3 out of 4 stars
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Lily White Lie by Connie Chappell
This is the third installment of the Wrenn Grayson Mystery series, and although I have not read either of the first two, Lily White Lie is able to be read as a stand-alone novel. Chappell is a good storyteller, the strength of which is reflected in her character's dialogue; but, what makes it a mystery is the characters themselves. There are plenty of suspects to go around and no one, it seems, is who they say they are, or who you think they are. The story is well written especially with the use of metaphors, adding depth and dimension to an historical mystery genre that on its face is complex and suspenseful. Fans of mysteries would love this book.
The story takes place in the small town of Havens, Ohio, but the center of the action takes place in Stonehedge Park. Wrenn Grayson, who narrates the story, lives on the historic Hancock farm known as the caretaker's cottage located on the outskirts of town. She works part time for the mayor, K.C. Tallmadge, is the town historian, and writes human interest articles for the local newspaper. In this story, all of her talents will be used to solve the mystery.
There are a few things about the book with which I had some difficulty; perhaps more in style and in content and as such I am rating this book 3 out of 4 stars. There are so many religious themes contained is this story that it is hard to know where to begin. G.O.D/father and G.O.D/son, which is an acronym for Gideon Osborne Douglas (Sr & Jr), are named but are not a central part of the plot; the former has been missing for two years and the latter is in West Virginia hunting with friends and is absent for most of the story. The new minister for the Baptist church is referred to as "The Almighty", and although Amazing Grace is not referred to directly, the plot, and forthcoming research, revolves around a pocket watch that is lost and then, is found in the bell tower of the church of the Almighty. The Easter lily plays an important part in the story when it is used as a vessel to convey threatening messages and as inconceivable as that is in the month of November, (takes place at Thanksgiving), Chappell provides a retired minister with a thriving greenhouse to provide "the flower of death."
The character of Bret Kilmore is well developed and the dialogue between Wrenn and Bret is especially authentic given their newly formed friendship. He is an enigma, as demonstrated by his "only on a need to know basis" spy-like nature, his non-committal behavior toward the women in his life, yet his fierce loyalty of his friends, his duty to his "comrades in arms" and his well-traveled transience. Dan Brown encapsulated Brett's fear of commitment with the following quote: "Men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire." Chappell, here again, uses a metaphoric description of Bret by using the last stanza of a poem by Henry Lawson, entitled The Wander-Light, and is more telling than Bret would like to admit. "I'm at home and at ease on a track that I know not; and restless and lost on a road that I know." Wrenn is convinced he is a spy, and in one section of the book when Wrenn is getting threatening messages, Brett lays out step by step why he is the logical suspect. Throughout this book, the reader is continually wondering who he is and what is Wrenn going to do about it. And as we read this story, we are much more invested in what happens to Wrenn and Bret (there is obvious chemistry between them) than we are with Wrenn and Gideon (G.O.D/son).
Within the scheme of things, two mysteries are unraveled and in the telling, Connie Chappell, under the guise of Wrenn Grayson, handled herself with confident independence, and great ingenuity. Her book has only one inconsistency that bothers me. When Wrenn's significant other, Gideon, comes home, literally moments after all hell has broken loose and resolved; he refers to her as "little girl," which seems (to me) to diminish her or relegate her in some way, shape or form as "less than." I know that this is a term of endearment, and that they've been together for seven years or so, and there is an age difference between them, but the term seems inconsistent with the strength she showed and the maturity she revealed in order to get through the ordeal of the previous week. I think that if Bret had called her "little girl" she would've slugged him. Interestingly enough that might be the "lie" referred to in the title.
Lily White Lie
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