Visiting Detectives

Visiting Detective Quinn Sterling “Murder in Craven County”

Our recent travels took us to the Low Country of the Carolinas – Craven County, South Carolina, to be exact. It’s common knowledge that Low Country seafood is straight up delicious, but we had not realized that pecans are a fairly big deal there as well.

 

We drove around a bit, exploring the area, and after one long stretch of fencing, passed a large gated entrance to a grove of pecan trees: STERLING BANKS. Sadly, it was closed to the public. Oh, well, no pecan grove tour or pecan store for us. But, dessert centered mind that I have, I now had a yen for pecan pie, or cobbler, or butter pecan ice cream. Sheila mentioned that she was suddenly hungry, so the search was on for a place to eat.

 

Do you like diners? Or pubs? Or bars? We definitely do. Turns out that Craven County is home to Jackson Hole, diner by day, and pub/bar by night. We pulled into the nearly full parking lot, always a good indication mid-week that the food is good. The waitress seated us near the back and we checked out the menu. The usual diner fare of meatloaf, burgers, fries, shakes, and …. Bingo! Pecan desserts of every kind I’d ever heard of and some I hadn’t. I grinned when the waitress returned to get our order. I tapped on the dessert section, then asked if the pecans came from the grove up the road.

 

“Yes, sir. Fresh as yesterday’s crop.” She smiled and turned a bit to point with her pencil at a woman seated a couple of booths away. “She’s the new owner of the farm. Quinn Sterling.”

 

This trip just got even more interesting. You know how Sheila and I keep running into detectives on the road? I couldn’t resist. “She doesn’t happen to be a detective, does she?” laughing as I said it.

 

Talk about jaws dropping. With hands on both hips, the waitress gaped and said, “How could you possibly know that?”

 

Both Sheila and I nearly sprayed her with the sweet tea we had been drinking. “Wild guess! Plus, I’m law enforcement – on medical leave – and I can usually spot people in my line of work.”

 

“Technically, she’s a P.I., but would you like to meet her? Sometimes she meets clients right in  that booth at night, but she’s only here for lunch today.”

 

The waitress went over to Sterling and they exchanged whispers and glances at us. Then the waitress passed along an invitation for us to join the pecan farm owner/P.I. We introduced ourselves and settled into the large leather covered booth, more than ready to hear her story.

 

“Quinn Sterling is a lanky, towering red-head, and heiress to Craven County’s 3,000-acre pecan enterprise, Sterling Banks . . . the last heir of the oldest family of the oldest county in the state of South Carolina . . . and a private investigator. She wouldn’t have been either if someone hadn’t murdered her father.

 

She never envisioned becoming a PI. As a teen, she and her childhood friend, Tyson, imagined working as deputies for her sheriff uncle, solving fictitious crime amongst the pecan groves, sometimes with burlap capes, sometimes with stick guns, using the nuts as bullets. Then for a year out of high school, they fulfilled their dreams by joining the sheriff’s office, with grand aspirations of keeping the county free of sordid characters. But her father, Graham, had bigger plans for his daughter, and pushed her to college where she held dual majors of business and criminal justice, the latter to spite him. When the FBI snatched her up, Quinn thought she’d gone to heaven.

 

Then came the call. Someone killed her father and almost killed Jule, the farm’s caretaker and mother-figure to Quinn. In the blur of funeral and the slow reality of inheriting the pecan enterprise, Quinn came face-to-face with a new reality. Her uncle admitted he couldn’t find the murderer, had no idea whom to suspect, and Quinn was suddenly running the farm. Unable to let loose of her father’s unsolved murder, Quinn left the Bureau to manage Sterling Banks, doing PI work on the side to scratch that itch.

 

Six years after Graham’s death, the murder remained a mystery, Quinn’s relationship with her uncle a raw sore. Then a fellow PI was found murdered in Craven County, and the daughter of a Charleston real estate mogul hired her to take his place hunting for her missing beau.

