Happy First Week of June!
I’m going to apologize in advance because I’m not going to be available to answer comments on my post, but I’m leaving them open in the hopes that you’ll support author Vera Day with her debut release, When Did We Lose Sylvia? Oh, how I chuckled through this one! The tongue-in-cheek humor, built around small town living, and quirky characters is off the scales!
Southern humor, faith, and murder intersect in the tiny town of Tulip, Texas.
Betty Bell is a famous poet, or at least a local celebrity, in the tiny town of Tulip, Texas. Gossip runs amok when a Goth teenager, Sylvia Smith, and her elderly grandfather arrive. Even worse, they’ve moved into the creepy, old Sanchez place on the outskirts of town.
Betty volunteers to teach a summer poetry class to restless Tulip teens. Soon, the kids are expressing themselves in stellar stanzas and heart-rending rhymes. But what was supposed to be a summer of ministering to the teens becomes a season of sleuthing when one of Betty’s students, the spooky Sylvia, goes missing.
When Sylvia turns up dead, suspicions point to Sylvia’s reclusive grandfather. Deputy Miller is a good man and excellent investigator, but after a second death shakes the small town, Betty is convinced the deputy is after the wrong suspect. Betty, her left-brained husband Larry, and her quirky friend Flora must use haunting haikus, couplet clues, and lots of prayer to track down the real killer.
What a delightful debut! I was hooked from page one. This small-town cozy is big on quirky characters and tongue-in-cheek humor. Betty Bell is a quasi-famous poet who teaches a summer class to a collection of high school students, one of whom—Sylvia–is a goth-like social outcast. When Sylvia goes missing, Betty is drawn into the search to discover what happened to the moody but talented teenager. Aided by her best friend, Flora (who is on a perpetual diet), supported by her low-key but loving husband L.B., and often thwarted by her sometimes friend, prima donna cashier, Jacqueline, Betty unearths a spiderweb of suspects and motives.
The plot moves along at an engaging clip, leaping from one highly entertaining scenario to the next, all the while ramping up the mystery. Things that really stood out for me include the snippets of poetry peppered throughout. Each chapter begins with a verse, plus samples of the students’ creative efforts are scattered among sections. I don’t read a lot of poetry, but I was enthralled by how cleverly these were worded and how they played into the plot.
And did I mention the humor? It won’t clobber you over the head, but I guarantee you’ll be grinning at how skillfully it underpins each scene. I loved that Betty is a heroine approaching social security age, and I adored her relationship with L.B. (not to mention Flora’s constant wordplay on his initials). The ending is wholly satisfying and left me looking forward to seeing more of these colorful characters and their small Texas town.
Thank you for visiting today and helping me cheer on Vera with her debut release, which I highly recommend for fans of cozy mysteries, engaging humor, and small-town tales. On a side note, I will be updating my writing progress with a post in July. You’re going to be seeing a lot more of me online after this month is over! 🙂