Mystery swirls around Eastgate Church. More than murder, but that is big enough, Eastgate Keeps On Singing features the church choir, introducing members as potential murderers! How close are the characters in this Eastgate Cozy Mystery?
If you can imagine how a story can begin ‘abruptly’, then you can picture the setting for Assistant Pastor Carrie Winger Lockwood when her friend, Paula, frantically calls early in the morning.
That phone call interrupts the first serious vacation for Carrie and her husband Dan to the scenic Southwest. As Paula informs Carrie of a murdered man near the organ, the vacation comes to a screeching halt in Santa Fe. Carrie and Dan catch the next flight back to Hazelray, Arkansas with their heads full of questions.
Carrie’s Calling is Strong to Care for the Flock at Eastgate
Carrie Jean Lockwood is assistant pastor at Eastgate Church. From all appearances, she is the ACTIVE pastor. Carrie is dedicated to supporting and protecting her congregation to her own exhaustion. They all love and respect her, but are extremely needy almost all the time. Carrie has long had a call on her life to serve in ministry but was only recently led to devote her career to this service.
Her husband, Dan was an active fireman who was seriously injured and had a difficult fight for his life. Dan is likely always going to be at some level of pain and won’t be fighting fires anymore. He has become a capable ‘house husband’ for Carrie as she watches over Eastgate Church.
Carrie is grateful for Dan’s support as she goes over all the ‘facts’ in her mind and puts her observation aptitude to serious use. Those observations will pay off!
Suspects and Suspectors along with the In-Between
VICTIM: Ira Vanzant’s primary spot in the story revolves around his murder. Someone clobbered him with a broad object and killed him. His nasty attitude has earned him enemies in the choir. Several people fit the suspect profile. Ira is a newly hired choir director, a surprise bit of information for Carrie and an irritation for the congregation. He grew up in Hazelray, but had been away for many years.
SUSPECT: Paula Sue Tinsworthy is a ‘soccer mom’ and member of the choir. In high school, Paula had been a bouncy cheerleader and Ira’s crush. He had been humiliated by her turn-down. Now, a little frazzled and a little plumper, Ira doesn’t seem to recognize her, even addressing her “as the fat lady with the blonde hair.” Could her pride have driven her to kill?
SUSPECT: Theo Rydell apparently got tired of Ira’s temper and extremely long choir practices. Theo told Ira where to get off, then left choir practice, with the other members following close behind. The ‘Unholy Trinity’ of Bertie, Flo and Megs, plus Paula talk about Theo’s temper. But, Carrie has never seen any such tempestuous behavior. Rather, Theo has always been calm, gentle, intelligent and a plain, old farmer who volunteers in the choir. Could he have had a deadly confrontation with Ira?
SUSPECT: Pastor Avery had been the long-time pastor at Eastgate Church. But, he’s gone off the rails over a sexy woman with expensive tastes who makes heavy demands on Pastor’s time. He and wife Debra have secrets. Pastor Avery had arguments with Ira about increasing Ira’s wages. They also argued about expensive improvements that Ira demanded for the choir such as robes and professional music. Pastor and Debra were not in town when Ira was murdered.
SUSPECT: Debra Cornfeld could be the best thing that ever happened to Pastor Avery, or she could be a sexy gold-digger. Her scanty wardrobe is shocking to many in the congregation. Her expensive taste in furniture and personal attire don’t fit with facts the congregation has about Pastor’s income. When Ira was murdered, Debra and Pastor were in Hot Springs for a few days of ‘much needed vacation’ time.
SUSPECT: Melinda Hertz – organist for the choir. Demonstrates and sells pianos at the music store, Hazelray Music and Books. At first, Ira paid a lot of attention to her and Melinda responded to what she perceives as true love. That is until Ira loses patience with her playing and is brutally critical. Did her broken heart drive her to kill?
In-Between: Wilma Hertz, Melinda’s mother is a caricature person – way over the top self-centered. She has Melinda bullied into doing everything for her. Just in case she can’t depend upon Melinda forever, she has her eye on one of the gentlemen of Hazelray as a back-up plan.
SUSPECT: Eugene Phelps – Manager at the Hazelray Music and Books. He has a crush on Melinda and declares that he would take Ira apart if he hurt her. He would have made a better match for Melinda than Ira.