 

Nobody was who they appeared to be, but Craven is Quinn’s county, and with an inept uncle at the helm, Quinn felt the responsibility was hers to solve the case. But when the case crossed onto Sterling Banks, it sucked in both of her childhood friends, Deputy Tyson Jackson and Jules’ son Jonah Proveaux, the current pecan farm caretaker. Quinn drew deeply upon her legacy and her training, to dig into crimes current and past, sometimes capitalizing on her uncle and the financial, historical, and impressive power of the Sterling Banks name to discover why people had been Murdered in Craven.

In another case, Quinn learned just how toxic school board politics could be, when she was hired by a board member to deal with domestic issues, and dealings with the Board got nasty. An impromptu drop-in at a board meeting threw Quinn for a loop when she found Sterling Banks’ foreman, Jonah Proveaux, battling against them over land for an elementary school. Land of an 80-year-old neighbor that adjoined Quinn’s farm.

 

Politics quickly turned to greed, greed to arson, and arson to murder, with family pitted against family, neighbor against neighbor, as property Burned in Craven. When violence escalated against her and her own, Quinn decided she knew more than the law when it came to finding answers and making people pay, and she took actions accordingly. The county turned divisive over how much development was good development, and how much is plain crooked and deadly.”

 

Sheila and I sat riveted to our seats long after the last bite of pie and ice cream disappeared. What stories that woman could tell!

 

But, to find out who did what to whom and why, you’ll have to read the books.  😉

Happily for you, “Murdered in Craven” and “Burned in Craven” are launching at the end of November. Many thanks to Hope for visiting us today and giving us a sneak peek into her new series!
Pre-order here.

 

    Pre-order here.

 

 

Hope Clark

The Carolina Slade Mysteries, Bell Bridge Books
The Edisto Island Mysteries, Bell Bridge Books www.chopeclark.com
-and-
Editor, FundsforWriters, www.fundsforwriters.com

Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers

 


*All photos courtesy of C. Hope Clark

 

 

Visiting Detective Kylee Kane “HOA Murder”

Sunset in Beaufort, South Carolina

The Jazz Corner is one of our favorite venues for dinner and live jazz when we’re visiting Hilton Head Island in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Tonight was the last night for a popular NYC jazz combo. As usual, the tables are scrunched together in the intimate setting, making it next to impossible not to eavesdrop on folks seated at adjacent tables.

 

Sheila’s just placed her standard order for She-Crab soup and crab cakes, when I hear the woman at the next table say, “Mom’s right. Whoever killed Finley put that trophy deer head in his lap to sidetrack authorities. And it’s working. Deputy Ibsen’s convinced one of the Bambi-loving crowd is responsible.”

 

Bambi lovers? A corpse holding a trophy deer head? I can’t pretend I didn’t hear. My curiosity won’t let me. The couple’s conversation sounds matter of fact. Neither the man nor the woman—I’m guessing they’re either late forties or early fifties—seems shaken or hysterical. I decide it’s okay to intrude.

 

“Hi, I’m Charlie Kerrian, and this is my wife, Sheila,” I begin. “We just arrived on the island a couple of hours ago for a mini-vacation. I apologize for listening in, but our tables are so close. Was someone murdered here recently?”

“Not here,” the woman replies. “The murder took place on Hullis Island Friday night. I apologize. We shouldn’t have been jabbering about it in a restaurant. You needn’t be concerned. There’s no Lowcountry crime wave. Please don’t let my big mouth ruin your vacation.”

 

Sheila chuckles. “My husband failed to mention he’s a detective. You haven’t worried him, just piqued his curiosity.”

 

“That’s a relief.” The woman smiles. While her short, curly hair is snow-white, her smooth skin says the white hair is premature. “I’m Kylee Kane,” she adds, “a retired Coast Guard investigator.”

