The Good Old Summertime
When the Sheriff of Ste. Genevieve County, Missouri, dies in a wagon accident, Julia Nye is determined to investigate. From her nominal position as a typist in the City of St. Louis Police Department, she is sure of only a few issues surrounding the Sheriff’s death: that lawmen don’t break laws, even those they dislike; that prohibition is a passionate issue but not one worth killing for; and that the investigation itself is certainly not a deadly undertaking. She recruits two male reporter friends and the trio finds out, each person in a different way, that those sureties may not hold.
St. Louie Slow Drag
In the steamy August of 1910, St. Louis is rocked by murders and arsons in aneighborhood home to Negroes, brothels and ragtime. (The slow drag is a ragtime style.) The tensions threaten the friendships among a trio of quasi-amateur sleuths: Julia Nye, suffragist and typist at police headquarters, and reporters William McConnell and Carl Schroeder. After the trio pulls together to thwart the racists who try to burn the neighborhood, disappointed religious fanatics decide to finish the job, with Julia’s murder to be the spark for riot and destruction.
Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl
In 1910, Chicago is trying to rid itself of the white slave trade, and the deaths of two factory girls in St. Louis brothels signal that the vice has shifted to St. Louis in the person of a slick factory owner. Our three sleuthsrespond: suffragist Julia Nye usually types for the St. Louis police, but now agrees to go undercover in the factory; reporters William McConnell and Carl Schroeder head to Chicago to uncover the man’s background. What William and Carl discover convince them to get Julia out of the factory at the same time that Julia overhears her new boss plan to end the men’s investigations by making sure they don’t return to St. Louis. The threats all around send Julia down the same path as the women she’s trying to avenge.
Judged Best Self-Published Novel by the James River Writers (Virginia) in 2016
Mystery versus Suspense
Two of the novels in the Julia Nye Mystery Series bear the subtitle “A Novel of Suspense.” That raises questions, of course. Aren’t all the books suspenseful? Is a suspense story different from a regular murder mystery? And, if it is different, what is a suspense book doing in a series that has "mystery" as part of its name?
So, let me answer those. If you’re reading the whole series, I think you will see varying degrees of mystery and suspense in them. (A word below on reading out of order.)
In the first four books of the series, The Good Old Summertime (Summertime), St. Louie Slow Drag (Slow Drag), Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl (Heaven), and Bread and Roses (B&R), there is a murder early in the story. Train Song, the new book, has only the threat of a murder. Three of these, Summertime, Slow Drag, and B&R, are what you likely think of as “whodunits.” You are hopefully asking yourself who the murderer—or murderers—will turn out to be. These books are suspenseful because somewhere along the line the murderer turns on one or all of our investigators. Still, they tilt to the intellectual side. You are solving a puzzle along with Julia, Carl, and William—albeit a dangerous puzzle.
Heaven also asks the whodunit question, but I suspect you figure that out rather quickly. No big intellectual puzzle here. The trick is how to bring the villain to justice. When you, the reader, knows who the villain is and you see bad things ahead for any of the characters, the story tips over into a suspense piece. It is more emotional than intellectual.
Train Song has this emotional element of suspense as well—on top of “who’s going to do it?” instead of “whodunit.” Early readers tell me it’s hard to put down—but you’re the ultimate judge.
So, it’s a matter of balance. Each book is slightly different along those lines. That might cause you to ask why they aren’t consistent within the series. And, the answer is—as it should always be—because of the characters. These books aren’t so much about following a rigid genre as they are about following these characters, especially Julia. As she matures, she experiences different challenges.
Therefore, if you’re reading the books in order, you’ll see the balance shift between “standard whodunit with some suspense” to “a lot of suspense with mysteries thrown in.” Do you have to read them in order? Some of you do and some don’t. That’s up to you. There is a warning attached to Train Song. It depends heavily on the plot of Summertime and somewhat on the plot of Heaven. If it were me reading Train Song first, I would want to go back to the other books to check out relationships. And—if you’re an ebook reader—you can take advantage of the fact that Summertime is offered as a freebie to readers of the electronic Train Song.
Any way you read them, you will hopefully enjoy the mysteries as well as the development of these three cool people.