Most mystery series have a book or two that aren't up to par. Ellery Adams has never yet hit that point with her Books by the Bay series. The latest, Poisoned Prose, hits the mark in every respect, from the story, the characters and setting, the careful words, to the final sentence. Even the cover art by Kimberly Schamber is wonderful, just perfect for this book.
When Olivia Limoges' friend, bookstore owner Flynn McNulty, asks for financial help to sponsor a storytellers' retreat, it only takes one evening listening to Oyster Bay residents spin stories to make her say yes. Violetta Deveraux, a nationally recognized storyteller from the Appalachian Mountains, captures the imagination of every listener when she appears at the library. Olivia is particularly struck by the power of Violetta's words, and is fortunate to have a chance for a private conversation with the reclusive woman. In fact, she's very lucky, because Violetta never shows up to accompany Olivia to an interview. Instead, the storyteller's assistant finds her dead in the library.
Violetta had warned Olivia that she didn't expect to leave Oyster Bay alive, saying she had a treasure, and she left clues in her stories. Olivia, Police Chief Sawyer Rawlings, and the other members of the Bayside Book Writers group piece together news clippings, gossip, and stories to find a killer who might be spinning a lie or two to cover the truth.
The best village mysteries bring characters and a setting to life, and invite readers back, despite the occasional murder. Louise Penny does it with Armand Gamache and Three Pines. Ellery Adams does it as well with Oyster Bay, North Carolina and Olivia Limoges and her friends. I always watch for the next book in this series to welcome me back.
Poisoned Prose is another outstanding mystery by Adams. However, it's also a book about writers and storytellers and words. So, I wanted to share a few beautiful passages about the power of words. One warning comes from a fisherman who responds when Olivia enthusiastically tells him of the upcoming appearance by the storytellers. "Sure, stories can be like a fire on a cold night. But they can burn too. There ain't nothin' can cut deeper or sting with more poison than words can. You'd best keep that in mind, Miss Olivia. Words have power, and all things of power are dangerous."
And, a final comment about words and stories in today's society, a powerful comment from the storyteller Violetta Deveraux. "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."
I hope you have the chance to hear Ellery Adams' voice in Poisoned Prose.
Ellery Adams' website is www.elleryadamsmysteries.com
Poisoned Prose by Ellery Adams. Berkley Prime Crime. 2013. ISBN 9780425262955 (paperback), 295p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.