Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Downstream: A Witherston Murder Mystery Book Tour with Betty Jean Craige

Downstream: A Witherston Murder Mystery (Witherston Murder Mysteries Book 1)
by Betty Jean Craige
Publisher: Black Opal Books
Published: Nov. 15, 2014

Amazon Synopsis:

At the celebration of his hundredth birthday, local billionaire Francis Hearty Withers announces to the people gathered on the front lawn of Witherston Baptist Church that he has finalized his will. In it he bequeaths $1 billion to his north Georgia hometown of Witherston and another $1 billion to be divided up equally among the town’s 4,000 residents—in recognition of their support of a Senextra pharmaceutical factory. Senextra is a drug that enables individuals to lead healthy lives well into their second century, but it has some unanticipated consequences.

The group assembled to hear Withers’s announcement do not all applaud. One person carries a sign that says SENEXTRA VIOLATES MOTHER NATURE. Another, KEEP SENEXTRA OUT OF OUR SYSTEM. A third, WE DON'T NEED MORE OLD MEN.

Withers flies into a rage. He vows to change his will and disinherit the community. Two days later he is found dead.

In Betty Jean Craige’s first murder mystery a few humans die in unusual circumstances. A few others live in unusual circumstances. Who dunnit?

Book Links

 My Thoughts:

Billionaire centenarian Francis Hearty Withers announced on his birthday at a celebration in his honour in Witherston, the town named after his ancestors, that he would be leaving in his will one billion dollars to the town, one billion dollars to the current town residents to be split equally and the remainder of his estate to the company BioSenecta so they could build a plant there and develop the new longevity drug Senextra. Met with opposition from environmentalists, Withers grew angry and vowed to change his will, rescinding the bequests he had announced. He was dead before the weekend was over and before he had a chance to change his will. But was it death from natural causes or murder? He was after all 100 years old and nothing looked out of the ordinary.

Detective Mev Arroyo is called upon to investigate the town first possible murder. There are after all definite motives for wanting Withers dead.

Downstream is told from different viewpoints - the narrator, the killer, the newspaper and through the journaled thoughts of Dr. Neel Kingfisher. I thought this was an interesting way of writing this story as it gave a wide sampling of the different thoughts of a number of different people within the small community. I especially liked the newspaper because it gave us insight into other things going on in the community that were related, but not vital to the story. Sometimes the articles were just plain amusing.

There were a few sub-themes within this novel. Two that were obvious were the Cherokees vs Americans, and taking care of the environment. The environment was a major subplot as it was directly related to Senextra.

I found this novel to be most interesting. It held my attention right from the beginning. I appreciated the humour the author injected in little things like the naming of the pets the townspeople owned. Names for their animals like Sassyass the donkey and Vincent van Goat, Ghandi and Barack for their dogs.

There were quite a few twists in the plot that made for an intriguing storyline, especially if you were trying to figure out who the killer was yourself. I tried, and wasn't quite successful before the the book revealed the killer. I found the murderer to be a bit of a surprise, but that just means the author did a good job writing the novel in such a way as to obscure the culprit until it was time to reveal the individual.

The characters are quite realistic and we get to know the Arroyo family quite well. The story allows us to see into their home life and Detective Arroyo discusses her murder case with her twin sons Jorge and Jaime who are involved with the local environmental group which is against BioSenecta coming to Witherston and polluting their creek.

I think this would be a great book for a book club because there is a lot of discussion that could be had around pharmaceutical companies and environmentalism, topics related to pollution, clear cutting and so on.

I loved the fact that the use of profanity was kept to a minimum. This book was a great clean read.

This is definitely a book for our time.  These are the issues our society struggles with today. I would highly recommend Downstream to everyone. I gave it 5 stars out of 5.

Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy of the book in exchange for a fair and honest review. A positive opinion was not required. All thoughts are my own.

About the Author:

Dr. Betty Jean Craige is Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature and Director Emerita of the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts at the University of Georgia. She has lived in Athens, Georgia, since 1973.

Betty Jean Craige is University Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature and Director Emerita of the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts at the University of Georgia. 

She received her B.A. in Spanish Literature from Pomona College (1968) and her M.A. (1970) and Ph.D. (1974) in Comparative Literature from the University of Washington.  She taught at the University of Georgia from 1973 to 2011.

Dr. Craige has published books in the fields of Spanish poetry, modern literature, history of ideas, politics, ecology, and art.  She is a scholar, a translator, a teacher, and a novelist.

In 2010, Dr. Craige published in both hardback and audiobook Conversations with Cosmo: At Home with an African Grey Parrot. In 2011 and 2012 she published a weekly Sunday column in the Athens Banner-Heraldtitled “Cosmo Talks.”

Dr. Craige’s essays have appeared in PMLA, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and The Athens Banner Herald.

Dr. Craige has received the University of Georgia Alumni Society Faculty Service Award (1994), the Albert Christ-Janer Award for Creativity in Research (2003), the Blue Key Service Award (2010), and the Women's Studies Faculty Award (2011).  She has also received awards for teaching, including the Honoratus Medal from the Honors Program.  The title “University Professor” was granted to her in 1995 as “highest recognition for significant impact on The University of Georgia.” On May 13, 2004, she received the Governor’s Award in the Humanities.

On December 20, 2003, Dr. Craige delivered the graduate and professional schools’ commencement address at the University of Georgia. On January 27, 2012, she gave the University’s Founders Day Lecture. On September 17, 2013, she accepted the Jeannette Rankin Fund Founders' Award. In March of 2014, UGA's Comparative Literature Department honored her by establishing an annual lecture in her name.

Dr. Craige was Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Delta Prize for Global Understanding.

Most recently she has written a murder mystery titled Downstream, published by Black Opal Books on November 26, 2014.

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