Small towns are known for their warmth and hospitality—and sometimes, unfortunately, they’re known for something darker. Something lying in wait, teeth bared, right beneath the surface. No matter what good and bad small towns have to offer, we know one thing with certainty. Small towns are captivating and charming—on and off paper. They draw you in with their charming settings and keep you wondering who to trust…if anyone at all. We’ve lined up five mystery novels set in picturesque small towns where nothing is as it seems and danger lurks around every corner.
by Allen Eskens
Joe Talbert, Jr. has never once met his namesake. Now out of college, a cub reporter for the Associated Press in Minneapolis, he stumbles across a story describing the murder of a man named Joseph Talbert in a small town in southern Minnesota.
Full of curiosity about whether this man might be his father, Joe is shocked to find that none of the town’s residents have much to say about the dead man-other than that his death was long overdue. Joe discovers that the dead man was a loathsome lowlife who cheated his neighbors, threatened his daughter, and squandered his wife’s inheritance after she, too, passed away—an inheritance that may now be Joe’s.
Mired in uncertainty and plagued by his own devastated relationship with his mother, who is seeking to get back into her son’s life, Joe must put together the missing pieces of his family history—before his quest for discovery threatens to put him in a grave of his own.
In a small Southern town where loyalty to family and to "your people" carries the weight of a sacred oath, defying those unspoken rules can be a deadly proposition. After fifteen years of growing up in the Ozark hills with his widowed mother, high-school freshman Boady Sanden is beyond ready to move on. He dreams of glass towers and cityscapes, driven by his desire to be anywhere other than Jessup, Missouri. The new kid at St. Ignatius High School, if he isn't being pushed around, he is being completely ignored. Even his beloved woods, his playground as a child and his sanctuary as he grew older, seem to be closing in on him, suffocating him.
Then Thomas Elgin moves in across the road, and Boady's life begins to twist and turn. Coming to know the Elgins—a black family settling into a community where notions of "us" and "them" carry the weight of history—forces Boady to rethink his understanding of the world he's taken for granted. Secrets hidden in plain sight begin to unfold: the mother who wraps herself in the loss of her husband, the neighbor who carries the wounds of a mysterious past that he holds close, the quiet boss who is fighting his own hidden battle.
But the biggest secret of all is the disappearance of Lida Poe, the African-American woman who keeps the books at the local plastics factory. Word has it that Ms. Poe left town, along with a hundred thousand dollars of company money. Although Boady has never met the missing woman, he discovers that the threads of her life are woven into the deepest fabric of his world.
As the mystery of her fate plays out, Boady begins to see the stark lines of race and class that both bind and divide this small town—and he will be forced to choose sides.
Frank Marr was a good cop with a bad habit, until his burgeoning addictions to alcohol and cocaine forced him into retirement from the DC police. Now barely eking out a living as a private investigator, he agrees to take on a family case: a favor for his aunt, who was like a second mother to him growing up.
Frank’s surveillance confirms that his cousin Jeffrey is involved with a small-time drugs operation. Modest stuff, until Frank’s own home is burglarized, leaving a body on the kitchen floor: Jeffrey. Worse, Frank’s .38 revolver-the murder weapon-is stolen, along with his cherished music collection, his only possessions of sentimental value: dozens of vinyl albums that belonged to his late mother. Only Frank’s stash, his dwindling supply of the cocaine he needs to get through the day, is untouched. Why?
Clearly, his cousin was deeper in the underworld than anyone realized. With the weight of his family, his reputation, and his own life on the line, he’ll have to find the culprit by following the stolen goods through a tangled network of petty thieves, desperate addicts, deceiving fences, good cops, bad cops, and one morally compromised taxi driver.
Frank’s as determined to uncover the truth as he is to feed his habit, and both pursuits could prove deadly. This time, it may just be a question of what gets him first.
by JP Pomare
Newlyweds Lina and Cain don’t make it out to their property on gorgeous Lake Tarawera as often as they’d like, so when Cain suggests they rent the house out to vacationers, Lina reluctantly agrees. While the home has been in her family for generations, they could use the extra money. And at first, Lina is amazed at how quickly guests line up, and at how much they’re willing to pay.
But both Lina and Cain have been keeping secrets, secrets that won’t be put off by fresh paint or a new alarm system. And someone has been watching them—their mundane tasks, their intimate moments. When a visit takes a deadly turn, Lina realizes someone out there knows something they shouldn’t…and that welcoming strangers into your home is playing a dangerous game.
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