the world with and through evolving youth.

Charlie and Leah traveled the world the year after they graduated from college. Now, having turned fifty, they want to recreate that adventure with Katrina, Sophie, and CJ. Katrina just graduated from high school and can delay college for a year. High school junior Sophie (16) and 8th grader CJ will be home-schooled. Charlie, an author and a professor at Dartmouth College, and Leah, a math teacher, can take sabbaticals. Now how do they pay for the trip?

They decide to rent their house while they are gone and use the rent money for lodging. Only the things that are required to be were booked in advance such as flights and excursions. As for the rest they travel local buses, taxis, and trains and they do a lot of walking. They have a daily food allowance, a small amount of ‘free’ money per person and Leah is in charge of the budget.

The Wheelan family are seasoned travelers so with expenses figured out and a flexible itinerary of where they want to go, what could go wrong? Well, you can be at one train station, your wife at another, and Katrina and CJ missing somewhere in Medellin. Spotty Wi-Fi, no cell service, and vying for limited space on local transit are just some the challenges the family face and take in stride as they traverse the globe.

A world map entitled Nine Months, Six Continents, Three Teenagers is at the beginning of the book and shows the route from Hanover, New Hampshire to South America. Then on to New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Vietnam to Calcutta, Cape Town, back to India then Germany and other stops along the way before returning to New Hampshire nine months later.

No time line is given for the journey. They were in Colombia in September and New Zealand at Christmas but otherwise the telling is by place not day or month. Each chapter begins with a small map pinpointing the places for this part of the trip.

Wheelan is an amusing, self-deprecating writer. Traveling together for nine months is not all roses and he doesn’t avoid telling about some of the less savory aspects. The whole clan suffers from motion sickness and no matter where you are, you can’t avoid germs. Aside from the gastric distress and colds, a flesh eating parasite also makes an appearance on Katrina’s foot and leg.

As with any family there will be squabbles and some disagreements. The author keeps a record of the trip in his journal. At the halfway point he has written: Countries: 8, Bus trips: 28, Flights: 13, Boat rides: 6, Jeep rides: 7, Horse rides: 2, Incidents of motion sickness: 7, Search parties looking for us: 2, Family meltdowns: 5, and Books read (by me): 25.

Whether it is museums, hikes, or diving, the squabbles and discomforts are woven into the grand adventure as we follow the family around the world. Wheelan is good at evoking the sense of a place whether it is a hike in the Amazon or drinking coffee at an outdoor café.

Some excursions were exciting – diving at the Great Barrier Reef, exploring a 7-level cave in the Rain Forest, visiting the Tiger’s Nest, a monastery in Bhutan and hunting for kiwi in New Zealand. Others were sobering – deforestation in Laos, the Vietnam Hanoi Hilton, a slave museum in Zanzibar and the Airbnb apartment they rented in Vienna. A small plaque, Stolpersteine (stumbling stone), stood in front of the building with the names of the Hofling family and the date, June 15, 1942, that the Nazis took them from their home.

This was an enjoyable journey to places many of us will never go. The author described many of the places and creatures he saw through his camera lens. I would have loved to see some of that wonder and beauty included as color photos but perhaps that would require another book.

Speaking of another book, Wheelan spent some of his travel time working on a novel. Finished by the end of their gap year trek, “The Rationing”, was published and you’ll find it at the library.

This family had a wish, then a goal and finally a plan. As Wheelan says “We pulled it off. We made it around the world: nine months, six continents, three teenagers and one flesh-eating parasite.”

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Before She Was Helen by Caroline B. Cooney

Caroline B. Cooney is known for her young adult novels but she was intrigued with telling the story of someone who chose or was forced to live their life as a different person and managed to do it for almost 50 years. The resulting novel is her first for adults, Before She Was Helen.

Cooney’s effort is a well-done tale of surviving life’s challenges with a little murder and mayhem thrown in. NoveList (a reader’s advisory tool available through the catalog or the library website) describes the novel as compelling, funny, suspenseful, and intricately plotted with authentic characters. It’s the library’s pick for the Spring Book Discussion scheduled for April 26th from 6:00-7:00 p.m.

Helen is a semi-retired teacher living in the Sun City Retirement Village. The village is nice but bland. On a forgetful day a resident may need the garage door opener to identify their unit by which door goes up. You can be anyone you want to be and no one questions your past.

This suits Helen fine. She can have friends and participate in the lifestyle without too many awkward questions. Helen’s neighbor, Dom, may like the anonymity too but he doesn’t participate. He is an unpleasant man who doesn’t invite friendship. However, he and Helen have an arrangement. After a fall he gave her a key to his unit to be used only if he misses his daily check-in.

