by Pat Browning
& Marilyn Meredith
The Final Note, A mystery featuring gospel singing amateur sleuth, Alexandra Walters by Lorie Ham
Review by Pat Browning
From the Prologue: “A maid watched a tall, darkly handsome man crouch down and push something under a room door. He stood up and tipped his hat at her like someone in an old movie; the light bouncing off his ornate ruby ring and bracelet made them sparkle. His smile sent a chill down her spine as he turned around and headed back to the elevator, leaving behind him a faint citrus smell that wafted down the hallway at the Santa Fe, New Mexico, Holiday Inn Express.”
Opening paragraph of Chapter 1:
“Life on the road stinks, I thought as I hit my head against the wall of the bus while trying to sleep in a tiny bunk that forced you to feel every bump in the road. I had been on the road for twenty days. Somehow it just wasn’t what I remembered from when I’d traveled as a kid with my family singing gospel music.”
Alexandra Walters, the gospel singer/amateur sleuth, and her daughter Jessica bounce along in the family tour bus, going from one singing engagement to another. Part of her decision to go on the tour comes from a desire just to get away from her problems back home in Donlyn, California.
Among other things she must decide between two men who love her: Detective Will Knight and Private Eye Stephen Carlucci, son of a retired Mafia don. Adding to her discomfort, she has a stalker. He keeps leaving her notes, apparently knowing as much about her schedule as she does.
But life as a touring gospel singer has lost its charm for her. She muses:
“As a teenager I’d come face to face with the side of gospel music most people never saw. Just like any other profession, it had its share of hypocrites and liars. And there were also older married men being way too friendly with innocent young groupies and other young female singers. … It was hard to be away from one’s family most of the year and fight the loneliness without giving in to temptation.”
In those early years she had fallen in love with Jerry Web but had run for her life. Now they meet again, in Woodland, near Sacramento. Her family group will be singing with his family group at the Woodland Community Church. One more problem she doesn’t need.
Things reach a boiling point in Ayr, a small town near Santa Cruz. Alex meets her stalker – Nicholas Patrese, a Mafia don. Shortly after she storms out of their meeting Patrese is murdered, making Alex the logical suspect, at least in the mind of the local detective, a thoroughly disagreeable man named Marcos. He’s determined to hang the murder on Alex.
Two other characters step to the front: Stephen’s cousin Roxi, who lives in Ayr and has a good handle on events there, and Alex’s brother Tommy, a musician who gets himself appointed as Stephen’s intern. Tommy goes undercover to shadow Patrese’s son Francis, a member of a local band. Muddying the waters further are Patrese’s ex-wife and her current husband, a professional blogger who has gone missing.
Adding to the mix is an apparent “ghost” stalker. Patrese is dead but Alex still has a stalker. Determined to solve the threat once and for all, she recalls the old Sherlock Holmes’s method of detection: Eliminate the possible and no matter how improbable, what’s left is most likely the answer. The ending is surprising and poignant – and inevitable.
I hate to see this series end. I love the characters and hope that author Lorie Ham will bring them back at some later date. Jessica, Alexandra’s small daughter, is enchanting and could star in her own series of children’s books if Ham decided to write such a series.
Interview with Lorie Ham:
Marilyn: When did you first realize you wanted to me a writer?
Lorie: I started writing when I was seven years old and haven’t quit yet. My first stories were about my stuffed animals.
Marilyn: What was your first published work?
Lorie:A poem called “My Prayer”, published in a Christian magazine when I was 13, and the same year the first song I ever wrote. “I Really Love You, Lord” was published in a Blackwood Brothers songbook.
Marilyn: What inspired Final Note?
Lorie:That’s a tough question to answer because I can’t really say for sure what inspires most of my books because the ideas just start coming to me in pieces. Final Note was actually almost a continuation of a couple of the storylines from the book before, Out Of Tune. Alex is continuing to be stalked, and she is having to finally choose between the two men in her life. The series itself features a gospel singer, which was inspired by my own life.
Marilyn: What kind of things do you do for promotion?
Marilyn: Besides writing, what else goes on in your life? Include what you do for fun.
Lorie: Well the magazine of course, and singing, family, pets, reading, TV and theatre (watching not being in)
Marilyn: What’s next for you?
Lorie: A new character, Roxi Carlucci, is introduced in Final Note. She writes children’s books and does animal rescue—I’m working on a book featuring her and plan on doing some short stories in KRL. I may even bring Alex back in KRL with short stories, jumping ahead ten years.
Marilyn: What else would you like the KRL subscribers to know about you?
Lorie: Just that right now my heart and soul is Kings River Life, so I hope readers keep coming back and enjoying what we have to offer. Plus I hope to see of lot of you at the KRL book event next week.
Thanks, Lorie. I thought it would be fun to add that I met Lorie at Sisters in Crime, but we really got to know one another when we roomed together at Left Coast Crime in Alaska. I didn’t get into the hotel until the wee hours of the morning and Lorie kindly left the light on for me.
Check out an interview with Marilyn Meredith here in KRL and with James Garcia Jr.
If you love mysteries, why not check out Left Coast Crime: Mystery Conference in Sacramento (Both Marilyn & Lorie will be there), March 29-April 1, 2012. Registration is only $225 & day passes can be purchased for $75 for Friday and Saturday panel sessions. Registration information can be found at the conventionwebsite, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.