If I had to choose one genre to read for the rest of my life, I’d choose mystery. I love true crime tv, podcasts like Serial, and I’ll forever have a special place in my heart for all of Mary Higgins Clark’s formulaic murder mysteries. My husband jokes that he sleeps with one eye open because I have an extensive knowledge of how to kill and get away with it. But seriously– suspenseful, spooky murder mysteries are my jam. I’ve read several great books lately that fit into this category, but this particular book, People Like Us by Dana Mele, still haunts me:
One girl is dead, found drowned in the lake on the grounds of a prestigious, private all-girls school. Unfortunately, Kay Donovan and her friends were the ones to find the dead girl, Jessica Lane, and now Kay is a suspect. Kay’s mean-girl ways combined with her part in the deaths of her brother and best friend don’t work in her favor. To complicate matters, Kay receives an email from Jessica, blackmailing her into ruining the lives of her friends if she wants to clear her own name.
Kay teams up with social outcast Nola whose computer hacking skills may help Kay save her reputation and land the soccer scholarship she’s worked so hard to earn. Their research casts each of the people in Kay’s popular inner circle in terrible light–perpetrators of bullying, cheating, doping and worse–and it’s hard not to judge Kay for her own ruthless behavior and efforts to salvage her own reputation. She is a deeply flawed protagonist.
When additional bodies surface, Kay must face her past transgressions and hope that she can outsmart the killer (or ghost?) before she’s framed for murder.
This is the best mystery book I’ve read in a long time. It’s chilling, and Dana Mele’s characters are fascinatingly messed-up. The ending is a doozie, too. I highly recommend the audiobook.
The Lure of the Lemp
I was almost giddy about the #plotdrivenlife experience I chose for this book: to visit a locally haunted location. In People Like Us, it’s easy to believe Jessica Lane is haunting Kay through the wicked emails Kay receives. I was thrilled to have an excuse to book a ghost tour to a place that is notorious for its gruesome history and world-wide acclaim as a haunted house: the Lemp Mansion.
The Lemp is a foreboding building that sits just a few streets away from the sprawling property occupied by Anheuser Busch-InBev in downtown St. Louis. Mike and I visited the Lemp on an ugly, cold night in November when the house’s main floor was full of murder mystery dinner party guests who seemed to be having the time of their lives. We were there for a paranormal tour of the other floors of the mansion, armed with both a night-vision camera and an EMF (electromagnetic field) detector to hone in on nearby spirits. Before we set out in search of ghosts, we were treated to some Lemp family history and an explanation of why the mansion is believed to be so haunted. Our tour guide from the St. Louis Paranormal Research Society explained that the lavish house was once owned by the Lemp family who made their fortune in beer brewing during the 19th and 20th centuries. Despite their vast fortune and successful business, three Lemp men are believed to have committed suicide in the mansion, and, while official records claim young Elsa Lemp Wright also committed suicide, there is evidence that she was murdered by her husband after returning from their (second) honeymoon. Regardless, the mansion will give you the creeps!
The house has been renovated to mimic how it would have looked during the Lemp’s occupancy, and on a paranormal ghost tour, the hallways and rooms you are exploring are lit with just enough light that you won’t trip, break your neck, and add yourself to the list of household dead. Mike and I stumbled around with others on the tour, eager to locate a ghost with our equipment. Mike swears he caught sight of something with the night-vision camera, but I didn’t have much luck with the EMF detector. Nonetheless, the house feels like it holds dark secrets, and though it’s an option, you would never catch me spending the night! The experience of touring the house motivated me to attend an event at my local library about the mystery surrounding Elsa Lemp Wright’s murder, and I’m chomping at the bit to check out this documentary which is now scheduled to be released in 2020, 100 years after Elsa’s death.
There is so much about the Lemp that I want to explore in more detail: information about the cave system below the house, the mental illness that seemed to curse the family, and the evidence that has earned the house a place on reputable lists of the most haunted places in the USA. Stephen Wright’s book, Lemp: The Haunting History, is a great place to start, if you’re curious like me.
A tour to the Lemp was the perfect #plotdrivenlife experience to match the eerie vibe of People Like Us. What haunted locations have you visited, and would you ever consider staying overnight as a guest at the Lemp?
