Sorrow Road by Julia Keller

Finished my third book for the month. This one is part of a series I started reading many years ago. I have several to read to catch up. These stories are set in West Virginia in a fictional town called Ackers Gap. The protagonist is a county prosecutor named Belfa Elkins. She goes by the name of Bell. Her county is riddled with drug abuse and most of the cases involve drugs except for the occasional murder investigation.

Bell is divorced and the mother of a young woman Carla who is now in her early twenties. The previous book involved a killer who kidnapped Carla when she was a teen and she witnessed some horrific things. Afterwards she left Ackers Gap to live with her father who is part of a legal team in Washington DC. That was difficult for Bell but she and her husband work together to do what is right for their only child. Bell had once been part of that lifestyle in Washington DC but with their divorce she felt compelled to come back to her hometown to do some good.

This book is set during the winter and the author’s descriptions of the blustery snowy weather made me feel like I should be able to see my breath. Luckily I didn’t and was able to wrap up in a blanket with a warm drink and enjoy the ride.

She meets with someone she went to college with who was also from the area whose father is in a local Memory Care facility. The father has died recently and the woman asks Bell to investigate his death because she does not believe that he died from Alzheimer’s.

She meets the friend, Darlene, at a bar and she notices that though the woman ordered a drink, Darlene swished it around but never actually took a drink. The next day, Bell discovers that Darlene missed a turn on one of those back roads and that she had a high level of alcohol in her system. Bell also discovers that Darlene had an anniversary chip on her for staying sober. Darlene and Bell had not had a good relationship in the past and so wasn’t even sure if she wanted to get involved in Darlene’s father’s death but when the woman’s female love interest shows up and tells Bell she found a note from Darlene asking her to contact Bell in case of her own death, Bell gets involved.

Julia Keller slowly presents the story with interviews from locals and employees of the care facility. The book also jumps back and forth between the past and the present to tell about the friendship of three young men, starting when they were just boys. They are involved in a secret from their past that has caused one of them to feel the need to confess over the years. One of the young men had always had the ability to persuade his friend that for all their best interests they need to let it go. Darlene’s father was one of those young men. This storyline is skillfully weaved between the telling of Darlene and her father’s deaths along with an employee of the facility and another older woman who were found shot as the story started unfolding. The author tells you just enough to make you want to keep reading. This was another book that I stayed up way too late to finish.

This series of books has the ability to pull you into the story. They have well developed characters that you care for. The small town has a handful of regulars that are quirky enough to make you want to visit again and again.

Julia Keller is an excellent writer. Her books shine with just the amount of description needed to make you feel as if you are there in Ackers Gap. She has developed the kind of characters who feel real and her stories are gritty enough to feel like something you might have read about in the newspaper. If you enjoy Louise Penny’s books, I do think you would enjoy this series.

Julia Keller spent twelve years as a reporter and editor for the Chicago Tribune, where she won a Pulitzer Prize. A recipient of a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University, she was born in West Virginia and lives in Chicago and Ohio.

What have you been reading this month? This is my third completed book, so far, so fairly sure I will make my goal of four books this month. I hope you have missed out on the tornado season that has started down south. We are currently coming out of a few days of colder weather and heading into a warmer Spring weekend. My hubby and I have been trying to spend a little time each day walking. I have also turned more toward books than T.V. When I finish a book, I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

May you escape into a book this week.

Until next time,


Between Books

My Bookstore by Ronald Rice is full of essays written by authors about their favorite independent bookstores. I haven’t completed reading this one yet, I have about a fourth of the book left to read. This is one of the books that I pick up whenever I am in the mood to read it a little knowing I wouldn’t be completing it in a month. It’s interesting to see what different authors appreciate in their local bookstores. Most love the way the owners arrange book signings and promote their work. Most owners appear to help them with research and suggest books related to whatever subject they need information about for the works in progress. Many owners hand sell their books.

Since I am reading it during the pandemic, once I have completed it, I plan to do a little research to see which of these indie bookstores survive the pandemic. This is strictly out of my own curiosity. I have always thought it would be fun to travel and check out indie bookstores, so I think that is why this book appealed to me. I don’t recognize the majority of authors but that too gives me something to research in the future. If I am introduced to a book from an (unknown to me) author, it might open up new books to read.

So far, this has been an enjoyable read but it isn’t the kind of book I could sit down and read though in a short period of time. Most of the essays are basically praising book stores so kind of repetitious.

