by Susan Van Kirk
Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win an ebook copy of The Witch’s Child, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
“She never saw her death coming.” This was the dramatic beginning sentence of my mystery, Three May Keep a Secret. It came out in 2014, the first of a series of four novels and a novella. The sentence referred to an unforgettable event in the past life of retired teacher, Grace Kimball, the protagonist of my Endurance Mysteries. For over three decades, that event haunted Grace, floating through her dreams, gliding through her memory, stirring up her fears, never-ending.
Wistfulness, guilt, regret, poor decisions, rejection, pain, and heartache. Humans often share that curse of an unhappy past and try to escape it or forget it. Consider all the artists who have topped the charts or covered songs about yesterday. “Yesterday” by the Beatles or the Black Eyed Peas; “Yesterday’s Gone” by Chad and Jeremy; “Yesterday When I Was Young” by Dusty Springfield; or “Yesterday’s Wine” by George Jones or Willie Nelson. And this is only a light sprinkling of an extensive list of songs and song covers remembering our yesterdays.
My new book, The Witch’s Child, continues this theme of yesterday, whose influence tugs away at us in the present. The fourth book in my cozy mystery series about a small town called Endurance, The Witch’s Child brings back my retired-teacher, Grace Kimball, to help a troubled former student. After her mother dies in prison, Fiona Mackenzie returns to Endurance to arrange for her mother’s burial. Ten years earlier, Sybil Mackenzie—a self-proclaimed witch—was convicted of two counts of manslaughter in a case that tore the town apart. With the current day addition of social media threads, conversations in coffee shops, and letters to the local newspaper, the town’s memory of the past threatens Fiona. In turn, it endangers Grace, who tries to help the witch’s child.
I wove this theme of yesterday throughout the Endurance series.
When we first meet Grace Kimball in Three May Keep a Secret, she has a nightmare that recalls a close escape with death earlier in her life. The early demise of her husband from a heart attack left her to raise three children. Accepting an offer to teach at Endurance High School, she escaped her depression and pain, that job literally saving her life. In the present, after the arson murder of a former colleague urges Grace to action, she finds herself the murderer’s target when she helps Detective TJ Sweeney untangle a long-ago cold case from the town’s history. Sweeney is a former student, now friend. Grace also meets Jeff Maitlin, recently arrived in town to run the local newspaper. His past is a closed book, leaving her to wonder if she can trust him.
This theme of the past continues in Marry in Haste, the story of the Victorian house Jeff Maitlin buys to convert to a bed-and-breakfast. Grace finds a diary in the house, written by a young girl who came to Endurance in the mid-1800s and married a powerful judge. She shares a dark secret with one of Grace’s former students accused of murdering her banker-husband in the present day. Grace, along with Detective TJ Sweeney, hopes the lessons of the past will help her former student in the present.
Between those first two novels, I wrote an e-book novella featuring my detective, TJ Sweeney. She investigates a cold case when a building crew uncovers a seventy-year-old corpse. Because it’s before the advent of DNA, TJ must discover a way to identify the murder victim and figure out who killed her. This takes her back to the Big Band era in the early 1940s when couples danced on the rooftop of the Gaffney Building in downtown Endurance. The Locket: From the Casebook of TJ Sweeney uncovers scenes from the biracial female detective’s past where she began her difficult rise in the police department of the small town. Both her fight to overcome prejudice and the murder victim’s last days are two threads of the same cloth.
In Death Takes No Bribes, Grace returns to her high school when someone murders the high school principal. Poor guy doesn’t even make it past the prologue. Why would anyone want to murder an effective and well-liked administrator? And could the murderer be one of Grace’s colleagues during her years on her job? TJ Sweeney relies on Grace’s knowledge of the faculty to track down a killer hiding in plain sight. That person is covering up a dark secret from the past, willing to murder anyone who comes close to it in the present. Grace and TJ are on the murderer’s trail, but the elusive killer is closer than they think.
And that brings me back to The Witch’s Child. By now, Grace’s friendship with Jeff Maitlin has morphed into something deeper, but her memories of the past and the love she shared with her first husband cast a shadow over her potential future with Jeff.
While these books are mysteries, they’re also filled with humor, especially from the secondary characters. The Endurance mysteries—four books and a novella, are all tied together by a town, a cast of interesting secondary characters, and the always-looming memory of yesterday.
Alert! Look for Kings River Life’s review of The Witch’s Child set for Saturday, October 30, issue with a giveaway opportunity and an interview. Included in the article is a bonus review of Three May Keep a Secret. Don’t Miss it!
To enter to win an ebook copy of The Witch’s Child, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “child,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 6, 2021. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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