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by Julia Buckley
Berkley Prime Crime, April 2019
304 pages
ISBN: 0451491912

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Best-selling author Camilla Graham and her apprentice Lena London find themselves attempting to uncover a forty-year-old secret rooted in events in Blue Lake, Indiana in this fourth Writer's Apprentice Mystery.

Jane Wyland visits Camilla, offering either to let Camilla herself reveal the Graham family secret or she, Jane, will tell the media the truth about James Graham, Camilla's late husband. Bewildered, Camilla shares details of the conversation with Lena, adding that she has no idea what Jane thinks she knows. The next morning Camilla decides to question Jane about why she's here in Blue Lake so she and Lena drive to Jane's old house only to find paramedics and police in attendance. Seems Jane is dead, murdered by gunshot. When Doug Heller, a local police detective, questions Camilla about her presence at the crime scene, she admits that Jane claimed James and the Graham family were not who the community believed them to be and she wanted everyone to know that.

Returning home, Camilla decides they must try to determine what Jane thought she knew. Camilla's approach: she and Lena review over a hundred letters James wrote her before she relocated to Blue Lake to marry him. James wrote long letters describing life in Blue Lake, and Camilla thinks there might be clues in his narratives. Interviewing friends mentioned in the letters also makes the sleuthing to-do list.

Camilla starts reading through the letters while Lena goes into town to speak with Marge, owner of Bick's Hardware, along with her husband Horace. As Marge explains, James was part of "the old gang," the group of close friends that graduated from high school together in the '60s that included Jane, Horace, Travis, Rusty, Adam and Marge. She also added the group sort of broke up after Jane's sister Carrie left town suddenly, with no explanation.

Camilla and Lena are lunching at Wheat Grass, when Marge approaches their table explaining that some of the old group are together after the memorial service for Jane and invites them over if they still have questions about the past. After a Camilla discloses what Jane said to her, the group began sharing their memories. One piece of news was a rumor at the time: Carrie was pregnant and James, the suspected father, paid to get her out of town. As Camilla got up to leave, she challenges the police chief, Rusty, to find out if Carrie did have a baby after she left Blue Lake.

As Lena is driving home, a truck aggressively rams their car. Camilla escapes unharmed but Lena is badly hurt. When interviewed by the police, Camilla tells them to look at everyone who was at Wheat Grass. When Lena asks why, Camilla reminds her "before we left, I stood up and said that Lena and I wouldn't rest until we found the truth about Carrie Wyland and cleared James Graham's name. Twenty minutes later you and I were sent flying off the road in a terrible collision."

A consummate storyteller, Julia Buckley constructs a compelling mystery with lots of moving parts – red herrings and unexpected twists included. She maintains a high level of suspense and establishes a steady page-turning pace. The relationship between Camilla and Lena runs deep, an integral part of the book. Each journey to Blue Lake is a delight, one this reader looks forward to every year.

§ Ruth Castleberry has worked as an investigator for Pinkerton’s, a city desk assistant on the Charlotte News, free-lance writer, marketing/business strategy consultant, competitive intelligence practitioner and digital marketing consultant.

Reviewed by Ruth Castleberry, March 2019

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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