Sunday, May 17, 2020

Review: Killer Jam by Karen MacInerney

Killer Jam
By Karen MacInerney
Dewberry Farm #1
Thomas & Mercer, 2015


When Houston reporter Lucy Resnick cashes in her retirement to buy her grandmother’s farm in Buttercup, Texas, she’s looking forward to a simple life as a homesteader. But Lucy has barely finished putting up her first batch of Killer Dewberry Jam when an oil exploration truck rolls up to the farm and announces plans to replace her broccoli patch with an oil derrick. Two days later, Nettie Kocurek, the woman who ordered the drilling, turns up dead at the Founders’ Day Festival with a bratwurst skewer through her heart and one of Lucy’s jam jars beside her…and the sheriff fingers Lucy as the prime suspect.

Horrified, Lucy begins to talk to Nettie’s neighbors, but the more she gets to know the townspeople, the more she realizes she’s not the only one who had a beef with Nettie. Can she clear her name, or will her dream life turn into a nightmare?


My thoughts

Killer Jam by Karen MacInerney beautifully fits into the cozy mystery genre that I enjoy so much. The rural setting of Buttercup, Texas is vividly conveyed and central to the story. Characters are created in this first-of-series story that will keep me wanting to come back. The mystery plot is well crafted, with the murder victim being a character you love to hate and the number of possible suspects just right. And Killer Jam is a clean read, which I greatly appreciate.

A series succeeds or fails based on the main character, and I found Lucy very appealing. During her years as a Houston crime reporter, Lucy had dreamed of the simpler life that she had experienced years earlier in Grandma Vogel’s kitchen, which led to her purchase of Dewberry Farm … “I went from being Lucy Resnick, reporter, to Lucy Resnick, unemployed homesteader of my grandparents’ derelict farm.” Lucy doesn’t go over the top in investigating the murder, but draws on her investigative journalist skills and contacts in order to defend herself.

There’s a gentle humor throughout that I loved. A couple of secondary characters add depth – Tobias, a veterinarian and possible romantic interest, and Quinn, a good friend with an abusive husband. There’s Rooster, an uncooperative sheriff who was elected more for his family connections than skill. We also see local prejudice between the German and Czech communities, and an unsolved murder going back to 1940.

And, of course, what would a cozy be without endearing animals? I fell in love with Chuck, a bald, slightly overweight poodle, and Blossom, a cow that likes to overturn buckets of milk when they are full and has hidden talents as an escape artist. I’ve got a feeling that Lucy is going to increase the animal population on Dewberry Farm in future stories and can’t wait for these developments.

Going forward, I hope for more character depth and maybe a little less descriptive passages. But Killer Jam is a great beginning to what promises to be a delightful cozy series.


Note:  Karen MacInerney also writes the Gray Whale Inn mysteries, a cozy series set in one of my very favorite places to visit through fiction – Maine.


      Karen is the USA Today bestselling author of multiple cozy mystery series, and her victims number well into the double digits. She lives in Austin, Texas with her sassy family and a menagerie of animals.
      When she’s not chauffeuring children or coming up with creative ways to kill people, you can usually find Karen hiding away with a book, dodging laundry, playing in the kitchen, or attending martial arts classes. (No fatalities on the last two fronts–at least not yet.)

Thursday, May 7, 2020

The National Day of Prayer: We Pray for Children

The National Day of Prayer is an annual national observance, established into public law in 1952 and observed publicly on the first Thursday in May since 1988. Each year, people gather across our nation in local community events to pray together for America.

Today – May 7, 2020 – is this year’s National Day of Prayer. Regardless of the unprecedented challenges that our nation is facing today due to the covid-19 outbreak and resulting economic shutdown, it will not be canceled nor postponed – but will look very different from years past. The NDOP website writes that by using the use many digital platforms available, “this year’s ‘virtual’ observances have the potential to become the largest prayer gathering in U.S. history – with millions PRAYING TOGETHER, INDIVIDUALLY.”

I vividly remember the first time I helped prepare our church’s worship center for the special day. The focus was not only on America as a nation, but on individuals, families, and children. Scripture, pictures and quotes on prayer rotated across the screen with meditative music playing softly in the background. Prayer guides were placed at the entrance. It was moving to see people quietly enter throughout the day and into the evening – coming as individuals, friends, coworkers, and in family groups. This year will look quite different, but meaningful and effective nonetheless, and maybe with even more prayers than ever before reaching the Father’s ear.

Jennifer Beckstrand, one of my favorite authors, posted a poem on her blog in honor of the National Day of Prayer, and you can read her whole post here. It’s simply too moving not to share. Jennifer writes: “I can’t remember where I found this poem, but it holds special meaning for me because I know that all children are in Jesus’s tender care. I hope that this week on the National Day of Prayer, you will pray for your loved ones, your enemies, your family, and the children.”

By Ina Hughes

We pray for children
   who sneak popsicles before supper,
   who erase holes in math workbooks,
   who can never find their shoes.
And we pray, for those
   who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
   who can’t bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,
   who never “counted potatoes,”
   who are born in places where we wouldn’t be caught dead,
   who never go to the circus,
   who live in an X-rated world.

We pray for children
   who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
   who sleep with the cat and bury goldfish,
   who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money,
   who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink,
   who slurp their soup.
And we pray for those
   who never get dessert,
   who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
   who watch their parents watch them die,
   who can’t find any bread to steal,
   who don’t have any rooms to clean up,
   whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser,
   whose monsters are real.

We pray for children
   who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
   who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
   who like ghost stories,
   who shove dirty clothes under the bed,
   and never rinse out the tub,
   who get visits from the tooth fairy,
   who don’t like to be kissed in front of the carpool,
   who squirm in church or temple and scream in the phone,
   whose tears we sometimes laugh at
   and whose smiles can make us cry.
And we pray for those
   whose nightmares come in the daytime,
   who will eat anything,
   who have never seen a dentist,
   who aren’t spoiled by anybody,
   who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
   who live and move, but have no being.

We pray for children
   who want to be carried
   and for those who must,
   for those we never give up on
   and for those who don’t get a second chance.
   for those we smother…
   and for those who will grab the hand of anybody
   kind enough to offer it.

We pray for children. Amen