On the summer morning that begins this novel, Dom has not texted his usual message or responded to her text and phone call. Reluctant about what she might find, Helen uses the key. Dom is not inside the villa and in fact his golf cart (his transportation) is not in the garage. There is, however, a connecting door to next villa. This villa is largely unoccupied as the owners rarely come to stay and Helen knows of no other villas with a door between the units.

Doing her due diligence, she goes back through Dom’s place and over to the next villa. When there is no answer to the doorbell and repeated knocks Helen goes back to the connecting door. Could Dom be in the next villa? His missing golf cart says no but now she really wants to see the next villa.

Dom is not there and the villa appears so empty that Helen doubts anyone ever lives there. A rainbow of light catches her eye and she discovers a beautiful glass tree dragon sculpture. Unable to resist she snaps a picture with her cell phone and goes home.

Wanting to share her discovery with her great niece and nephew she sends the photo from Helen’s phone to her family phone, Clemmie’s phone, and texts the beautiful sculpture. For most of her adult life the world has known her as Helen. Clemmie only exists for her family and they know nothing of Helen.

The response Clemmie gets is surprising. The glass sculpture is actually a rig for smoking marijuana. The tree dragon was stolen from the maker, Borobasq, and Clemmie’s nephew has already contacted him about her discovery.

Clemmie’s fingerprints are in the villa with the stolen statue. Then her niece sends her news from her hometown, the decades old murder of the high school basketball coach is being reopened. The same coach who forced her transformation from Clemmie to Helen.

To add to her worry, Borobasq soon finds her. The glass maker is actually a drug dealer and whoever stole the rig took his cash, lots of cash. He has come to find his money and inflict a little pain. Before he can determine Helen’s involvement in the theft a body is found in Dom’s garage.

With the sheriff questioning her about what happened next door while a drug dealer hides in her bathroom, Helen has to think fast. Can she figure out what is going on before Clemmie is exposed and her two worlds collide?

Cooney takes us back and forth from Clemmie’s youth through young adulthood and Helen’s situation. We go from the culture of the 1950’s to navigating senior living and modern conveniences. “Her life didn’t turn out the way she expected—so she made herself a new one” is accurate and inadequate. There is so much more to Helen’s story which is why it’s a good pick for the library’s Spring Book Discussion.

The Spring Book Discussion for Before She Was Helen will be Monday, April 26th, from 6:00-7:00 p.m. via Zoom. You can find the link on handouts at the library and it will be posted on the Joplin Public Library Facebook page. We hope you’ll join us.

The library has this title in print and in the ebook format on both MoLib2Go.org (Overdrive) and Hoopla. If you find the print and MoLib2Go.org titles checked out, it is always available on Hoopla.

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Cozy Reads for January

Hidden Treasures by Jane Cleland

The Crystal Cave Trilogy by Susan Albert Wittig

Game of Dog Bones by Laurien Berenson

Yesterday’s Echo by Matt Coyle

Over the past few weeks I’ve been catching up with some of my cozy mystery series as well as checking out a new to me author.

Jane Cleland’s Hidden Treasure is number 13 in the Josie Prescott series. Newlywed Josie and husband Ty just bought their dream home. While prepping for a remodel, Josie finds a hidden trunk the previous owner left behind. She returns the trunk and its contents, potentially rare relics, to the owner and an instant friendship forms.  Maudie, encouraged by her nieces, may be interested in selling the trunk’s contents and enlists Josie’s aid. Soon, however, one niece is dead and Maudie and the trunk’s contents are missing. Josie is determined to find a killer and discover what happened to Maudie. Is she dead? Kidnapped? And who has the relics?

The Crystal Cave Trilogy is an adjunct to the long running China Bayles series by Susan Wittig Albert. Ruby Wilcox is China’s best friend and business partner.  The three novellas in this collection are all centered on Ruby and her psychic abilities. Each story from a dream that turns out to be a real kidnapping to the stopping of a serial killer before he can claim another victim highlights her expanding abilities. There is also the thread of possible romance with detective Ethan Connors. The skeptical detective slowly begins to accept Ruby’s gift and wants to know more about her. But is he interested in her as a person and just her abilities? For China Bayles’ fans this may tide you over until number 28 comes out later this year.