I would recommend this book to book lovers because of everything addressed above. I do like the cover and I will give it a proper review once I have completed it and I may be able to share some of my research about how the pandemic has affected the bookstores listed.

I hope I find that all of the bookstores are still open and serving readers but even without the pandemic, I think that may be impossible. I have visited the independents that I am aware of in my area. The main one is Beaverdale Books. I wish I could say it is my favorite, I really do, but it isn’t. It is very small and every time I visited it before the pandemic, I often felt a little claustrophobic. I did attend both writer’s and a reader’s groups there before. The writer’s group didn’t meet my needs at the time and the mystery reader’s group felt closed even though they opened it to the public. I was surprised that the store was unable to buy some of the books for the reader’s group. I don’t know enough about how book stores work so it is still a mystery to me. I also haven’t felt as welcome there as you would think a reader would. Whenever I have walked in there I have never had the owner or staff ever act as though they remembered me. I have been there several times over the years for author talks and to find books locally that I was unable to find at the local Barnes and Noble. I usually tried the Independent bookstore as a last resort before ordering it on-line. I do think the fact that I have a membership at Barnes and Noble that offers a discount makes it more painful to pay more for books just to say I bought it from an independent when that independent has not attempted to make me welcome when I do visit.

This independent is usually the bookstore who is asked to provide books for author talks that the local library conducts each year. I dutifully purchase books at that time when I want them autographed. So I do feel that I have contributed to their being able to stay open. But after reading this book, I feel like I am missing the same experience other’s have with their local independent bookstores. I wonder if it is because I am a reader instead of an author because I do have author friends who love our independent. I do wish them well. I want to see all bookstores thrive.

I do believe the pandemic has affected everything that we purchase. I have bought both kindle books as well as a lot more books from Amazon this past year. I think part of it is the fear of Covid and it is so easy to order on-line. I also think knowing I have a package coming gives me something to look forward to so it may have become more addictive to use Amazon.

Barnes and Noble has been open throughout most of the pandemic and for some reason, I have felt more safe their. I told my husband that I believe it is because readers are smarter than those who don’t and have rarely see anyone ignore the mask mandate. The one person I did see was in the cafĂ© and the barista said he couldn’t be served without a mask. I usually go during the middle of the week when most people are working so the store is never too crowded. The store enforces mask wearing and I do not linger near others. I don’t spend a lot of time there, just enough to browse and then I head back home.

I have had my first Covid vaccine along with my hubby. We are waiting to get the second in a couple weeks. Reading has helped make our situation better. I have been able to escape in a lot of books this past year. Though it is not as satisfying as real travel, it will suffice for now. How have you been coping? Do you buy strictly from independent book stores or not? How are you doing? I feel that we will be getting back to a more normal life. I hope that rather than settle for normal, we can continue to work to make it better. I hope that our struggle will pay off and like the independent book stores, we too survive.

Until next time,


The Mystery of Mrs. Christie – Marie Benedict

“A winning whodunit from the thrilling life story of the mistress of whodunits, Agatha Christie herself, The Mystery of Mrs. Christie is a deft, fascinating page-turner replete with richly drawn character and plot twists that would stump Hercule Poirot!” – Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network.

I have had an interest in Agatha Christie since the early eighties when my daughter was old enough to attend story time at the library. While she listened to stories and socialized, I loaded up with books to read at home for the next week. I quickly read all the Agatha Christie novels, our local library had to offer. I have since read as many biographies about her as well.

This is a novelization of what might have happened those eleven days that Agatha Christie disappeared. From everything that I have read, this feels like a good explanation. Agatha was a very private person and I don’t believe anyone except Agatha knows the true story.

Marie Benedict researched this famous author and put the bits and pieces of information together to form a plausible explanation. She did it in a way that created tension, conflict, and well rounded characters. It doesn’t put a very good light on Archie Christie, her husband. It makes him appear to be unworthy of Agatha. The author has attempted to tell the story with two narrators, Archie and Agatha. Archie explains how he was so besotted of Agatha in the beginning but after childbirth and her inability to get back to her youthful figures, he strays. Of course, Archie makes it seem like the obvious solution.

Agatha shows their story from her point of view. She is in love with Archie and when she discovers his infidelity the reader connects and feels her heartbreak. If it had only been Archie it would have been difficult enough but when you add in Agatha’s mother pushing her to ignore everyone else, including their only child, Rosalind, in order to stroke Archie’s ego and ensure her husband’s attention.

