by Cynthia Chow
& Peg Herring
This week we have a review of another Christmas mystery, Once Upon a Trailer Park by Maggie Pill aka Peg Herring. We also have a fun guest post by Peg about writing a Christmas mystery. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a print, ebook or audio copy of Once Upon a Trailer Park (winner’s choice). We also have a link to order it from Amazon.
Once Upon a Trailer: Trailer Park Tales, #1 by Maggie Pill
Review by Cynthia Chow
At “Florida’s 55-Plus Beautiful Bird Recreational Vehicle Park,” snowbirds and seniors from all around have retired in the sunny climate where Christmas doesn’t include shoveling snow or the lack of accessible hospitals.
Unfortunately, this winter, it does include a dead body, as Karen from Pittsburg – who is not Blond Karen, another resident in the Park – has just found the body of one Charles Adams stabbed to death on the street. It seems that he had just had a combative confrontation with his ex-wife Becky Barnes, a new B-Bird Park resident who visibly bears the resulting black eye. While this would normally place Becky at the top of the suspect list, an alibi instead has police looking at others within the Park with reasons for wanting the man dead.
Privacy is lacking in both trailers and trailer parks, so it isn’t surprising that gossip quickly spreads among the B-Bird Park residents concerning the victim, his ex, and the scams that that may have led to his death. Driven out of her trailer – and her mind – by her husband’s recuperation from knee surgery, Julie Rogers on Egret Street begins unraveling the puzzle that was Charles Adams’ life. Enlisting help from her friends from the trailer park, Julie leads the investigation that has her seeking out information at the BestYu salon and a real estate office, all the while avoiding being volunteered as a performer in the Park’s annual Christmas Follies.
This new series by Maggie Pill features chapters alternately narrated by one of the spouses residing within the B-Bird Park. Hilariously opposing viewpoints of the couples are a delight, especially when presented by an obliviously “helpful” Ron, who spends his knee surgery recuperation reorganizing all of the contents of the kitchen cabinets. The more seriously troubled marriage of Tommy and his new wife Alys is slowly revealed to be more than what is seen by their neighbors or even themselves, played out with understanding and sympathy. While the competency of Julie and Karen have them the investigating stars of the novel, all of the characters are given a chance to shine and reveal their complexities. The issues of growing old is realistically, but always compassionately depicted, as are the daily negotiations that occur within a marriage that has spanned decades. These are dealt with through empathy and even more humor, making this a promising start to the Trailer Park Tales and one perfect for the holidays.
“Write a Christmas Mystery!” They Said
by Peg Herring
For years, I considered writing a Christmas mystery. First, it seemed like fun. Second, readers wander the internet every December, looking for new ones. Third, keywords are easy: Christmas, decorations, holidays, etc. I also wanted to write about the minor disagreements married couples encounter that make life both irritating and funny. The two ideas merged, and the result is Once Upon a Trailer Park, the first in a new series I’m calling Trailer Park Tales.
Christmas in an over-55 mobile home community is different from Christmas elsewhere. Trailers aren’t great gathering places for large family groups to sit down to turkey and trimmings. Children are seldom seen, and Santa doesn’t make many live appearances. There isn’t much chance of snow in Tampa or Tempe or Galveston, so all those white-coated pine trees and red-cheeked carolers are just images on a greeting card. Snowbirds from Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, or New York find little resemblance to the holiday scenes of the past.
As a kid, I recall Mom working all Christmas morning to prepare a banquet. Dad trekked down snowy roads to fetch Grandma, who arrived with shopping bags filled with presents for each of us. After opening our second round of gifts, we sat down to all Mom’s special dishes, ending with pumpkin pie and ice cream. Then we adjourned to the living room to try out the games Santa had brought. Most of our friends did something similar. Some went to Grandma’s house for the meal; some had larger celebrations with aunts, uncles, and cousins present. The prevailing theme was time for gathering with family.
These days families are scattered. Preferring sun to snow, Grandma and Grandpa often head somewhere warm as soon as the furnace kicks on. Rather than trying to guess what tech-savvy kids want for Christmas, they provide spendable gifts, and as I heard one grandfather say, “It isn’t worth the hassle of a plane trip to watch a kid open a Best Buy gift card.” As a result, the old folks often stay in their winter retreats and tell the kids, “We’ll see you in the spring.”
If today’s holiday is different, that doesn’t mean it’s dull or disappointing. Retirees have lots of free time, and many spend hours decorating their little patches of heaven. As you pass through the streets of a retiree community in December, you’ll see everything from hand-made, traditional wreaths and figurines to the latest in laser-lit scenes, complete with cartoon characters and chase lighting. Retirees also have time to socialize, so those who stick around in December attend chorales, parties, dinners, and group trips to plays and festivals. If the celebrations aren’t what we think of as traditional, the opportunities are varied and fun.
In Once Upon a Trailer Park, the residents of Florida’s Beautiful Bird Over-55 RV Community wake up one morning to a murder in their midst. That’s the serious part. Humor comes from the people, like couples who find each other lovable most of the time and inexplicable at others. “Why does my husband insist on doubling projected travel times, so we end up arriving an hour early everywhere we go?” or “Why does my wife give three answers to a simple question like, ‘Where do you want to have lunch?’”
Then there’s neighbor humor. Anyone who’s lived in close quarters will recognize the character who notices everything you do and comments on it. The person who feels compelled to outshine everyone else in holiday decoration. And the ever-present gossip who overhears a snippet of information and weaves a complete scenario, replete with drama and inaccuracy.
The story was fun to write, and those who’ve read it are already saving up anecdotes for the next one. Books like Once Upon a Trailer Park are sometimes labeled “geezer lit,” but in my experience, people are alike everywhere, at every age. Christmas is Christmas, palm trees or pines, and life is a mix of personalities. We deal with things as best we can, and it helps if we let ourselves see the humor in a situation.
To enter to win either an ebook, print, or audiobook version of Once Upon a Trailer Park, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “trailer,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 21, 2019. U.S. residents only and you must be 18 or older to enter. MAKE SURE TO MENTION WHICH FORMAT YOU WOULD LIKE. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. We delete all emails after the contest is over.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Be sure to check out our new mystery podcast too with mystery short stories, and first chapters read by local actors. A new episode went up last week featuring a Christmas mystery short story with the character Meg Langslow, written by Donna Andrews.
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