THE GOOD BYLINE
By Jill Orr
Publisher: Prospect Park Books (2017)
Kindle edition: $9.59
A Riley Ellison Mystery (Book 1)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Riley Ellison is happy with her life in her hometown of Tuttle Corner, Virginia. She likes her job in the local library, even though she is not a “real” librarian. She has loving parents, and expects to live happily ever after with her long-time boyfriend. Everything is fine, until it isn’t. Her beloved grandfather died in what was a supposed suicide. The boy she’d expected to marry since they were in grade school suddenly leaves in the middle of the night, heading for a new life in Colorado. She retreats into a shell, avoiding the locals who look at her sadly, saying “bless her heart” in the traditional Southern way of expressing pity.
Finally, with urging from her parents and concerned friends, she begins to crawl out of her self-imposed solitude. She reluctantly signs up for an online dating service, and seeks to mend her relationship with Jordan James, her best friend in childhood. Her hope is dashed when Jordan’s mother tells her Jordan is dead, by her own hand. Mrs. James asks her, as one who’d known her best, to write her daughter’s obituary.
Riley had learned to write poignant, meaningful obituaries from her grandfather, a newspaper reporter who had great skill in that field. Still, she wants to know more about Jordan’s life in recent years. She seeks out the people she’d been friends with and co-workers at the Tuttle Times where she’d been a reporter. Along the way, she becomes convinced that Riley’s death was not a suicide. Most people put it down to her grief over her grandfather’s presumed suicide; the sheriff, no fan of the Ellison family, tells her to keep her nose out it. Only one of Jordan’s co-workers, best known for his paranoia and fondness for conspiracy theories, does believe her. His assistance leads her down a twisted, perilous path that puts her and her loved ones in danger.
At the same time, Riley’s search for love takes off when the dating site, Click.com, puts her in touch with a man who seems perfect in every way. Even after a hilariously disastrous first date, and a less-than-perfect second date, Mr. Right sticks around. As time goes on, she begins to wonder if that is a good thing or a bad thing? People she thought she knew begin to act in uncharacteristic and puzzling ways, and she wonders if she ever knew them at all.This is the first in the Riley Ellison Mystery series, and it is a good one. The humor comes from her descriptions of the dating scene, the self-obituaries she composes for herself when she’s in a tight spot, and the hilarious dating advice she gets from “Regina H., Personal Romance Concierge, Click.com,” will appeal to Janet Evanovich fans and all who enjoy feisty, tough, and funny protagonists. The characters and Southern way of life in small town Tuttle Corner ring true. The blend of suspense, romance and humor is perfectly balanced. Highly recommended.
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