||May 20 2004
“Remember that dead body we found in the Bosley barn? How could you ever forget! His face is seared into my mind…”
Following the death of his wife, Joshua Thornton moves his family into his ancestral home in Chester, West Virginia. While clearing out the attic, the children find a 34-year-old letter to their grandmother that implicates a local reverend in an unreported murder.
Today a double homicide has the town under a microscope. The state attorney general appoints Joshua special prosecutor to solve the crimes. In a place where gossip flies as swiftly as a spring breeze it is impossible to know who to trust. Asking simple questions about events long ago could prove to be deadly for Joshua and his family.
The Official Website of Mystery Writer Lauren Carr
Lulu didn’t even try to hide her amusement about the young man’s fascination with her breasts. It was clearly the first time the kid had ever seen a bra-less woman in a see-through top.
The postal clerk was so rattled by Lulu Jefferson’s fashion statement that he almost forgot to stick the stamp she bought onto her envelope before posting and tossing it into the local mail bin.
The bra-less look was all the sensation in California. It just hadn’t reached Chester, West Virginia, yet. With its cobblestone streets and churches on every corner, some people would think the small town was stuck in the fifties.
Singer-songwriter Lulu Jefferson kept up with the latest fads. It was essential in her line of work. On her way to being the next Nancy Sinatra, Lulu wore her sun-bleached hair down past her waist and her skirts above the middle thigh. Her bare feet were more of a statement of her generation than her country roots. She preferred the Rolling Stones to Hank Williams.
The singer hummed her next would-be hit (if it reached the ears of the right people) as she strolled up Second Street Hill to her rented room over the Langley’s garage nestled under an old maple tree.
Sometimes Lulu thought Chester was surrounded by a force shield, like something out of Star Trek, which kept the rest of the world out. Her friends were selective about the influences they let inside: like marijuana that tunes you in, miniskirts and hot pants that threaten to show more than thigh, and see-through tops that make postal clerks swallow their chewing gum.
Not that that was all bad.
Somebody had to stay sane in the midst of the chaos created by the changing times.
The small town way of life suited Lulu’s best friends, Claire and Johnny Thornton. Marriage and a kid worked for them. They were so into it that they ran off to the Grand Canyon to make another kid.
“Good for them!” Lulu thought. “But that Ozzie and Harriet Nelson stuff is not for me. Hollywood, here I come!”
She sighed in admiration of the green on the trees. The blossoms were gone. Spring was over. “When did that happen?” she wondered as she crossed Indiana Avenue.
Time sure does fly.
Man, does it fly! The bus for her gig in Philadelphia was leaving at five o’clock in the morning, and she still had to pack.
As she hurried up the shady street to her apartment, Lulu made a list for the first time in her life, even if only in her mind, of what she had left to do before leaving town. Mentally, she checked off her meeting with Reverend Orville Rawlings to go over the music for the wedding.
“What a trip!” Lulu giggled to herself. “Wait until Claire reads about that.”
Lulu reminded herself that she had to take all of her miniskirts and halter-tops. Her long legs and breasts were her biggest assets, as the kid in the post office would testify. The singer/songwriter wanted to believe that she would make it to the top on her talent, but she couldn’t deny that sex sells. Good thing she enjoyed it as much as the next guy did.
Chester was still getting used to the “open sexuality” thing, Lulu observed, when she caught her landlady’s disapproving gape at her bare legs accentuated by her bright purple hot pants.
The mature woman shook her head at Lulu’s skimpy attire and made a “tsk, tsk” noise with her tongue before resuming the chore of weeding her flowerbed.
“Kicking and screaming all the way into the twentieth century.” Lulu ran up the steps to her apartment.
She told herself that she could check another item off her list. She wrote and mailed that letter to Claire. She wished she could be around to see the excitement when the Thorntons read it.
Lulu opened the door and stepped into her apartment. She didn’t bother digging out her key because people didn’t lock their doors in Chester. There was no reason for security in this burg. Lulu tossed her bag to the floor like she always did and slammed the door to make sure it latched.
That was the last thing Lulu did before the hand clamped the handkerchief over her face.
Lulu’s guitar hit a sour note as her bare feet struck the strings in her struggle to break free from the muscular arms that had seized her. The instrument made an odd musical sound when it tumbled to the floor from where she had set it up against the wall.
The chloroform rushed up her nostrils, down into her lungs, through her bloodstream, and hit her brain.
In her unconscious state, Lulu Jefferson was unable to enjoy the trip on which the hottest recreational drug—all the rage in California—took her.
“Remember that dead body we found in the Bosley barn? How could you ever forget! His face is seared into my mind…”
A GRAND Case of Murder by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader
A Small Case of Murder is a GRAND case of murder. Following a style, reminiscent of that of Lisa Scottoline, and David Rosenfelt, Lauren Carr in her debut novel A Small Case of Murder, delivers a powerful and strong detective- legal thriller that has all the makings of a Hollywood movie.
The novel starts with a prologue set in the Seventies, wherein we see Lulu Jefferson, a sort of beatnik singer being murdered. Who the murderer is, we don’t know. The action now shifts to 2004, and Josh Thornton, the protagonist, a JAG Lawyer coming back home to West Virginia. Recently widowed, and in the wrong side of forties, Josh has to look after his 4 children. While cleaning the attic the children get hold of a bunch of letters, and one of the letters, is one addressed to Josh’s mother, from Lulu Jefferson, - and the letter is dated May 8th 1970, the day on which both parents of Josh were killed in an accident. The letter opens a whole new can of worms. Lulu describes a dead body in the letter, and later she says that she found the same person in flesh and blood at a later date. Josh is intrigued and he launches into an investigation, about the strange dead body. Then a couple of murders take place in this sleepy town, and Joshua is appointed special prosecutor to solve the crimes. Josh finds an inexplicable link between the 30-year-old dead body case and the present murders and what follows is tense and pulsating action culminating in an exciting finish.
