Review SEASON OF GLORY
Steeple Hill Books
Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense, E-book 2008
Consider the oleander. The big red, pink and white flowering bushes were long a familiar sight in the center median of highways. Landscape darling, strong root system and low maintenance, what’s not to love? Hmmm. For one thing, every part of an oleander is poisonous.
|photo by David Beaulieu of http://landscaping.about.com|
Never mind that SEASON OF GLORY, a Christmas story by Ron and Janet Benrey, starts with a near-fatal oleander poisoning. The Benreys write cozies and SEASON OF GLORY is one of the most delightful books I’ve read lately.
A tip of the hat here to the Benreys – writers, publishers, teachers. Ron earned degrees in electrical engineering, and law. His first real job was as Electronics Editor of Popular Science magazine. Janet’s degree in Communication was from the
. Her resume includes
executive recruiter, professional photographer, editorial director of a small
press and book publicist. University of Pittsburgh
They author three cozy series: The PIPPA HUNNECHURCH mysteries, the ROYAL TURNBRIDGE WELLS series, and the GLORY,
NORTH CAROLINA series.
They operate Greenbriar Publishing Company, and are frequent presenters at writer’s conferences. Their workshop and writing courses range from copyright law to “First Pages that make Editors Beg for More.”
Even their fiction is instructional. In GRITS AND GLORY an amateur sleuth ponders the four leading motives for murder: “Greed -- murder prompted by love of money or a related form of covetousness; jealousy--murder driven by possessiveness; revenge -- murder to get even; and self-protection -- murder to prevent the revelation of past acts or deeds.”
The Benreys’ strong sense of structure includes a simple check-off list for building a book. It works perfectly for reviewing SEASON OF GLORY. The story unfolds in orderly fashion through these building blocks.
Small town of
Glory, North Carolina. The prologue
opens with a Sunday-afternoon Scottish cream tea at The Scottish Captain Bread
and Breakfast, the town’s popular inn.
*Sharon Pickard, co-hostess of the Sunday tea and head nurse in the ER at
Glory Regional Hospital;
Sharon also chairs the 's Window
Restoration Committee. Glory Community
*Emma Neilson, owner and manager of The Scottish Captain inn.
*Calvin Constable, the inn’s breakfast chef.
*Rafe Neilson, Deputy Chief of:Police, married to Emma Neilson.
*Amanda Turner, a future competitor as new owner of The Robert Burns Inn.
*Andrew Ballantine, tea party guest of honor, from
Asheville, an art
historian and stained glass expert in town to help the Church replace a stained
glass window burned in a fire.
*Dr. Haley Carroll, a guest.
The odd facts presented
Special Agent Tyrone C. Keefe of
North Carolina’s State Bureau of
Investigation, shows up at the ER to question Sharon, an expert in treating
acute cardio-glycoside poisoning.
What she tells him: Every part of an oleander plant is full of heart-stopping toxin. "It's simple to make a lethal infusion by soaking leaves, stems or seeds in boiling water." Oleandrin, the poisonous toxin, often triggers bradydardia, a dangerously low pulse rate.
Ballantine’s life was saved by antidigoxin antibodies, originally developed to treat digitalis overdoses. He was also helped to throw up, and took multiple doses of activated charcoal to absorb the oleandrin left in his system.
Ballantine remembers eating two servings of Strathbogie Mist but Sharon tosses it off, telling him there were no extra servings. For
Ballantine is a case of love at first sight.
Other odd facts emerge in the conflict between Ballantine and the church elders about replacing the ruined stained glass window. The church had five stained glass windows, depicting five of Jesus's best known parables: The Prodigal Son, The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, The Wise and Foolish Builders, and The Pearl of Great Value, which was the window destroyed by fire.
The elders want a different window, not a replica of the original Pearl of Great Value. They claim nobody understands that painting. They are not impressed by the parable quoted in Matthew 13:45-46: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”
Ballantine argues that the five paintings are a series developing a common theological theme. He insists that leaving out one panel destroys the meaning. The elders counter that the fifth painting makes no sense, and the Pearl of Great Value looks like a big baseball sitting on a pedestal. Ballantine takes
to visit a stained glass workshop run by Ballantine’s friend Franny and he asks
Franny to submit a proposal for a new church window.
Details about food and hobbies, etc.
Here’s where this book really shines. The inn’s chef, Calvin Constable, indulges his creative instincts in all kinds of freestyle concoctions. If you can read the details without making multiple trips to the fridge, freezer and stove, “you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.” My favorites:
*Highland Quiche, crustless, made with eggs, cream, Ayrshire bacon, Scottish smoked salmon and Tobermory Cheddaer cheese.
*Dundee Buche de Noel, rolled yellow sponge cake with thick chocolate butter cream frosting.
*Snacks of Glory Benedict, a new breakfast sandwich, made with an oversize English muffin, circular slab of Canadian bacon, a thin omelet and a hefty helping of Hollandaise sauce
Meanwhile, a determined killer has a gift box of poisoned cherry cordials sent to Ballantine. Fortunately he delays eating them until he can share with Sharon, who promptly has them tested.
The puzzle and the triumph of "good" at the end
The puzzle is the unifying message of the fifth stained glass window and in a humorous twist the answer comes unexpectedly from a most unlikely source. The triumph of good happens when a sharp-eyed guest spots the would-be killer trying to slip a cup of poisoned hot chocolate to Ballantine.
The authors include an Epilogue in the form of the newspaper’s coverage of a wedding. Details include lasting images of the men in the wedding party wearing authentic Scottish kilts and a Scottish bagpiper leading the bride and groom down the aisle.
In a postscript the authors address the reader: “If there's a single word we had in mind when we wrote Season of Glory, our fourth novel set in Glory,
North Carolina, that word is
"joy." For my taste I’d say they succeeded admirably.
Ron Benrey died May 14. In partnership with Janet Benrey, his wife of 49 years, he left a fine legacy.