 

“And I’m Ted Welch,” the man says. “I’m hoping Kylee will soon change her standard introduction and say she’s a security specialist for Welch HOA Management. That’s my company. We manage more than a dozen homeowner associations in Beaufort County, including Hullis Island where the man was murdered.”

 

Kylee shakes her head and grins. “Ted, I’m not going to start introducing myself as your security specialist. My consulting gig won’t last that long—just until this killer’s caught, we find out who’s sending hate mail to Mom, and your HOA clients quit worrying about crazed killers sneaking into their neighborhoods.”

 

“Can you back up?” I ask. “What did you mean about the killer trying to pin the rap on Bambi lovers, and why is your mother getting hate mail? Are the two related?”

“Afraid so,” Kylee says. “Hullis Island has a deer overpopulation problem. The board of directors of the HOA decided to solve the problem by opening the island’s nature sanctuary to hunters as soon as the peak tourist season ends. Finley, the man who was murdered, was a loud proponent of slaughtering all the island deer. His landscape company’s sales had nosedived after people decided buying edible plants amounted to a free lunch program for deer.”

 

“And how was your mother involved?” Sheila asks.

 

“Mom doesn’t think the board has the right to open our nature sanctuary to hunters without allowing the HOA membership to vote on the matter,” Kylee adds. “She sent an email to all her neighbors expressing her opinion. Mom knows the overpopulation has to be addressed, but she thinks there are less drastic solutions. A postcard that said it was time for hunters to target old-lady busybodies as well as deer was hand-delivered to Mom’s mailbox a few hours later.”

 

Ted adds, “I just wish the authorities weren’t so fixated. They seem convinced the neighborhood feud about the island deer explains why Finley was killed. But the deceased wasn’t a likeable guy. He’d accumulated lots of disgruntled customers. Kylee and I plan to talk to some of those folks. My new security specialist excels at interviewing people.”

 

“Yes.” Kylee laughs. “In your sales pitch for me to join your firm as a security consultant, I believe you described me as having the ‘tenacity of a demented squirrel looking for a buried nut stash.’”

 

“True,” Ted agrees. “An apt description. Hasn’t changed since you worked so hard to ignore your little brother and me in grade school.”

 

The lights flicker and a man takes the small stage to introduce the jazz combo. “Please respect our talented musicians,” he says. “No talking during the performance.”

 

While Sheila and I came to hear the music, I’m sorry I’ll have to wait to hear more of the story.

 

Linda Lovely

Warm thanks to Linda Lovely for stopping by to chat with the Kerrians and give us a straight-up-fun peek into Kylee Kane’s (and Ted Welch) encounters with murder at the HOA. To find out how the story ends, you’ll have to read:

Multi-layered plots are always central to Linda Lovely’s novels. With her fully fleshed out central characters perfectly set up to navigate the twists and turns of the story lines, this entertaining mystery writer always delivers a thoroughly engrossing read. “With Neighbors Like These,” is a stellar, page-turning beginning to her brand new HOA Mystery Series. Launch date was set for July 13, 2021. Click on the link to order.

 

Please visit https://www.lindalovely.com to learn more about Lovely and her upcoming events.

As sometimes happens, Kerrian’s Notebook has overlapped with Nightstand Book Reviews, so please check out Linda Lovely’s complete Book List here.

 

*Photos supplied by Linda Lovely.  🙂

 

 

Visiting Detective Chloe Jackson “Murder at the Sea Glass Saloon”

 

Sheila and I were visiting friends down in the Florida Panhandle last week and saw firsthand the famous beaches and emerald green water they had raved about on the phone. Honestly, they had undersold both. The view of the water is remarkable, and the white sugar sand is so fine that it’s a pleasure to walk on, bum legs and all.

 

Three days into the trip, we passed a place on the beach called the Sea Glass Saloon. Sheila and I both saw crime scene tape flapping around the dumpster out back and skidded to a stop. Well, no real skidding can happen on sand, but we did stop pretty quickly. Sheila looked at me, eyebrows raised and asked, “Feel like getting a drink before lunch?” She knows me well.


