by Sandra Murphy
This week we have a review of Batten Down the Belfry by Diane Kelly along with a fun guest post by Diane about the music in her books. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
Batten Down the Belfry: A House-Flipper Mystery by Diane Kelly
Review by Sandra Murphy
Whitney and her cousin Buck have flipped houses before, but this new project, a church and a parsonage, is bigger and riskier. With the beautiful stained glass windows and perfect acoustics, it could be a gold mine. Of course, when they walk into the church and find a horse who’d made himself at home, they’re sure this isn’t going to be like their other flips.
Another problem is the neighbor. He’s the owner of the horses and thinks he’s the owner of the parsonage and church as well. Now, they’ll have to go to court to see who’s right. In the meantime, it’s padlock everything and start work with the hope it’s not all in vain.
Several of the windows are beyond repair so Whitney contacts a stained glass artist in town to make new ones. When they’re delivered, she and Buck carry them to the parsonage for safekeeping until they can be installed. Her cat, Sawdust, likes to come to the job sites, too, but he stays in the church.
When they hear the bell ring, they assume it’s Sawdust playing with the bell’s rope, but soon find out they were wrong. There’s a dead body on the stairs to the belfry that wasn’t there when they left with the windows.
A second body follows the first, adding more suspects to the list. Collin, Whitney’s boyfriend and detective, is helping the local police with the case. There’s no stopping Whitney from helping, too, even if it does get her into some deep trouble.
Will they find the killer before more people die? Will a couple of murders keep people away from their new venue? Only time will tell.
This is book four in the series but the first one I’ve read. I liked Whitney although she does take risks that seem sensible at the time but don’t always turn out that way. There are quite a few characters to keep track of with bodies, suspects, police, the main characters, investors, and the like. With the plans they have in place, book five ought to be a lot of fun.
Included in this book are recipes. You’ll see the connection to the story when you read the book—Stained-Glass Cookies, Easy as Sin Apple Rosettes, and Original Sin Sour Appletini.
Singers, Songwriters, and Stories
By Diane Kelly
Tennessee is known for many things, including whiskey, horses, and music. While I play up the whiskey business in my Southern Homebrew moonshine series, which is set in Chattanooga, the setting of my House Flipper series is in Nashville, where country music reigns. I was lucky to have an opportunity to live in Nashville for two-and-a-half too-short years from early 2014 to mid 2016. I quickly learned that there was much to love about the beautiful city, including the friendly people, the slower pace, the rolling hills in the countryside that surrounded the city, and the entertaining singer-songwriter shows that could be found daily in numerous venues around the city. I especially loved the shows that featured female artists, including ones put on by the Song Suffragettes. The group offers an ever-changing all-women lineup. I saw several of their performances at a place called The Listening Room, and I found their songs to be real, relatable, and sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious. The stories in their songs were always entertaining, and I was never disappointed.
Although my House Flipper series focuses on building rehab and remodeling, and doesn’t directly revolve around the Nashville music scene, the setting naturally gives rise to stories in which music, musicians, and music venues play a part. I’ve seen many old country churches in the Tennessee countryside, and I always find them to be quaint, charming, and inviting. It’s fun to have the characters in my House Flipper series – carpenter Whitney Whitaker and her cousin Buck – rehab unique properties. In book #2, Murder with a View, they remodeled a mid-century motel and turned the place into condominiums. In my most recent release, Batten Down the Belfry, Whitney and Buck buy an abandoned country church. The place could be turned into a bed and breakfast, spa retreat, or a winery, but when the cousins realize that the building has great acoustics, they decide to turn it into the Joyful Noise Playhouse. What’s more, the former parsonage could be turned into a pre-show dinner spot, operated by Whitney’s best friend, chef Colette Chevalier. As a fun touch, I set the church next to a horse farm, thus adding another layer of Tennessee flavor to the story.
As you probably guessed from the book’s title, the church building includes a belfry which provided me with some unique plotting opportunities. The enclosed belfry space, staircase, and rooftop view were fun to explore and utilize in the story. Of course, Whitney’s cat Sawdust found the belfry to be a fun place to explore, too! I hope that you’ll get a copy of the book and find out for whom the bell tolls…
To enter to win a copy of Batten Down the Belfry, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “belfry,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 19, 2022. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. BE AWARE THAT IT WILL TAKE MUCH LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.
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