Your Killin’ Heart by Peggy O’Neal Peden is a witty debut full of Nashville charm and generous heart.
What would we do without our nosy, amateur sleuths?
Campbell Hall is charming, inquisitive, strong, smart, and hardheaded. Plus, she drives a really cool, red 1966 Alfa Romeo Spider, which is a wonderful addition. She’s pretty, single, and hard-working, running a travel agency in Nashville, Tennessee. When she accompanies a friend to the home of a deceased country singer icon, only to find herself in the middle of a murder mystery, mayhem ensues.
Award-winning author Peggy O’Neal Peden delivers a fun and smart debut with her first entry in the new Nashville Mystery series. It is no surprise that Peden lives in Nashville, as her intimate knowledge of the ins and outs and detailed descriptions of locations and landmarks show perfectly. There’s plenty of talk of the infamous Nashville music industry, and Campbell even has some important music friends that she accompanies to local music spots. If you’re looking for that scene, this book should satisfy.
I really enjoyed how many different music venues were included. It was a quaint and intimate look at the way locals are able to really appreciate the city—the smaller nooks and dives—in a way that someone who isn’t familiar with these specials places would. Campbell sums it up well here:
This was why I like living in Nashville. Any night of the week you could go somewhere and hear live music. It’s not about drinking or eating; it’s not even about production and costumes. It’s about the pure goodness of the music.
Peden’s many references to mockingbirds—Nashville's state bird—are entertaining. Campbell has one that lives in a tree near her patio. If you are familiar with mockingbirds, you know they can be a trying neighbor, but they are also fun and provide some comedy relief by way of their uncanny impressions.
Birds flitted in the trees that reached over the road. It was too late in the year for songbirds, but the mockingbirds aren’t tourists. They stay with us all year, flying in pairs, teasing and flirting from branch to branch, singing songs borrowed from the other birds. Doing covers, I suppose they’d say in the industry, recording their own versions of someone else’s song. My neighbor, Mr. Morgan, had a favorite mockingbird story. He was working construction and waiting for a dump truck to get out of his way. The dump truck made its distinctive beep, beep sound as it backed up. “That truck shifted into forward,” he said, “and drove off, but I kept hearin’ that same beep, beep, beep. I thought somethin’ was wrong with my hearin’, from all the blastin’. I kept hearin’ it, and that truck got farther away, then out of sight. I finally looked around and saw a mockingbird. It was imitatin’ the dump truck. A bird imitatin’ a truck! Durndest thing I ever saw.”
Country music legend Jake Miller had died some forty years before, but his widow, Hazel Miller, still lived in their mansion. When Campbell goes with her friend Doug to pick up some paintings from the house, she can’t help but be a little awestruck—and a little nosy.
She wanders away when she’s left alone and ends up in what appears to be a darkened bedroom. To her surprise, there’s someone lying in a bed, and they’re not moving. She leaves quickly before being seen, but finds out later that Hazel had been killed around the time that they had been at the house. Doug is a lawyer, so he’s in the thick of all the talk at first.
“Okay. You’re right,” he said. “I’m curious. Nobody’s talking much, and that makes me even more curious. Usually, in a case like this, every lawyer and clerk passing through the courthouse has absolute, for-sure, inside information straight from their law-school classmate in the DA’s office or their personal assistant’s best friend who used to work in the Justice Center, whoever. This time, nobody’s heard anything. So, I’m thinking, are they just not talking to me because they’ve heard I was there, or is nobody talking? And if not, why not? Who’s suddenly turned off the spigot to stop the leaks, and how? And why? What’s so important about this case? Isn’t this just about an old alcoholic dying in her sleep? I don’t like it. What is somebody hiding?”
Campbell needs to know what happened and who did it, so she digs deeper and deeper until she becomes the target herself. Persistence is a strong suit for her. She becomes acquainted with the police as they begin ruling suspects out, and she meets a good-looking detective named Sam in the process.
Refusing to stop asking questions or take herself out of the case, Campbell finds herself in a scary situation when she comes home one evening to find an intruder waiting for her. It’s a near miss made all too real when she realizes they’ve left her a threatening note written on a window:
“There’s writing on my windows. The big window in the den over the patio. It’s red.”
“What does it say?”
“It’s hard to read. It’s smeared some. I think it says ‘Mind your own business… You could die too.”
From here, the story flies to an action-packed conclusion.
With southern heart and a little hospitality to go along with it, Your Killin’ Heart is a wonderful weekend read—especially if you’re curious about Nashville or just want to revisit the area but can’t get there right away. I can’t wait to read more entries in this exciting series and see what else Campbell gets herself into!
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Amber Keller is a writer who delves into dark, speculative fiction, particularly horror and suspense/thrillers. You can find her work on her Amazon Author Page and she also features many short stories on Diary of a Writer. A member of the Horror Writers Association, she contributes to many websites and eMagazines and you can follow her on Twitter @akeller9.