There is a definite character arc for Agatha. Though she’d written several books before her disappearance, this might explain how she became the powerhouse writer throughout the rest of her writing career. If I hadn’t known that Agatha does re-marry and apparently had a happy union later, I would have been more sad for her. Archie seemed to negate her writing. Not sure if it was ignorance or jealousy because of her success. If this book is anything like the truth, I am happy to see how it ended.

If you love Agatha Christie’s novels or are an anglophile and love everything from the UK, I think you will find this an enjoyable read. I have read several of her novels but not all. I do intend to remedy that by reading them regularly.

Marie Benedict is a lawyer with more than ten years’ experience as a litigator at two of the country’s premier law firms and for Fortune 500 companies. She is also the author of The Only Woman in the Room, Lady Clementine, The Other Einstein, and Carnegies Maid. She lives in Pittsburgh with her family.

I hope you’ve been able to enjoy a taste of spring wherever you are. Here in the Midwest we’ve had a string of days filled with sunshine and seventies. May you find some time to get outside and to read this week.

Until next time,


March Reads and February Follow-Up

I did meet my reading goal for February by finishing At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon. A friend had recommended that series a long time ago. It was a very satisfying read. It is about a minister in the small fictional town of Mitford, North Carolina. Father Tim, the bachelor Rector is about to turn 60 and he is beloved by the village. He is the go-to person whenever there is a need. Each chapter is like a short story. The village is made up of quirky characters. It was written in 1994 but it felt like it could have been set in an earlier time but there are references to some technology. Father Tim has a mysterious children’s book novelist who lives next door and they have an immediate attraction. He takes in a young boy whose mother abandoned him and all of his siblings. The young boy had been living with his grandfather when the Rector was asked to help with him. Tim also adopts an annoying dog that is a little rambunctious. The keep it from jumping on himself and others, he quotes the bible and the dog settles down. The dog actually adopted him first and he didn’t have the heart to give him away. Each chapter adds another layer of stories about each of the local people. I plan to read more of this series in the future. I would definitely recommend to anyone looking for an entertaining read that is Christian based.

Jan Karon is an American novelist who writes for both adult and young readers. She has been designated a lay Canon for the Arts in the Episcopal Dicease of Quincy IL by Keith Ackerman, Episcopal Bishop of Quincy. In May 2020 she received the Degree Doctor of Humane Letters honoris casa by Nashotah House, a theological seminary in Nashotah, Wisconsin.

My goal again for March is to read four books. I did complete one novel so far this month. Tough Cookie by Diane Mott Davidson. That book is part of a series that I love. I read several back in the 80’s but never finished so last fall I started them all over again. This series is about a caterer – Goldilocks Catering in Aspen Meadows Colorado who constantly either finds a body or gets dragged into investigating a murder. She always has a struggle with her business because she works out of her own home and the health inspector seems to have the need to shut her down whenever possible. Another problem is her abusive ex-husband who seems to always get tangled in her life no matter how hard she works to be rid of him. She was raising their grade school son, Arch, by herself with visits to his father until she marries a local cop. She also has a young chef, Julian, she meets along the way who helps with her business and becomes part of the family. The other character is her best friend Marla who also used to be married to her ex- The Jerk, a name Goldie and Marla gave him. Again full of quirky characters and enough twists to make me want to come back for more. She does have recipes for the food she highlights in each story. I did purchase her cook book last fall but I have yet to try anything. I tend to like to eat food but not cook it.

I hope to include as many of that series each month as I can fit in. I do enjoy series because you get to spend time with characters you become fond of. There is another series I hope to start a re-read of this year – The Sue Grafton A,B,C series, another series I started many years ago but never finished.

So I have a fairly ambitious stack of books for this month. I have started reading – The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict. I love Agatha Christie and felt this would be an interesting read. It is not a biography but it is a novel about that time when Agatha disappeared. So far very interesting.

I have been lucky enough to receive my first Covid vaccine and look forward to not being so afraid to leave my house soon. I should be fully vaccinated by the end of the month. How are you doing? Books help me to accept our situation and give me something to look forward to doing besides housework. During the winter it hasn’t been too bad. Our weather makes it difficult to get out that much anyway. I am looking forward to planting some flowers toward the end of April or early May. I also look forward to meeting with friends who are also getting vaccinated, so it will be safe. Take care of yourselves. I hope you are enjoying books now too. Let me know what you read this past month or what book are you excited about reading in March.

Until next time,


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