My last cozy is Laurien Berenson’s Game of Dog Bones. Number 25 in this canine mysteries series has Melanie Travis, her husband Sam, and Aunt Peg all headed to New York City for the Westminster Dog Show. Aunt Peg has been chosen to judge in the prestigious event. Scheduled to give a seminar on judging the day before the show, Peg is disgruntled that a dog show is being held in the same venue. Victor Durbin and Peg have a history and his location seems to have been chosen to detract from Peg’s seminar. When Victor’s body is found the day after the show, Aunt Peg becomes the number one suspect. Victor was pretty unscrupulous and had plenty of enemies. With so many suspects can Melanie find the killer before Peg is arrested for murder?

In reading book reviews, I ran across a review for Matt Coyle’s Rick Cahill series. Ready for a mystery that is a little edgier I started with the first in the series, Yesterday’s Echo. Manager of a restaurant in La Jolla, California, Cahill likes to keep a low profile. He is an ex-cop who was accused of his wife’s murder eight years ago. He returned to his hometown but it comes with its own bad memories. His dad was kicked off the police force for being a dirty cop.

Into his less than idyllic existence drops Melody Malana. When Melody’s dinner companion becomes less than cordial, Cahill steps in. When he rescues her a second time that evening he takes her home for safety but she leaves before morning. He assumes the interlude is over but soon finds that Melody has not disappeared from his life. When two thugs do not believe his denial and try to beat her location out of him, Rick decides he needs to find her. Tracking her to a hotel he finds a crime scene. A dead man occupies Melody’s room.

Melody pops back into his life only to be followed by the police. First she is taken in for questioning soon followed by Cahill. After Melody is arrested it becomes apparent that Rick may be next. It is now a race to see if he can uncover the truth before he is either in jail or the next victim.

This series has the feel of classic detective fiction but Cahill is a complex character and he doesn’t always get it right. He carries a load of guilt over his wife’s death and seems to always be under the shadow of his father’s sins. He still has his cop’s gut but sometimes follows the wrong instinct.

I’ve read the first two in the series – working my way to Blind Vigil, which published in December. Fast-paced with unexpected twists, these are hard to put down.  If you enjoy Lawrence Sanders and/or Andrew Vachss novels this is a series I think you’ll like.

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The Secret, Book & Scone Society by Ellery Adams

I enjoy mysteries with well-developed characters and if it is part of a series, all the better. Ellery Adams’ Secret, Book and Scone Society series has everything I like.

The series gets its title from the first book, The Secret, Book & Scone Society. The setting is the small town of Miracle Springs, North Carolina. The town is situated on the Appalachian Trail and is known for its thermal pools and spa. The afternoon train brings not only tourists but those seeking the comfort and relief the thermal pools provide.

Nora Pennington, the owner of Miracle Books, looks forward to the shoppers and to those seeking change and healing. She is a former librarian and a bibliotherapist. After talking to and listening to her readers she selects titles that help them achieve change and peace.

Nora was the recipient of bibliotherapy after an accident left her with burn scars on her right side. A nurse at the hospital knew Nora’s love of books would help her. The carefully chosen titles took her from despair and remorse to hope.

Sitting in the park before opening the bookstore, Nora meets a man in need of her talents. He works for the company bringing a new housing development to Miracle Springs. Something about the project has him deeply troubled and an employee at the thermal pools told him about Nora.

Before he comes to the bookstore, Nora sends him to the Gingerbread House for a scone. Hester Winthrop, the owner, will bake him a customized scone. She draws people out then adds ingredients to their scone that will invoke a special memory.

However, somewhere between receiving his scone and his session with Nora the stranger meets the train and not in a good way. Estella Sadler, owner of Magnolia Salon and Spa, is the first to tell Nora about the death. She is followed by Hester who at least knows the man’s name is Neil.

Soon a deputy arrives requesting the presence of Nora and Hester at the sheriff’s office. June Dixon, the employee at the thermal pools who sent Neil to Nora, has also been brought in to be interviewed. After the interviews the ladies are convinced that Sheriff Hendricks will not investigate Neil’s death. The easy thing for him to do is rule it a suicide.

Feeling that the troubled man who sought them out deserved better, the ladies decide to find out for themselves if it was suicide or murder. They want to keep their investigation a secret so to explain their meetings the four (Estella has already been asking questions) form a book club – the Secret, Book, and Scone Society.

It soon becomes apparent that things are not what they seem with the new housing development. Then another partner in the development is found dead and Estella is charged with his murder. Can Nora and her new partners find the murderer and free Estella before someone else dies?

Each of these ladies is a loner because of past traumas. To trust each other and become friends, they realize they must share their most painful secrets. As they meet to share information and theories, we hear the stories and the traumas that have brought them all to Miracle Springs.