SUSPECT: Maurice Robinett has a good singing voice but is unknown to the other members of the choir. Was he a friend of Ira’s or an enemy? Turns out good old Maurice is what is known as a ‘church hopper’, going from church to church, never particularly satisfied.
In-Between: Mrs. Fraekle is Theo’s widowed neighbor who helps him around the garden and house. She knows that Theo made up the job to help her through grief. She appreciates the activity and the money. Dan and Mrs. Fraekle make friends and she will show him how to preserve tomatoes.
Investigations Go In Circles and Become Tangled
SUSPECTOR: – Bertie Jo Phelan is a diminutive woman with snowy hair and a cheery nature, who would have made a good Mrs. Santa. The best thing in her life was when her abusive husband left her about 10 years ago, even though he also left a mortgage, twelve dogs and little job experience.
SUSPECTOR: – Megs Brown is an all over large woman who had been the girls’ coach at Hazelray High School for many years. Megs, who favors bright red lipstick as her only makeup, is blunt spoken and has no patience for fools.
SUSPECTOR: – Florence “Flo” Milam worked in a local furniture factory until retirement. She is a pessimist. Her current problem with the city involves her water service. She wants the Police chief’s department to fix it because the water department won’t respond.
These three gossipy women, dubbed ‘the unholy trinity’ in Carrie’s mind and private conversations have other issues besides the murder. They aren’t planning to be distracted by their dislike of the new hymnals. They are on a mission to retrieve the old ones or at least some older ones with the good old music in them.
SUSPECTOR: Garry Winger, Hazelray’s chief of police and Carrie’s twin brother. He is as dedicated to his calling as Carrie is to hers! Enjoying an incredible twin bond of love, he is often in competition with Carrie to get to the solution of a mystery. Carrie tries his patience when her efforts are clumsy and get in the way of ‘serious investigation.’ His interrogation process is not as gentle as Carrie’s would be. But sometimes it works better because her gentleness leads to confusion and hurt feelings.
SUSPECTOR: Dan Lockwood was best friends with Garry Winger, Carrie’s twin brother before marrying Carrie. Their romance was delayed because of Garry’s protective attitude over Carrie in High School! The two men remain fast friends. Seriously injured in a fireman incident. Now on disability and acting as house husband so Carrie can devote more time to her calling. Dan enjoys the homemaking process more than one would expect. He and Garry are excited that Dan plans to use his mother’s tasty chili sauce recipe with the tomatoes from Theo and Mrs. Fraekle.
Mysterious Twists and Turns
A deep mystery around Ira Vanzant’s murder, as mysterious as his sudden appearance in Hazelray. Stepping into an invented and cushy job that displays his obnoxious behavior has Carrie and others puzzled beyond wondering who murdered him. With the possible exception of Melinda Hertz, few felt really bad about Ira being gone. His baser schemes were sidetracked before they became reality, though some people did embrace the potential for the schemes to pay off.
Although Carrie’s powers of observation do open for her and she figures out who is guilty before Garry does, she manages to bumble most everything else in her investigations. The story doesn’t take us into to legalities after the murderer is revealed. Perhaps a defending attorney can point out lower degrees of intent or accident or self-defense.
There is a twist I’m not revealing to you about connections with Pastor Avery, Ira and Debra. Eastgate Church won’t be dealing with huge, national scandal, but they will be facing some decisions about staffing. Eastgate Keeps on Singing is a story worth your time and entertainment. There is humor and drama along with the mysteries.
Don’t Miss a Great Author
K.D. McCrite does it again! This talented author can write across genres with a rare elegance. She has a ‘tween’ series, Confessions of April Grace, that speaks to youth and their elders with valuable life lessons.
If I have an issue with Eastgate Keeps on Singing, it would be that the book ended too soon! I hope that indicates this book is a ‘pilot’ and that there will be more in a this Cozy series. There is entertainment potential in the congregation at Eastgate Church!
I don’t judge a book by its cover, EVER! But it is gratifying to come across a cover that makes me happy! I really like the cover on this book along with the story!
I’ve reviewed some of the books K.D. has written for Annie’s Mysteries, including Sweet Sabotage of the Chocolate Shoppe Mysteries. I have reviews for more of these stories in the queue.
If you aren’t reading K.D. McCrite, you are cheating yourself out of some very good books!