If you’re looking for a spooky book to read this Halloween, may I suggest The Female of the Species? Author Mindy McGinnis is also responsible for one of my favorite 2017-18 Gateway nominees called A Madness So Discreet; the girl knows how to write an edge-of-your-seat thriller. The Female of the Species is super dark and uncomfortable to read at times, but so worth suffering through the nightmares it will give you. I am thrilled that Mindy will be visiting my school in December to speak to our students!
Alex Craft’s older sister Anna was raped, murdered and dismembered by a local pedophile, and when the the police didn’t have enough evidence to convict him, Alex, a freshman at the time, took matters into her own hands. She carefully and meticulously planned her revenge, and now a senior, Alex has yet to be connected to his death. Alex is a loner, aware that she inherited her father’s viciousness and “feels too much.”
P.K. or “Preacher’s Kid” is in a post-break-up funk. Her longtime boyfriend ditched her for the opportunity to date the hottest girl in school, and P.K. regrets sharing so much of herself with him. She’s a shell when she meets Alex at the local animal shelter where both girls are serving volunteer hours. Though polar opposites, P.K. and Alex develop a bond over the animals they care for.
Jack Fisher is the guy everyone wants to be. Athletic, good-looking, funny and smooth, Jack can have any girl he wants. Jack is inexplicably drawn to Alex, however, different from anyone he’s ever dated. While Jack and Alex’s attraction is mutual and strong, Jack begins to question the depth of Alex’s dark side after she disfigures a man at a party for attempting to take advantage of P.K.
There is plenty of offensive language, violence and discussion of sex in this book, so take note if this will offend you. As I mentioned, this is the second of Mindy McGinnis’ books that I’ve read, and she’s quickly becoming a favorite author. If you don’t mind creepy, this book is a stand out.
This Blog Goes to the Dogs
I mentioned in my first post that I want this blog to serve as a way to lift up people, so there will be no dismembering, body burning or other such grotesque #plotdrivenlife experiences. Wouldn’t that make a fantastic headline? STRANGER THAN FICTION: SCHOOL LIBRARIAN KILLS FOR BETTER BLOG RATINGS. Nope. I do have a super outrageous activity I would be willing to perform for a #plotdrivenlife experience, but it doesn’t involve hurting anyone. Stay tuned! In the meantime, I will keep to doing good in the world, thank-you.
After reading about Alex and P.K.’s love and care for animals at their local animal shelter in Female of the Species, I didn’t hesitate to carry out a #plotdrivenlife experience that benefited two shelters near and dear to my heart. As you may know from my post about my Goodbye Days experience for my recently deceased dog Ben, both Ben and my fifteen year-old Beagle-Chihuahua, Rudy, came from a no-kill animal shelter called Furry Kids Refuge near Lee’s Summit, MO. This shelter is run by a tireless woman named Carla Wing whose love for animals knows no bounds. Carla is like Alex in that they are drawn to the innate good in the spirits of the animals they serve.
My heart: Rudolphus J. Pickles, aka “Rudy”
As I was reading a recent issue of the Furry Kids’ newsletter, I noticed an article about an app called Walk for a Dog. A free download, Walk for a Dog allows you to donate to a chosen shelter simply by walking your dog. In the app, you set an animal shelter you’d like to support, identify a pet you walk (or choose an animal in need) and track the time and distance of any walks you take. I applaud this concept since it allows app users to donate to a shelter while taking part in a healthy activity for both human and pet. This is something everyone could do so easily even once a week. I am choosing to support Furry Kids’ Refuge through the app, and I’ll continue to use the app every time I walk Rudy.
Donating my 11 to 25 cents per mile to Furry Kids!
My handsome walking partners.
The other shelter I chose to support is Five Acres Animal Shelter in St. Charles, MO. I used to volunteer as a dog-walker at this shelter, and several months ago, I noticed they were hosting a virtual 5K race– complete with a medal– as a fundraiser. My friends Lauren and Jackie and I jumped at the chance to challenge ourselves for the good of potential pets! We gathered together on a rainy, cold Sunday at our local Club Fitness and went to work, each running our 3.1 miles at her own pace. It wasn’t pretty, but we lived to tell about it.
Jackie, Me and Lauren sportin’ our 5K medals!
In the name of Alex Craft, I challenge you to help a rescue animal this month. Consider downloading and using the Walk for a Dog app, shopping at Amazon Smile (which benefits a charity of your choice), donating requested items to a shelter, visiting a cat cafe or even picking out your new pet from a shelter vs. a pet store. It’s good Karma.
Here’s a Halloween treat for you: I’ll post again next week!