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Secrets and Other Stories of Suspense (Five Star First Edition Mystery) Hardcover – September, 2002
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Creator of the highly popular Henrie O mystery series, Hart now treats readers to four suspense-laden short stories. Set during World War II, "Spooked" and "Secrets" feature a young girl named Gretchen, who runs a diner with her German grandmother. In the first, Gretchen tries to get the army to uncover a black-market gas ring, while "Secrets" homes in on Gretchen's young friend Millard, who has something to hide. The aptly titled "Turnaround" involves an aging screenwriter who discovers that her boy toy doesn't want her around anymore--and takes appropriate action. The novella-length showpiece, "A Settling of Accounts," is a crackerjack suspense tale that finds Kay Emory revisiting London, her home during WW II, to attend an art auction. When an evil man from her past reappears unexpectedly, Kay disappears, and her American niece, Julie, travels to London to look for her and learns that her aunt had a secret life as an undercover agent in France. Readers will delight in Hart's skillful combination of romance and intrigue--and wish the stories were longer! Jenny McLarin
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Top customer reviews
The protagonist in "Spooked" is a 12-year-old girl named Gretchen and I'm guessing she is a stand-in for the girl Carolyn Hart once was. World War II is in full swing, and nobody portrays small-town Oklahoma during World War II more vividly than Carolyn Hart.
Gretchen lives with her grandmother Lotte who owns a popular diner. Gretchen's mother works at a defense plant in Tulsa. Gretchen's brother is a Marine somewhere in the South Pacific. Gretchen's friend Millard works in his father's drugstore. He collects tin cans and likes to fool around with chemical experiments in the store wash room. His brother is in Europe with Patton's army.
That's the set up. When Gretchen stumbles across a black market operation going on in an abandoned zinc mine, and learns that soldiers from Camp Crowder are trying to find the source of the spooklight, she and Millard hatch a plan that only two imaginative youngsters could carry out. This story has its serious moments, but it is also great fun.
The second story, "Turnaround," is a far cry from 1940s Oklahoma. The main character, Leigh, is a rich and successful screenwriter, even though she's past 50 "when youth was all that mattered in Hollywood." She's happily married to a much younger husband, or so she thinks until she overhears a phone conversation and learns that he's planning her murder. Leigh cooks up a nasty little scheme of her own, but the best laid plans ... are never quite enough.
Gretchen and Millard return in the third story, "Secrets." Morphine tablets are missing from the drugstore and Millard's parents have found money in his sock drawer. His father's wrath sends Willard into hiding but he manages to get word of his whereabouts to Gretchen. She becomes the keeper of secrets and she's as surprised as everyone else at the way things play out ... the beginning of the end of innocence.
Short stories are followed by a novel, A SETTLING OF ACCOUNTS, a suspense story that also harks back to World War II. It's 1966 and Kay, an antiques dealer from New Orleans, is in London for an art auction. Caught in a "moment out of time," the London of 1940 comes rushing back to her, bringing painful memories of people she loved and lost to the war.
And then she sees the familiar face of a murderer, someone she hasn't seen since they were secret agents in Vichy France. Reported as killed in the war, he simply changed his identity and has done well for himself as a prominent London businessman. Kay sees in his face the cruelty of the man who betrayed his colleagues and now conspires to silence her for good.
Hart builds suspense page after page, right up to the white-knuckle ending. I read all 24 chapters without stopping.
"Spooked" and "Secrets" opens the doors to a small town life in the grips of WWII with the charming character of Gretchen who has become her mother's substitute in the family's Victory Cafe. The diner was formally Pfizer's, but the name was changed to prevent any misconceptions.
"Turnaround" is murder, but in strange circumstances when the killer is trapped before the victim dies.
"A Settling of Accounts," which is novella in length is one of the best suspense stories of a strong woman protagonist is the annals of crime fiction.
A perfect read when you're short of time, but want the best.
Nash Black, author of Indie finalists WRITING AS A SMALL BUSINESS and HAINTS.