Monday, October 07, 2013

Poisoned Prose by Ellery Adams

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

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.


Jane R said...

I just finished Written in Stone a couple of months ago. I've enjoyed the series and glad to know that it's still up to par. I'm looking forward to Poisoned Prose.

NoraA said...

I don't have my copy of this book yet, but I own the rest of the series. I can't wait to read this one. Ellery is a world class story teller.

janet c said...

I'll read it as soon as I can wrench it from my sister's hands. It's a series I always look forward to reading.

Lesa said...

Definitely up to par, Jane. She hasn't slipped one bit.

Lesa said...

You're right, Nora. Ellery is a world class storyteller. And, it certainly comes through in this series.

Lesa said...

That's funny, Janet. Tell your sister to read faster.

Diane said...

Hi, I'm a long time follower of your blog and you have introduced me to many books and series I have loved. This is certainly one of my favorite series!
I want to mention another book I have just finished (sort-of), Compound Fractures, the last book of Stephen White's Dr. Alan Gregory's series. As much as I have loved this series these ending books have so disappointed me, in fact I ended up skimming to get the highlights without having to put in the time. It will be interesting to get your opinion if you ever get to this book.

Lesa said...

Hi, Diane. Thank you for being a long time follower. Most of all, thanks for saying I've introduced you to books and series you've loved. That's exactly what a librarian wants to hear.

I'm afraid I'm going to be no help with Compound Fractures. I've never been a big fan of medical, psychologoical or legal suspense so I seldom read in those areas. I tend to read traditional mysteries and police procedurals. Give me detectives, police and amateur sleuths. So, I've never read Stephen White. I've heard similar comments about his books from others in the past, though, so I don't think you're alone.

Rob said...

Great review! I finished Poisoned Prose last week and enjoy my first visit to Oyster Bay. That's a good comparison to Louise Penny and Three Pines. It's books like these with great characters and interesting communities that hook me on a series. I plan to read the earlier books now. The ending was satisfying although I was surprised at first how two characters decided to end things. I won't say who or what - no spoiler alert!



Lesa said...

I agree with you, Rob, that great characters and interesting communities are the best hooks for a series. Once you go back and read the earlier books, that ending might not surprise you as much. Adams does a great job building up the back story. The best part, though, is that you can jump in anyplace, as you did, and still appreciate the story. Have fun with the earlier books, Rob!