Garage sale Civil War relics fuel third installment in mystery series
“Garage Sale Riddle,” the third title in Naples winter resident Suzi Weinert’s Garage Sale Mystery Series, follows “Garage Sale Stalker” and “Garage Sale Diamonds.” Sound familiar? Ms. Weinert’s work is the inspiration for the powerhouse series of films that is run religiously on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel. The seventh premiered in January, and there are others in the pipeline.
The new novel has several intertwined plots, some more engaging than others. The primary story line, and the one most likely to be of interest to Southwest Florida readers, is Jennifer Shannon’s need to deal with her aging mother’s future. In her late 80s and after living in Naples for many years, Frances Ryerson must be steered into giving up her independent habits. This concern leads to a practical roadmap for making and carrying out such decisions, a roadmap that involves scaling down, arranging for estate sales, choosing the next home for Frances, taking stock of assets and many other matters.
Because the author has these issues arise and gain shape in credible conversations involving mother, daughter, granddaughter, friends and experienced professionals, she avoids overt preachiness and penetrates the emotions involved in such stressful changes.
The catalyst for the redirection of Frances’s life is that she has been victimized by a skillful criminal who preys on seniors. The escape from and apprehension of this abusive man and his female accomplice (also a victim, though she doesn’t know it) forms a second and more suspenseful plot line within the broader concern of the kind of life adjustments that seniors need to make — and often need help making.
Then there’s the Civil War relics plot.
Garage sale wizard that she is, Jennifer comes across two special items that fire her imagination in unexpected ways. One is a statue of a dragon. Jennifer’s fascination with it introduces reveries about dragon lore and about how so many cultures share the dragon motif in their art and in their ancient stories. It’s as if the dragon comes alive for her and guides her in some way.
Her Civil War discoveries have a much greater impact on the novel, involving Jennifer in a kind of psychic time travel as well as in present-time dangers. On her flight from Virginia to Naples, she meets an avid Civil War collector named William Early who later turns out to be a threat. Jennifer has purchased items that he must obtain at any cost. These include what seems to be a treasure map.
Her own research leads her to a fascination with the life and times of Col. John Singleton Mosby of Mosby’s Rangers fame. Much of her dream life, and even some of her waking life, is filled with imaginings in which Mosby and his contemporaries come to life in vivid detail. Jennifer seems obsessed with Mosby’s story, and Ms. Weinert strives to share this attraction with her readers by presenting long, italicized passages that convey Jennifer’s preoccupation.
The framed pieces of old cloth that Jennifer has purchased offer not only a map but also a riddle that raises the possibility of a hidden treasure connected with Mosby.
Though this carefully researched and presented material has interest in itself, and will be especially enticing to Civil War buffs, it runs the risk of taking attention away from the novel’s main concern of rescuing Florence from the criminals who have been taking advantage of her and putting her in great danger.
Advocacy for family solidarity, mutual concern, and carefully thought out collective action in a crisis are the elements that carry the day in this charming and informative mystery tale.
For more on this author and her work, go to www.suziweinert.com. ¦
Suzi Weinert will discuss and sign copies of her Garage Sale Mystery Series titles as follows:
>> Monday, March 6: Luncheon speaker from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Riverwoods Plantation, 4600 Robert. E. Lee Blvd., Estero. For more information, call Janeen Dulaney at 947-1052.
>> Thursday, March 9: Luncheon speaker for Sea Stars of Naples at noon at Countryside Country Club, 600 Countryside Drive. For more information, call Linda Earle at 514-0773.
— Phil Jason, Ph. D., United States Naval Academy professor emeritus of English, is a poet, critic and freelance writer with 20 books to his credit, including several studies of war literature and a creative writing text.