This series is a winner if the rest of the books are as good as the first. Nora is the lead but each of the four women are strong, sympathetic characters. The setting is charming as is the bookstore in an old train depot. The mystery keeps you turning the pages with some twists you might not see coming.

I’m looking forward to “The Whispered Word”, “The Book of Candlelight” and what other titles may follow. Recommended read-alikes are Jenn McKinlay and Eva Gates. I will add Susan Albert Wittig as I think if you like the China Bayles series you’ll like this one too.

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Vanishing in the Haight by Max Tomlinson

The Summer of Love occurred in the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco in 1967. Tens of thousands of young people converged on the neighborhood for music, drugs, and free love. Max Tomlinson chose this setting to begin his novel, Vanishing in the Haight.

Margaret Copeland, problem child in her wealthy family, left home to join the thousands gathering in Haight-Ashbury. However, sharing a mattress with strangers in a noisy, smoke-filled room has lost its appeal. High and clutching a dime Margaret is on her way to a pay phone. She wants to go home but a stranger who knows her name is waiting. Her body is found in a nearby park beaten, raped and suffocated with a dry cleaning bag.

The San Francisco police attributed her death, despite inconsistencies, to the Zodiac killer. Her family was not convinced and now 11 years later her dying father wants the truth. His hope is that Colleen Hayes can find the man responsible for Margaret’s death.

At first glance Colleen is not an obvious choice. She’s on parole after serving 9 years for manslaughter. She killed her husband when she discovered he molested their 8 year-old daughter, Pamela. She does have a business, Hayes Confidential, but is awaiting her PI license.
Colleen came to San Francisco a year earlier to reconnect with her daughter. In her search for Pamela she found the body of a young woman and helped Dan Moran of Santa Cruz Homicide find the killers. Impressed by her tenacity, Moran is the reason Edward Copeland wants to hire her.

The only job Hayes Confidential has is guarding an abandoned paint factory where Colleen is also living. This is where Edward Copeland’s lawyer finds her. Unsure about taking on the case Colleen doesn’t say yes or no. The decision is made for her by an early visit the next day from her parole officer. After Colleen declines his advances, he deems her living situation is a parole violation. She agrees to look into Margaret’s murder for much needed money and legal help with her parole officer.

Colleen starts digging and one of the first things she wants is a look at the police file. Futile requests have been made by the family before but she goes ahead with the paperwork. As she works her way from one desk/department to another at SFPD, calls are made alerting someone to her request.

She doesn’t get the file but she has the name of the investigating officer and tracks him down. Forced into retirement soon after Margaret’s death, Jim Davis agrees to meet and bring his copy of the murder file. But someone doesn’t want Margaret’s killer found and Davis is killed before he can talk.

The tension builds as Colleen follows clues and evidence that was ignored in the initial investigation. We know the police were protecting someone in the summer of 1967. How far will they go to shield a killer? A killer who is back and stalking his next victim. Colleen wants justice for both Margaret and Jim but can she find the truth before there is another death?

Tomlinson has penned a tough, tenacious heroine in Colleen. She’s smart, has a strong desire for justice, and can be gently compassionate. It is interesting to have a novel set in a time when you had to have dimes for the pay phone, the library was the place to go for research and finding addresses, and you put on bell bottoms and platform shoes for a night out.

This was billed as a book one in the Colleen Hayes mystery series. The second book, “Tie Die”, is out and I’m looking forward to Colleen’s next case.

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The Sum of the People: How the Census has Shaped Nations, from the Ancient World to the Modern Age by Andrew Whitby

