Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Friday, September 28, 2018

the challenges of doing the right thing... Lonesome Song (Shep Harrington Smalltown Mystery #1) by Elliott D. Light

"I definitely thought this book was interesting, it’s not my usual read, but I certainly enjoyed it. The story starts off quickly, and doesn’t stop until you find out who was behind the mystery surrounding the country singer. There are no dull moments in this book, it actually reminded me of when my dad would tell stories with his brothers. [...] He is an amazing writer, he really knows how to pull you into the story and show you all the different sides of the same coin. It was really fun to unearth the mystery with Shep. Now on to the second novel in the Shep Harrington series. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars." - Kerrie, Goodreads


Imagine you’re in your late twenties. School is behind you. You have money, a beautiful wife, lots of friends. Everything you ever wanted is at your fingertips.

And then suddenly, it’s all taken from you. 

Shep Harrington was a young, prosperous and happy lawyer, his bright future shining on the horizon like a beacon. But things that shine are not always what they seem. Contentment can be intoxicating, dulling the senses to the signs of change. 

He and wife Anna were living their dream—together. And then they weren’t.

Shep was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Anna, believing him guilty, divorced him. Both were victims of a system created and operated by an older generation who valued power and money over fairness.
Out of prison, Shep must again contend with people who see truth in practical terms as he probes the death of a man whom he loved and who loved him. A classic murder mystery, Lonesome Song explores the challenges of surviving injustice and of doing the right thing.

Lonesome Song is the first book in the Shep Harrington SmallTown® Mystery Series.


Before his death Reilly Heartwood was a famous country singer. Frieda was his housekeeper and Lora Jean is a teenager whom Reilly and Frieda cared for.

The open casket was at the end of the room. A stray beam of sunlight danced across Reilly’s waxen face. I watched as a male tabby cat appeared on the closed end of the coffin. He walked confidently toward Reilly’s head, his tail raised in a question mark. When the cat was half way across the coffin, his gait slowed and his tail twitched nervously. He continued to move forward in a crouched position, until he came to the edge of the opening. The cat stepped gingerly on Reilly’s chest, his head bobbing as he took in the scent of the dead body. He looked up, his mouth open—it was the feline’s way of tasting what he had inhaled. A moment later, he was on the floor, scurrying away. I could see by the fluff of his tail that he had encountered something frightening. I wondered if the brave tabby would spread the news to the others that Reilly had used up his nine lives and was no longer of this earth.

Lora Jean and Frieda gathered behind. “Who is that?” whispered Lora Jean.

“That is what Reilly looked like before you were born,” explained Frieda in a slightly louder whisper.

Lora Jean approached the casket, “What you see is Mr. Heartwood of the late fifties,” I said. “Reilly in his prime.”

“Reilly with hair,” added an uncertain Lora Jean. “I never seen Reilly wear a wig before.”
“Another of Jason Grubb’s bright ideas,” I said.
“God have mercy on us,” said Frieda genuflecting.

I met Frieda’s eyes and like the cat tasting what he couldn’t smell, I saw what I couldn’t hear. “I’m sorry,” I said. “Perhaps I should close the lid.”

Frieda shook her head. “Later.”
I took a deep breath. “Lora Jean, could you show me where you keep the aspirin?”
Lora Jean made a face. “But you know...”

Her protest ended when Frieda touched Reilly’s cheek. LJ turned quickly and walked out. I followed her to the kitchen. “I’m sorry,” said LJ. “I didn’t think about Frieda wanting to be alone with Reilly.”

“You did fine,” I said.

She studied a fingernail for a moment, then asked, “Are you going to sleep in this house with that dead body? I mean, jeze, I couldn’t.”

I swallowed two aspirin. “I’ve slept in places with a lot worse,” I said.

“Prison must really suck,” said LJ. Whether she was referring to me or to her father, or both of us, I wasn’t sure.

I put my glass in the dishwasher, then asked, “Did Reilly ever mention the name Hollinger and why he adopted it as his stage name?”

“God, no,” replied Lora Jean, rolling her eyes.
“I gather I’ve asked a dumb question?”
“The most. I asked Reilly about it once. Chewed my butt out but good.”
“Reilly had a temper?”
“Not usually,” she said.

I could see that the interaction still bothered her, but I persisted. “Do you know why he got so heated?”

“No, and neither did Frieda. He apologized—sort of—but that’s the only time it came up when I was around.” Lora Jean bit her lower lip. “It feels strange to be pissed at someone who’s dead.”

I put my hand under Lora Jean’s chin and lifted her head so that she faced me. “No matter how someone dies, people are always left behind. The dead have what comes next. The living have all the unfinished stuff, like arguments that weren’t settled, things that were never done, words that were never said. When someone kills himself, you can’t help but feel cheated, like he should have said good-bye, or you should have said something. There’s no right or wrong about it. Just feel what you feel, and let it play itself out.” I had just synthesized a few thousand dollars’ worth of therapy into a couple of sentences. I patted her on the cheek and she smiled back at me.

“Thanks,” she said. “I didn’t believe he was dead until I saw him in the coffin.” Her eyes welled up, but she didn’t cry. “I know he liked me. I hope he knew I liked him.” A single tear rolled down her cheek, then dripped onto the floor. “I just didn’t tell him.”

“He liked you very much,” I said, wiping her cheek with my finger.
I handed her a table napkin and she blew her nose.
“Thanks,” she said, then asked hesitantly, “Did someone shoot Mr. Heartwood? I heard you and Doc arguing.”
“I don’t know,” I replied.
“But you’re going to find out? Right? I mean, even if one of Doc’s old friends shot Mr. Heartwood, it doesn’t seem right that he should get away with murder.”
“No. It wouldn’t be right.”

About the author:
I am a retired patent attorney living in Florida with my wife, Sonya, and our feline, Tsuki. I spent most of my life in the Washington, D.C. area. I grew up in McLean, Virginia before the beltway was constructed. Some of my classmates in grade school lived on nearby farms. McLean had a small town feel to it. Gossip spread without the Internet. Party lines were common. Secrets were hard to keep.

When I was in my early thirties, my life pivoted when I was accused of a crime I didn't commit. My defense counsel and I discussed plans for my likely indictment and possible imprisonment. I could expect to be handcuffed and paraded in front of the media. This experience with the so-called justice system ended after a two year ordeal without an indictment and without going to trial. Even so, it could have ended differently. 

Sadly, I will never fully believe that prosecutors, investigators, or the government are as interested in the truth as they are in getting a conviction, an attitude that I share with the semi-fictional Shep Harrington. 

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