Joan Livingston is the author of novels for adult and young readers. Chasing the Case, Redneck’s Revenge, Checking the Traps, Killing the Story, and Working the Beat, published by Darkstroke Books, are the first five books in her Isabel Long Mystery Series, featuring a longtime journalist who becomes an amateur P.I. solving cold cases in rural New England.
She draws upon her own experience as a longtime journalist in Massachusetts and New Mexico to create Isabel Long, a sassy, savvy widow who uses the skills she acquired in the business to solve what appears to be impossible cases. She also relies on her deep knowledge of rural Western Massachusetts, where she lives, to create realistic characters and settings — from country bars (where Isabel works part-time) to a general store’s backroom where gossipy old men meet.
She credits her mother, Algerina — the inspiration for Maria, Isabel Long’s ‘Watson’ — for instilling in her a love of reading and the power of the written word.
New to the game. But that won’t stop her.
How does a woman disappear in a town of a thousand people? That’s a 28-year-old mystery Isabel Long wants to solve.
Isabel has the time to investigate. She just lost her husband and her job as a managing editor of a newspaper. (Yes, it’s been a bad year.) And she’s got a Watson – her 92-year-old mother who lives with her.
To help her case, Isabel takes a job at the local watering hole, so she can get up close and personal with those connected to the mystery.
As a journalist, Isabel never lost a story she chased. Now, as an amateur P.I., she’s not about to lose this case either.
Her next case. She’s in it for good.
Just months after solving her first case, Isabel Long is in a funk. Her relationship with the Rooster Bar’s owner is over. Then the cops insist she must work for a licensed P.I. before going solo.
Encouraged by her ‘Watson’ – her 92-year-old mother – Isabel snaps out of it by hooking up with a P.I. and finding a new case. But it’s not at all clear-cut.
The official ruling is Chet Waters, an ornery so-and-so, was passed out when his house caught fire. His daughter, who inherited his junkyard, believes he was murdered. Topping the list of suspects are dangerous drug-dealing brothers, a rival junkyard owner, and an ex-husband.
Could Waters’ death simply be a case of redneck’s revenge? Isabel is about to find out.
A man’s death. His brother’s doubts. Could it be a case of poetic justice?
Isabel Long is banged up from her last case with a broken collarbone and her arm in a sling. But that doesn’t stop her from pouring beer at the Rooster Bar or taking her third case with Gary Beaumont, a local drug dealer, who once terrorized her. Gary is convinced his half-brother, Cary Moore, didn’t jump off a bridge known as a suicide spot. Somebody pushed him.
Cary was a boozer who drove for a highway crew. But what interests Isabel and her ‘Watson’ — her 93-year-old mother who lives with her — is that the man wrote poetry.
The chief suspects are one of Gary’s business associates and a famous poet who plagiarized his half-brother’s poetry for an award-winning book. Yes, he was that good.
As a journalist, Isabel did regular meetups with her sources for stories. She called it ‘checking the traps.’ She does the same as a private investigator, and this time, she’ll make sure she doesn’t get caught in one.
An accidental death that was no accident…
For the record, Estelle Crane, the gutsy editor of The Observer newspaper, died after a hard fall on ice. But years later, her son discovers a cryptic note hinting her death might not have been an accident after all.
Was Estelle pursuing a big story that put her life in danger?
That’s what Isabel Long — along with her 93-year-old mother, Maria, her ‘Watson’ — agrees to investigate in Dillard, a town whose best days are in the past.
A former journalist, Isabel follows leads and interviews sources, new and familiar. She quickly finds a formidable threat in Police Chief James Hawthorne, who makes it clear Isabel is not welcome in his town — and who warns her against poking her nose into Estelle’s death.
Of course, that’s after Isabel has discovered the chief’s questionable policing and a troubled history with Estelle that goes way back.
Killing the story means dropping it because there aren’t enough facts to back it up. But Isabel won’t make that mistake. She’ll see this one through to the very end.
Can she uncover the plot that led to Estelle’s murder?
Killing the Story is the fourth in the popular Isabel Long Mystery Series.
One mystery that leads to another…
Isabel Long stumbles into her next case at a country fair when she is approached by a woman whose grandson’s body was found there four years earlier.
Shirley Dawes took in Lucas Page after his mother had abandoned him, doing her best after failing to protect her own children from her late husband, a no-good abuser. Shirley’s clearly had a hard life although by what people say, she did a good job raising him.
But on a Saturday night, Lucas Page dies in a ravine behind the fair’s demotion derby, and nobody saw what happened. The official ruling was that he slipped and fell.
Once again, Isabel discovers herself drawn to help a desperate person.
When she’s not pouring beer at the Rooster Bar, Isabel is working the beat, a term from her many years as a journalist. That means following a story to the end — talking with the reliable sources she met in her other cases, uncovering secrets, and meeting people of interest, including a few unsavory characters who quickly become suspects. Plus, she can always count on the sage advice of Maria, her 93-year-old mother, her ‘Watson.’
Along the way Isabel finds compelling evidence that Lucas might have a connection to a string of break-ins in the hilltowns — yet another unsolved mystery. Was Lucas part of a ring of thieves? Or was he trying to do the right thing but died as a result of it?
Isabel soon has her hands full with case number five.