A Small Case of Murder is a good ‘whydunit’, rather than a whodunit. The protagonist is a fine blend of Perry Mason, and Sherlock Holmes (in particular The Hound of Baskerviles). The novel is a grand read, but the myriad subplots sort of get in the way of the main plot, - all the loose ends though are well interlinked in the end- at least for a couple of chapters, I felt that I was going through a book version of Santa Barbara or Bold and the Beautiful or something of that sort.
For a debut work, A Small Case of Murder is a grand, grand read.
Joshua Thornton is a hero most sublime, by Midwest Book Review,
Lauren Carr is a resident of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, bringing to mind the song The Ode to Billy Joe. Lauren's career has spanned having her work produced for television, the theater, and published books, and she obviously knows her way around the act of writing.
Chester, West Virginia is a small but interesting town. Joshua Thornton, now a retired JAG lawyer, grew up there with his cousin, Dr. Tad MacMillan, who was known for his sexual exploits and experimentation with drugs and alcohol. But that was then, and now Tad and Joshua are reunited, with Josh's five children from his now deceased wife, Valerie. Both he and Tad mourn the women they loved, but Tad's situation is more complicated. Only the original doctor in town whose office Josh has bought, Doc Wilson, knows the secrets of the town's inhabitants and the ultimate reason for Tad's heartbreak. Reverend Orville Rawlings is the richest minister around, and at one of his services Joshua is attacked by the minister's outlaw daughter, Vicki, who has a gun and an unreasonable hatred of Tad:
"As the man and girl hit the floor, the bullet discharged from the barrel, struck one of the hanging lamps, and sent a shower of glass down onto the shocked congregation. The bullet continued its flight upward until it planted itself into one of the oak panels high above the church members."
There is nothing more fun for a mystery reader than a tale of murder surrounding an overly pious preacher with too much money and not enough oversight. In this case, it takes a shrewd ex-military lawyer in the person of the delectable Joshua Thornton to sort through decades of murder and injustice. Carr weaves an extraordinary story that is gripping and crafted at the highest level to entertain the reader with its touch familial centerpiece amidst evil and chaos.
Joshua Thornton is a hero most sublime, and his five children provide the perfect backdrop for a man searching for the next plateau. Chester, West Virginia is every town, and its inhabitants are fun and pivotal to the plot. The story is complicated, and Lauren Carr feints and thrusts to bring her various villains to the forefront. This is a fine tale for a beach blanket read.
Everything a great mystery novel should be - and then some, July 31, 2004
It takes a special kind of writer to really pull off a good mystery without pulling any punches, taking any shortcuts, or losing the reader's commitment all the way up to the final page. Lauren Carr is one of those special writers. A Small Case of Murder is like a good mystery on steroids; everything starts out simple, with a mysterious little murder committed decades ago, but the plot soon becomes increasingly complex and increasingly fascinating. This is not a simple mystery - not by a long shot. I don't know if I have ever read a mystery with as many twists and turns along the way: you've got a 50-year string of murders covering two sides of the globe, all kinds of personal secrets being held close by the innocent and guilty alike, rampant speculation and discoveries about blood ties and familial relations among a fairly large subset of people, and plenty of characters worthy of your suspicion as the story unfolds. I did have to stop at times, re-read a sudden revelation, and pause to work out how this new piece of evidence could possibly be and what it might mean, yet Carr never allows the complexity of the web she is weaving to leave the reader by the wayside, lost and confused. You do have to be an active participant in the drama, though, if you are going to keep yourself from tripping up over all the loose ends that slowly come together on the pathway to the truth.
After the death of his wife, Joshua Thornton has left the Navy (where he worked as an investigator and prosecutor) and returned home to West Virginia to raise his five children. Cleaning out the old house, he finds an unopened letter mailed to his parents on the very day they died in an accident; here Josh learns that his parents and another couple discovered a dead body on their prom night only to find it gone when they got the sheriff out to the site. This letter soon becomes an important piece of evidence in an investigation of mammoth proportions; the story of the dead body his parents found becomes much more than the "small case of murder" Josh's son initially proclaims it to be. The criminal activity all centers on a prominent local preacher and his family; this man of the cloth and his children are already known to be the local drug lords (although no one has been able to prove it yet), but the onus of drug peddling pales in comparison to the body count that soon begins to stack up. I won't say any more about the plot. I really couldn't begin to do justice to this complex story, nor would I want to take a single iota of enjoyment from future readers of this riveting mystery.
Carr handles all of her characters in a wonderfully subtle manner, forcing us to consider each one a possible suspect at some point - and there are plenty of loosely connected crimes to go around. Of course, the murders of several potential suspects tend to shorten the reader's list as one goes along. Still, I went into the concluding chapters with little idea of how everything would actually play out - although I certainly had my suspicions (and was actually right on the money in a couple of cases, I'm quite proud to say). Then, just when you think everything is out in the open, Carr drops another little bomb right on you. Stepping away from the story now, I can only marvel at the beauty of Carr's intricate plot - and I mean marvel of the jaw-dropping kind.
Have I mentioned how addictive this story is? You might need to set your clock before picking this novel up, as you really can almost immediately immerse yourself completely in these pages. Carr never takes her foot off the gas, either, as you are bombarded time and time again with new crimes, new evidence, new bombshells, new suspicions. What I am essentially saying here is this: A Small Case of Murder is one of the most absorbing, fascinating, complex, and impressive mystery novels I have ever read. If you love a good mystery, you will absolutely go nuts over Lauren Carr's A Small Case of Murder.
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