We entered the empty bar and sat ourselves off to the side. Our waitress’ paper name tag said, “Chloe,” and since it was written in magic marker, she was probably new to the job. We tried to be polite and avoid the Crime Scene Tape Topic, just in case Chloe was jittery about whatever had happened, but Sheila couldn’t stand the suspense anymore than I could. We introduced ourselves and Chloe laughed.


“Nice to meet you. I could tell as soon as you came in that at least one of you was a cop.”

 

I was surprised and said so.

 

Chloe grinned and waved to the still empty room. “You’re the first people in here today and you chose a table with your backs to the wall, not the table with the best view like most tourists do. I’m Chloe Jackson, former children’s librarian in my hometown of Chicago, now a waitress in a bar in Emerald Cove, Florida. Life has a funny way of laughing at my plans.”

 

The bartender called her over and she told us she’d be right back, but after they bent their heads together at the bar, she wasn’t smiling anymore. Something was bothering that young woman.

 

Meet Chloe Jackson:

“Why do I know anything about cops? I read a lot of mysteries and they all seem to mention cops and their backs to the wall so there must be some truth to it. Also, both of them took a good look around like they wanted to know where the exits were and assessed Joaquín the bartender and me. Apparently, they decided we weren’t a threat because they didn’t get up and leave. I almost walked over to them with my hands up. They were pleasant when I asked what they’d like. He ordered a Guinness. She wanted a mimosa.

 

I had to call the police more than once about the patrons at the library – not the kids I work with but sometimes their parents or nannies. As I walked back to give Joaquín their orders, I thought about yesterday morning. I had to call 911 yesterday when I found the body of one of our patrons back by the dumpster behind the Sea Glass Saloon. Elwell Pugh, the man I found murdered with a channel knife sticking out of his neck, was a bit of an odd duck, but a good tipper and never caused me any problems.

 

On the other hand, he wore an armadillo shell as a hat which seemed really odd to me, but I’d only been in the panhandle of Florida for a little over a week. What did I know? Maybe lots of people wore armadillo shell hats down here. What worried me more is I’d overheard the owner of the Sea Glass, Vivi Slidell, arguing with a man last night after the bar closed.

 

I was mopping floors when I heard the raised voices back in the kitchen. I couldn’t make out their words or see them and I’m not certain it was Elwell that Vivi was arguing with. After a door slammed Vivi came into the bar and grabbed a bottle of bourbon and a glass before she noticed me mopping. I’d never seen Vivi drink anything stronger than sweet tea up to this point.

 

She told me to leave and to go out the front which faced the Gulf of Mexico. I complied but was uneasy about the whole thing. However, when the deputy questioned me yesterday, I left the bit about the argument out. It might not have anything to do with the Elwell’s death. If it did, it might mean I was working for a murderer.”

 

We told Chloe to keep the drinks and sweet tea coming, if she could call next door to the lunch place for sandwiches and tell us more of the story. And what a jaw-dropping story it was. You can read all about it in “From Beer to Eternity.

 



Sherry Harris, an Agatha nominated author, writes the brand new Chloe Jackson Sea Glass Saloon Mysteries. “From Beer to Eternityfeatures Chloe and a cast of wonderful characters – some of them mentioned in the teaser you just read.

 

Her first series, Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries, is non-stop terrific. Don’t worry, it’s still continuing, with “Absence of Alice” scheduled to appear in December, 2020.

 

Many thanks to Sherry Harris/Chloe Jackson for stopping by the Visiting Detectives corner.  🙂  We always love a great crime scene tale!

Please visit www.sherryharrisauthor.com for more information about her books and where to buy them. Get every single one.  🙂

 

Check out Sherry Harris’ Author Profile here.

 

*Photos courtesy of Sherry Harris.

 

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