Friday, October 18, 2013

Book Review: Poisoned Prose by Ellery Adams

Poisoned Prose (Books by the Bay Series #5)

Blurb: When Olivia Limoges and other Oyster Bay patrons of the arts sponsor a retreat for famous storytellers, one of them is going to have a very unhappy ending…

Olivia thought gathering some of the most renowned storytellers in one place would be a nice, simple way for herself and the Bayside Book Writers to appreciate their talents. But things take a dark turn when the most famous storyteller in the nation—the captivating performer Violetta Devereaux—announces onstage that she will meet her end in Oyster Bay.

When Violetta is discovered murdered after the show, everyone involved with the retreat becomes a suspect. There are rumors that Violetta, who grew up in extreme poverty in the Appalachian Mountains, possessed an invaluable treasure. Now Chief Rawlings and the Bayside Book Writers must work at a frenzied pace to solve the crime before someone closes the book on them.

My Review: Whenever someone asks me for a recommendation as to where to delve into the traditional mystery genre, I always recommend Ellery Adams without hesitation. Her books are quite simply without equal, and her Books by the Bay Mysteries are the cream of the crop in an outstanding body of work.

In this 5th book in the series Oyster Bay is struggling amidst an extremely hot and dry summer. Excitement arrives in the form of a group of storytellers on retreat, an event planned by Olivia's former lover Flynn, owner of the Through the Looking Glass bookshop. During a performance at the library, the highlight is Violetta Devereaux, an extremely unusual and captivating woman who entrances the audience with stories passed down from her grandfather and father. She speaks of growing up in poverty in the Appalachian Mountains, a heartbreaking loss, a hidden treasure, and a prediction that she will meet her end in Oyster Bay. Following the event her premonition comes true. She agrees to an interview with reporter Laurel, gives Olivia advice with regards to her struggling novel, and then is found dead in the library conference room.

Those few moments along with Violetta affected Olivia so profoundly that she is determined to bring the killer to justice, along with the fact that the main suspect is waitress Dixie's cousin Lowell who worked for Violetta and has a criminal record. As the Bayside Book Writers dig deeper they discover that her family secrets and deep-seated jealousies gave more than one person reasons to want her dead.

In addition to solving a murder, the Bayside Book Writers are experiencing many changes of their own, and before it's over one member moves on hopefully temporarily, while another town resident is gone forever. And by the end Olivia is faced with one of the biggest decisions of her life, as well as the likelihood that a ghost from her past is about to make a reappearance.

One of the highlights for me about this series is the fact that it revolves about a group of writers and their various successes and roadblocks. As a blogger, one passage touched me deeply: "Every tweet, every post, every group of lines that you type is a story. Human beings connect with other human beings through stories. That's why you stare at the screen for so many hours. You are looking for other people's stories. And you want to share your own. You want your voice to be heard among all those other voices." As a human, one of the storytellers' tales broke my heart. It's the story of a cabin haunted by an entire family that was killed by a pox: "Folks said that the baby was the last one to die and he cried and cried all through the night before he finally died." I defy you to try and get that image out of your head.

Take my advice, start this series with book 1 and read them straight through. These books aren't your run of the mill mysteries, they are meticulously crafted novels with a cast of characters you will form deep attachments to and a quaint southern town you will yearn to return to again and again.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher with the request for a review.


Melissas Eclectic Bookshelf said...

I've read her Pies and Prejudice and just bought Peach Pies and Alibis...but have yet to delve into this series! Sounds great!

Rob said...

I loved Poisoned Prose as well. Just finished a week ago. Even though I had never read the series before, I think Ellery Adams did a good job making a first time reader feel comfortable. Now I'll take your advice and read the first book soon.