Saturday, July 04, 2015

Perfect for Beach Reading: THE LONGEST YARD SALE, Sherry Harris

The second tag sale/yard sale mystery from Sherry Harris just came out, and it's a terrific summer read! THE LONGEST YARD SALE follows up on Sarah Winston's debut crime-solving effort in Tagged for Death. Glad to say right away that you don't need to read these in sequence -- because Sherry Harris is a gifted storyteller, with plenty of twists and adventures for her smart and stubborn protagonist.

Sarah Winston has one of those jobs that could provide access to things people wish you didn't know -- she's a newspaper columnist. But instead of investigating crimes in her Massachusetts neighborhood, she gives advice on organizing yard sales, and her column's popular enough to run in both the local paper and some of the others around. Of course she checks out plenty of sales herself. Her eagle eyes catch some great bargains, as well as solid fixer-uppers; she's been a cash-strapped military wife, and now she's cash-strapped and divorced, so she's well motivated to make the most of her expertise, even consulting for a fee for those who want the best sales.

As THE LONGEST YARD SALE opens, Sarah's donning an earpiece and microphone to keep her in touch with her boss-for-the-day, town manager Nancy Elder. Sarah's own casual suggestion about a way to draw tourist attention to the town of Ellington, Mass., by throwing a record-breaking "New England's Longest Yard Sale," not only caught on with Nancy and the town leaders -- it got Sarah the job of coaching the sale into existence. Now it's time to see how the town's already narrow roads will handle the influx of shoppers for the day!

And that's raising the tension for Sarah too, because the police force struggling to manage the surge of traffic and tourists is headed by her ex, now the police chief -- and he's willing to blame her for problems, while at the same time expecting her to get back together with him, since in the previous book (no, I won't spoil it!) she's had to admit he's not as bad as she thought. And she clearly still cares about him.  Still, she's got other possibilities, very pleasant ones, if also confusing!

If you're a fan of "cozy" mysteries -- the traditional small-town ones where the characters usually have known each other for a while, and life's frictions begin to add up to "I wish that person were dead" -- the quick piling up of suspicious circumstances in the first few chapters here will be like a candy store of goodies to choose from: the demanding and sometimes missing-in-action town manager Nancy Elder; Sarah's two suitors; the wealthy town resident who asks Sarah to appraise her things for an estate-type sale but also is clearly hiding things and circumstances; and the small but dangerous crimes that arrive during the yard sale itself, from arson to theft to threat.

Turn off the phone, make a tall cold pitcher of iced tea, put your feet up -- or if you indeed pack this one for the beach, take a good swim BEFORE you open the book. It's lively, quickly paced, tense and twisty enough to keep the pages turning eagerly, while being very much about women, their friendships and life paths, and how they work out problems that are scary and intense. There wasn't a single point in the book where I felt like putting it down!

Harris proves that her first good book was the start of a strong series, by adding THE LONGEST YARD SALE. Sarah Winston is starting to feel like a friend "from away" who just can't stay away from investigating for her neighbors and trying to find justice for them. I can hardly wait for the next book -- Sherry Harris (with Kensington Publishing) clearly will give us more good reads for summer and other vacations to come!

A little local note: Last summer my neighbor Marsha and I collaborated with some of Marsha's friends to hold a fund-raising yard sale for her dog Abby, who needed help to resume walking after an accident. This year Abby's doing well -- thank you all! -- but Marsha's loyal laying hens are in trouble for liberating themselves into the garden, and a couple hundred dollars of more secure fencing are needed, to prevent "the girls" from being turned into Sunday supper. So ... you guessed it ... we're prepping for another yard sale. I'm keeping track of the tips that Harris's books offer in the text and at the end. Onward!

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