By Kelsey Browning & Nancy Naigle
Book 1 in series: A Seasoned Southern Sleuths Mystery
Review by Jeff Salter
First of all, allow me to admit that I purchased this title so long ago that the series had a different name: I think it was called the Granny Detectives or something. That it took me this long to finally read it is no reflection of the quality of the story… but simply that there were so many other titles already stacked up on top of this one. Anyway, I’m glad I finally got around to it, because now I want to read the second installment.
Just a word about the authors: I’ve met Nancy at least once and have hosted her – here at 4F1H –at least twice. I don’t believe I actually met Kelsey, but I’ve also hosted her [to get HER side of Nancy’s story of their travels together!].
Oh, one more thing — I’m informed that the current version (under that new series title) of this story also has several cool RECIPES.
When Lillian Summer Fairview’s husband up and dies on her, it leaves the last living member of the most prestigious family in the small town of Summer Shoals, Georgia, in a hot money mess. Desperate to keep up the family name and give the man a decent burial, penniless Lil cooks up a shady deal that lands her smack-dab in the slammer.
Burdened by her shameful secret and a crumbling family estate, Lil entrusts Summer Haven’s care to her best friend, Maggie, who recruits two more over-fifty ladies to help. But when Maggie discovers that Lil’s restitution is ten times the amount she “borrowed” from the federal government, she’s convinced Lil has taken the fall for someone else’s crime.
Will these gals be able to get some vigilante justice for Lil, or will the swindler get away with hoodwinking a sweet little old lady?
When I see a novel that’s co-authored, one of the things my critical “radar” scans for is whether I can detect which author wrote which parts… or whether there’s a shift in the writing “style”. In this tale, I found no such delineations — the story flows smoothly and the reader is NOT bounced about.
The authors didn’t ask my opinion on this, but I think a great tagline for the cover would have been: “Sometimes you have to go behind people’s backs for their own good.” I think the Maggie character said it, but perhaps it was Sera.
So many things to like about this story, but at the top of the list would be the humor – in both circumstances and dialog – and the characters. Kelsey and Nancy have assembled four deliciously individual characters for this series premiere. These four are as different as can be… while keeping in common only that they’re females of the human species. I especially like that we get to know Lillian before Maggie enters the picture. And we learn about their friendship before Serendipity (“Sera”) arrives on-scene. And we see the three of them in action together before Abby Ruth drives up. Not sure why that appeals to me so, but it’s enjoyable (to me) to have a little time with each character before all the others show up. Each of these four – the “grannies” of the original series title – learns and grows during the experiences of this story.
The male Sheriff and the male funeral director are the other headliners. One’s a good guy and one’s a bad guy, and I’ll leave it to the next reader to learn which is which.
There are many supporting players, of course. Some, like the flirty young waitress, are just lightly sketched in this volume… and I assume she will play a more significant role in a later installment. Others – like the bossy, jealous head of the historical society – don’t have much screen time here, but they represent over-arching “trouble” that affects who does what… and when. No doubt we’ll see more of that hussy later, too. One supporting “character” – a rare Tucker automobile “worth a million dollars” – is something else I’m sure we’ll see again in later episodes.
I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that there are scenes inside a women’s correctional facility. On the one hand, I found the developments there to be rather unrealistically lacking in trauma / danger. On the other hand, I assume the authors made a conscious decision to treat that situation lightly so we could enjoy the humorous parts of Lillian’s incarcerated interaction.
I have a few pet peeves, my dears. One of these can’t be detailed because it reveals too much too soon. But let me just say that I could NOT believe what they decided to do to the hunky sheriff, their friend and ally. On the subject of the sheriff, I wish the authors had shown him doing more actual “law enforcement” work… whereas all we witness is him doing off-duty stuff with (or about) the grannies. With all the build-up to the July 4th parade, I perceived that scene as rather too “rushed” — a few more paragraphs about interaction with the spectators along the parade route would have made it more enjoyable.
Those minor issues aside, this was a fun read, a great debut — and readers will be drawn to return to this little Georgia town to see what these four creative and fearless grannies are up to, next.
[JLS # 585]