WRITTEN IN STONE
By Ellery Adams
Berkley Prime Crime, November 6, 2012 ($7.99)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
When her favorite roller-skating, tuu-tuu wearing waitress tells Olivia Limoges that there is a witch in Oyster Bay who helps people in need, Olivia scoffs. When Dixie goes on to say that the witch, Munin Cooper, sent a message telling Olivia that she must come and see her, Olivia says "no way." But when Dixie adds the kicker, saying that Munin has information about Camille, Olivia's mother, the trip is on. Not long after Olivia issues a vehicular chastising to a nasty tourist, she finds herself plunging through a swamp leading to the witch's lair, accompanied by her faithful companion, standard poodle Haviland and a local boat skipper.
What Munin tells her is stunning, and hits close to home. Camille had been one of the people who'd come seeking Munin's assistance. Olivia can barely remember her mother, but she loved her dearly and welcomes any information about her. More ominously, Munin tells her she is surrounded by death and must take care. Because Camille had been kind to her, Munin gives Olivia a special gift, a handcrafted pottery jug covered in trinkets and treasures. She says those items will provide clues to a mystery.
Munin's prediction soon comes true. Tragically, it is her own death that provides the mystery to be solved. The authorities write it off as an accident, but Olivia and her friends in the Bayside Book Writers don't believe it, and set out to prove she was murdered. Police chief Sawyer Rawlings, Olivia's sweetheart, agrees with them. The writers take on the research and witness interviewing, and Rawlings handles the law enforcement duties as they search for the truth.
Olivia, who owns two successful local restaurants, is taking part in the Coastal Carolina Food Festival. One of her chefs, a Lumbee Indian, invites her and her friends to attend their nearby festival, and they are entranced by the crafts and the dancing. When a young man dies in Olivia's arms, she again suspects it was no accident, but is somehow linked with Munin's death. It becomes a race against time to interpret the clues from the pottery jug and trace them back to a turbulent time in local history in order to prevent another death.
Olivia does her best to work with the authorities, but in desperation she takes a risk that puts her outside the law. Thankfully, Haviland is by her side, and proves the old adage that dogs are a man's — and woman's best friend.
This is the fourth in Adams' excellent Books by the Bay mysteries, and it is the best one yet. The characters are all interesting, realistic, and entertaining, the scenery vivid, and the description of the food served in the restaurants will make the reader salivate. The historic information on the Lumbee culture is fascinating, as is the other historic detail that is part of the story. Adams also has a new series, the Charmed Pie Shoppe mysteries, The first title in this series is PIES AND PREJUDICE.
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