Bay St. Lucy is a sleepy little Gulf Coast community––and that’s the way its residents like it. Most of them generally ignore the monstrous old Robinson mansion that sits in the center of town, until one day, insane old man Robinson dies and leaves the house and its accompanying fortune to the town. The residents are ecstatic and begin planning improved schools and cultural centers.
Local retired school teacher and village elder Nina Bannister is sent to the man’s funeral in New Orleans and to represent Bay St. Lucy at the reading of his will. However, Nina returns from her trip saddened to report that a long lost Robinson relative has appeared to claim the entire inheritance. Almost immediately, the new owner – flamboyant Eve Ivory – arrives and announces her own plans to turn Bay St. Lucy into a extravagant vacation resort, not plans that anyone in this small town like at all and ones that will quickly lead to murder.
Yay! Another amateur detective who is a 'woman of a certain age'. Gotta watch us mature ladies. ;) Sea Change is the first of the 'Nina Banner Mysteries' by T'Gracie and Joe Reese, where we are introduced to Nina and her beloved small town of Bay St. Lucy.
Nina is a widowed, retired school teacher who knows most of Bay St. Lucy's residents because at one time or another, most of them were in her classroom. So she is chosen to represent the town at the reading of the will of one of the town's former residents, who was immensely wealthy. He was kind of an absentee landlord, because as a young boy, he had witnessed the murder of his parents, and never recovered. In the ensuing years, the 'estate' had handled the affairs in town, and as an 'entity' (vs. a person) cared more about collecting rents from the residents and businesses more than keeping up the holdings.
But during the reading of the will, it becomes apparent that the deceased's niece has been found and the town is left out. Eve, the niece, tells Nina that she 'only wants the best for Bay St. Lucy', but Nina doesn't believe her. How can someone who has never set foot someplace blow into town with truckloads of cash and know what a community needs? Well, she would probably meet with residents and make plans. Eve puts on a good show, but she has her own agenda. Her vision for the town does more to line her own pockets than to preserve, protect and improve and the residents are hopping mad.
Once it becomes apparent that the small town residents do not share her vision, Eve turns into Ms. Hyde, which I would surmise is her true character. It's like she cannot conceive that the townsfolk aren't delighted with her scheme. So, she goes the way of all 'bad guys' in cozies. No surprise there, eh?
I love the 'local color' characters in Sea Change. Allana Delafosse is self-anointed queen of all things cultural in Bay St. Lucy. She is elitist and opinionated, but when it comes down to it, she sides with the town against outsiders. Tom Broussard is a famous writer (an former student of Nina's) who has moved back to town, and is a bit of a recluse. These are but two of a book full of the wonderful crazies that make up a small town. (And I'm from a small town so I can say that.)
And Nina? She just plain ROCKS! She is loyal to her friends and knows how to keep a secret. (Who was it that slashed Eve's tires? Hmm?) When Macy is arrested for killing Eve and declares she's innocent, no one believes her - no one but Nina. Nina is a woman you would be lucky to have as a friend - she doesn't just take you into her circle, she takes you into her heart.
If you are a fan of book series, take Nina and Bay St. Lucy into your heart and put the books on your shelves. They show what 'community' is all about. We should all be so lucky.
Retired school teacher Nina Bannister has not been idle in her golden years. Now, this famous resident of Bay St. Lucy, Mississippi, is heeding the call of duty again, by running as a replacement candidate for the U.S. Congress, when the state’s present Representative is killed in a plane crash. To her great surprise, Nina is elected, and––to her even greater surprise––she quickly finds that she is not cut out for the lowly life of a newbie––kowtowing to party leaders. When Nina suggests in an off-hand moment (which is secretly recorded by her staff and uploaded to social media) that the government would be better run by women, a nation-wide revolution begins, and Nina becomes its figurehead. Little does she know, however, that a lone disgruntled man is furious with her actions and intends to get his retribution against Nina and all of her followers. Can Nina bring about true change in Washington? Or will her nemesis bring about her demise before she even has a chance to start? This all happens when Nina Bannister goes to Washington and national politics undergoes a SEX CHANGE.
This is the book that was originally going to be on the tour, when the authors gifted us with the first book as well. So, for those of us new to these authors, we got to see the start of the series and the latest developments!
Due to the death of a long-time Congressional Representative for the area of Bay St. Lucy, Nina is elected as the replacement representative to serve out the rest of the term. It's almost heart-breaking to see newly-elected congresspeople go to Washington so full of zeal and a crusader's energy and then watch as they get chipped, broken and crushed by the political machine. What's good for one area of the country may not fit into the 'party line'.
Nina says something controversial in support of one of her constituents. Normally that might be seen as a brave exercise in the true exercise of a representative's office - speaking up for their region. But the heretofore condescending and calm attitudes of party leadership turn sour and ugly when Nina has the temerity to say something in an interview given to Bay St. Lucy's newspaper that does not foster the 'best interest of the party'.
Part of me wanted to break out page by page in a rant against the politics of the rich and powerful, which generally run counter to those of the rest of us 99 pct. Another part of me wanted to cheer Nina every step of her way, from down South retired schoolteacher to internationally-known Robin Hood of American Politics to internationally-known newsmaker.
So, now that I've read the first and the latest (I say that i/o last because I hope Nina keeps going) Nina Bannister Mystery. I can't wait to read the books that come inbetween. It will be like a wonderful visit with old friends.
Pam (T’Gracie) Britton Reese is an Assistant Professor in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department at Indiana-Purdue University at Fort Wayne. She has published books about autism with LinguiSystems. She enjoys teaching and research, but is never happier than when plotting (with her husband) a new murder, or coming up with ways that Nina Bannister can solve it.
Joe Reese is a novelist, playwright, storyteller, and college teacher. He has published seven novels, several plays, and a number of stories and articles. He and his wife, Pam have three children: Kate, Matthew and Sam.
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(Disclosure: I received a copy of Sea Change and a Sex Change from the authors and publishers via Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.)