Meet Gladys Bellwether
Greetings from Sierra Pines! My name is Gladys Bellwether and I’m here to tell you my story. That is, how we came to live with Julia Winston at the B&B. My brother and I were show biz people, just like our dear friend, Julia. Did you know that her mother was one of the first residents of Sierra Pines? In fact, Viola Winston founded several landmarks. She even had a map of the town, a beautiful oil painting, presented to her in 1920 by the town council during a dedication ceremony. Of course, the painting was marred by a bullet hole a few months ago when one of our guests accidentally fired an antique rifle from Julia’s collection, and so it had to be repaired, but that’s a story for another day.
Where was I? Oh, yes. Julia decided to pack her bags and leave Hollywood—that affair with Cary Grant which ended so badly with Julia throwing her award plaque at him after learning he was engaged to another actress was the last straw. Have you heard the story? Most everyone in Hollywood has. Julia became the woman who had the courage to walk away from a very promising career as a prop designer. One of the female pioneers in the trade, mind you. Anyway, she left on the first train and ended up in Sierra Pines to live with and take care of her mother. Ollie and I were fast on her heels to follow. After all, we couldn’t abandon our closest and dearest friend in her time of need, could we? At the time, Ollie was finishing up his stuntman role for Errol Flynn in the western movie, Silver River. That was in 1948. Not Ollie’s favorite, mind you. He enjoyed Flynn’s swashbucklers much better. He even owns a sword used in one of the films. As for myself, I was working as a makeup artist on the same production. Such great memories. And we left it all to follow Julia and work for the B&B after she decided to turn the house into one. That didn’t happen until after Viola’s death. Julia needed something to keep her mind off the losses in her life—Grant, her mother, and a career she really loved. Being the owner and manager of a B&B is demanding, you know. Plenty of duties to fill your days. So, the plan worked.
Ollie fit perfectly into the role of maintenance man. My brother is skilled when it comes to fixing things. And there’s always something that needs repairing in a century-old Victorian house, I tell you. I took on the job as cook. I love to prepare the breakfast meals for our guests and am proud to say I’m quite a chef. Then there’s the cleaning, tidying the guest rooms, and such. Always something to do.
Everything was going beautifully. Julia, Ollie, and I were quite the threesome. We loved our new life. Tragically, that all ended when Julia suddenly passed away. I, for one, thought there was something suspicious about her death, but that too is a story for another time. The good news is Julia’s great-niece, Alexis, has come into our lives. I wasn’t so sure she’d stay to run the B&B that she inherited, thanks to Julia, but eventually, she learned to love our town and the people in it. Especially our local sheriff, Quint Sterling. If I was a young girl, I’d certainly find him a great catch. Anyway, I’m certainly glad she’s here. She reminds me so much of Julia when she was that age. It’s like having my dear old friend back again, and I do miss her so very much.
This is a great place to live or visit. We have wonderful shops, pleasant folks running them, and there’s our pride and joy, the Sierra Pines Alliance of Cultural Activities. I’m proud to be a member. Our little group does big things, like the holiday charity event coming up soon. We raise lots of money and get quite a lot of praise for our efforts. There are several ski resorts close by since we are only an hour or so from Lake Tahoe. Did you know we even have our own gold mine? Well, it used to be one. Maybe not as famous as Sutter’s Mill, but legendary all the same. However, obviously, life isn’t perfect. And it’s no different in Sierra Pines. We’ve had a few problems now and then. Murder being the worst, of course. Yes, I said murder. In fact, we’ve had two in a matter of months. It’s a shame because we really do have a quaint and friendly town. I shouldn’t say this out loud, but it’s not exactly great for business when news spreads of someone being murdered. But honestly, I do care about the ones who’ve died, and I hope justice is served. Guess we’ll have to put that job into Sheriff Quint Sterling’s hands, won’t we? Of course, that would mean keeping Alexis from doing her own bit of sleuthing. After all, her cousin is a suspect in the murder of his wife! We can’t believe he did the crime, but can we help prove it? Yes, I said we, because if Alexis is going to put her life in danger by snooping, Ollie and I will have to stay close by. Julia would want us to watch over her, wouldn’t she?
In book 2 of the Sierra Pines B&B Mystery series, Ali has settled into her new life in Sierra Pines. Sure the B&B needs a new furnace and bookings are down and there is drama brewing in the local community group, but she has her found family with her senior staff, Gladys and Ollie, and a budding romance with the local sheriff and another murder to solve.
When her cousin’s new wife is found dead at the bottom of a cliff and he is the prime suspect in the murder, she finds herself investigating the locals and finding another seemingly unconnected murder. Along the way, she discovers that times are hard for most of the businesses in town and there are those who will push the limits to be successful, but does that necessarily mean murder is an option?
I enjoyed Ali’s investigative technique. If her law enforcement boyfriend can’t/won’t give her the information she needs, because you know, rules and things, she knows exactly who to hit up for the town gossip and how to funnel her findings right back to him to keep him moving in the right direction. Her inner dialogue, in the form of her boyfriend’s voice, was often as entertaining as it was useful. There were some great suspects who were tied to the dead women in interesting ways and clues had a way of showing up when they were needed most. I wasn’t surprised by the murderer because I simply never warmed up to that person, but each look into a new suspect had me seeing the possibilities and steering me away from predicting the outcome.
As always, when it comes to cozies, it is the ongoing story arcs and secondary storylines that will keep me coming back for more. It is a terrific small town with a fun population and surely an occasional murder to solve isn’t too much to ask for a good story.
I received an advance review copy for free through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, and I am leaving this review voluntarily
About The Book
The holiday season has arrived when all should be merry in Sierra Pines. A plea from her mother pushes Ali to offer her annoying cousin, Nathan, and his even more annoying bride, Isadora, lodging at the B&B. When Isadora is found dead at the bottom of a ski slope and fingers point to Nathan as suspect number one, the merry season turns into a scary season for the residents of Sierra Pines. Soon, the B&B needs numerous repairs, the Sierra Pines Alliance of Cultural Activities is missing funds, and business owners quarrel incessantly about their dismal sales. What horrible spell has fallen on this cozy town? What’s worse—everyone blames Nathan for bringing a curse. Ali knows her cousin might get on her nerves, but he’s no killer. However, can she prove his innocence?
About the Author
Retired teacher, Kathryn Long now spends her days plotting and writing mysteries. Besides her SIERRA PINES B&B MYSTERIES, published credits include A DEADLY DEED GROWS and BURIED IN SIN. She’s actively involved in the writing and publishing worlds with social media platforms, including her author website, blog, Twitter account, and Facebook page. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime as well as of International Thriller Writers. As Bailee Abbott, she writes the PAINT BY MURDER MYSTERY SERIES. The second book, KILL THEM WITH CANVAS, will release on October 11, 2022. She lives with her husband and furry friend Max in the quiet suburbs of Green, Ohio.
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