Even before the events that have changed our lives over the last few months, 2020 was going to be an eventful year. It is a presidential election year and a census year.
The U.S. Constitution mandates that every 10 years the population be counted. The count is very important as it determines electoral districts and how many representatives each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives. It is also used to allocate federal funding for fire departments, Medicaid, Head Start, and lots of other programs. Businesses use these population totals to help with decisions such as where to expand or the best place to recruit employees. Also 72 years after the census is completed all that information is released to the delight of genealogists everywhere.
If you haven’t filled out the census form this year, please do so. If you want to do it online, go to https://2020census.gov/en.html or come to the library. We have the page bookmarked on computers with no sign in necessary.
Of course the census is not just a U.S. endeavor. Countries all over the world have been counting people for centuries. Andrew Whitby has chronicled the history of census taking and how it has been used for good and evil in The Sum of the People: How the Census has Shaped Nations, from the Ancient World to the Modern Age.
Whitby begins his history of the census in the West Bank on the Nativity Trail. He is walking the same route Mary and Joseph travelled as they went to Bethlehem to be counted for the census decreed by Caesar Augustus. As he navigates the trail in this volatile region, the author explores the way the census is used to define countries and build nations.
From there, how the census was taken throughout history offers some interesting discoveries. Not all censuses were written down and not all counted people. England’s Doomsday book, the census of 1086, counted not just people but churches, mills, plough teams, livestock, and much more. Also using census data to make political decisions (political arithmetic) was not introduced until the 1620’s. The idea spread across Europe and across the Atlantic to be embedded in the constitution of the newly formed United States.
Tabulating a census is a daunting task and the list of things being tracked had grown so big that by 1880, the U.S. ran out of time and money for the census. A contest was held to find a faster and cheaper way to tabulate the forms and the numbers. The story of the contest is in the chapter, A Punch Photograph.
Gathering so much information not only made tabulating it hard but made it possible for governments to use that information to target certain groups. The United States used it to force sterilization of mental patients. Nazi Germany used it to annihilate Jewish populations in their own country and the countries they invaded.
Whitby’s passion and research (his resource list for this book is 60 pages long) shows in the depth and detail he provides. He explains how some social and political constructs evolved and how the census was conducted and used to further those ideas. For example, the author talks about the concept of eugenics before he details the use of the census to persecute the Jewish population.
A history of getting a world population count, over-population and the uncounted receive the same detailed treatment. Not counting certain people was practiced in the U.S., Australia, and South Africa among other countries. The U.S. used to exclude Native Americans, Australia didn’t count Aboriginals, and as late as 1998 South Africa failed to count 3 million rural black citizens.
Whitby also addresses the mistrust that some feel toward the gathering of information by a government and the cost involved in conducting a census. The challenges of taking a modern-day census are many. Mobile societies, modern communication, and ensuring the privacy of citizens are discussed. Other ways countries are using to get population counts and estimates may lead to a change in how the census is done.
The future of the traditional census is uncertain but as Whitby concludes “we will not stop counting people. With each new birth, the human journey continues”.

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The Big Finish by Brooke Fossey

Eighty-eight-year old Duffy Sinclair is a little bit of a crank, a flirt, a prankster, and scared of losing his home. He and Carl share a room at the Centennial Assisted Living Facility in Brooke Fossey’s novel, The Big Finish.

Sharon, the new owner of Centennial, has plans to remodel and double the fees but can only do it as current residents depart. Departure could mean having to move to the dreaded roach-infested nursing home down the road. Duffy is determined that will not be his and Carl’s fate then Josie literally falls into their lives.

Carl is the best friend Duffy never had and Duffy thought he knew everything about him. But both men have secrets and Carl’s just opened the window and crawled/fell into their room. Barefoot and sporting a shiner Josie has come to visit her grandfather, Carl Thomas Upton.
Duffy is ready to call the staff as he knows Carl and his late wife did not have children. But Carl acknowledges Josie’s claim and the first order of business is to hide her as Nurse Nora is at the door. Then the debate begins.

Josie wants to stay a week but Duffy is not ready to risk his spot at Centennial hosting an unauthorized guest. Carl reveals the circumstances of Josie’s mother birth and mourns that her recent death means he’ll never get the redemption he sought. Josie is his second chance.

Disappointed in Carl and scared of what eviction would mean Duffy is adamant that Josie leave. But then Josie enters the facility in a more conventional manner. The other residents and staff are charmed by Carl’s granddaughter. With Josie invited to join them on a planned trip to Walmart Duffy is determined to keep an eye on her.

What he sees is that Josie may have a more serious problem than needing a place to stay. Duffy is 13 years sober and in Josie he recognizes the same physical symptoms he suffered when alcohol ruled his life. His big secret – alcoholism and the life he wasted.

Despite his misgivings Duffy decides that Josie needs an intervention. But first he has to convince her she needs help and to complicate things further Bates shows up looking for Josie. Bates claims to be her boyfriend but he appears none to friendly and probably the cause of her black eye. He brings a whole new set of problems for the octogenarian determined to get Josie’s life back on track.

Each day Centennial has a schedule of the events for the day. The story starts with Saturday August 26 and the last day is Wednesday August 30. In those 5 short days can Duffy turn Josie’s life around? Will he find that Josie can be his redemption?

This novel is at times funny, touching, harrowing, and sad. The challenges of aging and what it means to be family are explored in this entertaining first novel by Fossey. The author has a knack for good dialogue and characters and I had no trouble picturing Duffy, Carl and Josie in my mind as I read.

Read-alikes for this title are The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk. If you enjoyed those novels, you’ll find Duffy’s tale to your liking.

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