Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tell Me No Lies (An Ava Logan Mystery #1)

Author:  Lynn Chandler Willis
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Audio CD; Ebook
ISBN #:  978 9781635111484; 9781635111453; 9781520068794
Henery Press Publishing
238 Pages
February 7, 2017


Ava Stone, single mother and small business owner, lives deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, where poverty and pride reign.  As publisher of the town newspaper, she's busy balancing election season stories and a rash of ginseng thieves.  And then the story gets personal.  After her friend is murdered, Ava digs for the truth all the while juggling her two teenage children, her friend's orphaned toddler, and her own muddied past.  Faced with threats against those closest to her, Ava must find the killer before she, or someone she loves, ends up dead.


Ava Logan is a widowed young mother of two - twelve-year-old Emma and fifteen-year-old Cole.  She lives in Jackson Creek, North Carolina, deep in the Appalachian Mountains, and owns the town's newspaper, The Jackson Creek Chronicle.  Her husband Tommy was a police officer killed in the line of duty and she's doing her best to care for her family and eke out a living.

She's also taking care of Ivy Givens, daughter of her friend Trish, who needed an evening away from the toddler.  When Ava arrives at Trish's trailer to return Ivy she comes across a horrific scene:  the body of her friend, or at least what's left of her.  When the police arrive, headed by Sheriff Grayson Ridge, everyone goes through the motions:  when did you last see her, how long have you had Ivy, did she tell you who she was seeing, etc.  It's not what Ava ever wanted her kids to go through and it puts her in a precarious position.  As the editor of the newspaper she knows the people have a right to know what's going on; but as a witness she has a duty to keep certain facts to herself.

But as in any small town, news gets around and people are afraid there's a serial killer on the loose.  It doesn't help that it's also an election year and Ridge's opponent, Ed Stinger, is purposely trying to cause a stir and get him ousted, not only using the murder but asking Ava to look into the poaching of ginseng (a big market) and use both to his advantage.  With Ed being a big advertiser with his real estate business, she has no choice but to agree.  She soon learns more facts about the poaching and wonders if it might have anything to do with the murder.

Yet she also has problems with her feelings for Ridge - he was her husband's partner ten years ago when Tommy was murdered and Ridge was on vacation that day leaving Tommy alone.  She can't seem to separate the guilt from her feelings for Ridge, leaving things complicated.  But while she thinks she has a handle on her emotions and can ride everything out, what she doesn't count on is that Trish's killer isn't finished yet, and she's next on the agenda...

I cannot convey how much I enjoyed this book.  While the Appalachians took a back seat in the story, it doesn't matter.  What does matter is the characterization, and this Ms. Willis does beautifully.  She can create characters that have character; people who have real emotions and pull you deep into the story she is weaving.  This is the first book in a new series, and as such, is only a prelude of what I hope will be a long one.  Ava Logan is a strong independent woman who loves her children and more than that: she has the capability to spread that love to others, and that love is shown in the people around her and their reaction to her; including her taking into her home a toddler who has suddenly become an orphan.

We are given snippets throughout the book of her past and how it has shaped her life thus far, and this is important as it not only shows us who she is, but her strengths and weaknesses.  It makes her human.  But Ms. Willis does not stop there.  She gives a genuineness to the characters in the book, too: Cole, Emma, Doretha and Ridge.  These are the people most important to her, and they are given a feeling of believability in their own right.

I mention these because without them a book is weak; you can only take it so far with a great plot if you have weak characterization.  Which brings us to the plot, which is very good indeed.  There are a few subplots, but also several red herrings (which I leave to you to discover yourself).  What seems tied together isn't, and what seems irrelevant may not be so in the end.  There is a sadness tied in, and there was a point (I will admit) that I found tears in my eyes for loss, for hurt, for sadness itself.  The discovery of the murderer was a surprise, as well it should be, and you would do yourself a favor to read this.  Highly recommended.


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