Blog Book Tour | “Death Comes” (Book Two of the #WillaCather and Edith Lewis Mysteries) by Sue Hallgarth Such a special treat to continue reading Willa & Edith’s adventures!

Posted Wednesday, 20 December, 2017 by jorielov , , , 1 Comment

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Acquired Book By: I have been hosting for Poetic Book Tours for a few years now, where I am finding myself encouraged to seek out collections of poetry or incredible fiction being published through Small Trade publishers and presses. I have an Indie spirit and mentality as a writer and I appreciate finding authors who are writing creative works through Indie resources as I find Indies have a special spirit about them. It is a joy to work with Poetic Book Tours for their resilience in seeking out voices in Literature which others might overlook and thereby, increasing my own awareness of these beautiful lyrical voices in the craft.

When I realised this was the first ‘book’ in a series, I requested to receive the first book (“On the Rocks”) in order to understand the continuity and flow between the lead characters within the second installment. It is a personal preference of mine to read series ‘in order’ and I was blessed I could start this one at the beginning! I received a complimentary copy of “Death Comes” direct from the publicist of Sue Hallgarth in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I love reading the Willa Cather & Edith Lewis Mysteries:

Edith arrives first – her observational notations on gulls in flight offer a fond glimpse into how I’m not the only one who likes to contemplate our aerial companions! Her perspective also grounds us ‘where’ she is at the moment she’s seen – she’s just off the coast of what is known as ‘Downeast’ Maine – specifically by a city known for it’s grain mustard and a revitalisation of it’s community identity through the Arts: Eastport. To the starboard side of the towne, you will happily see you’re only a stone’s throw from the Fundy Isles and this part of where Edith & Willa’s story is uniquely set. This part of the North Atlantic has it’s own pulse and tone – life is not lived in the same fashion as elsewhere nor does the world touch this part of the world with the same fierce fire. Here, is a place where time is not measured in hours but in how far you’ve come to create a piece you’re working on whilst celebrating the journey you’ve taken to funnel your creativity into something ‘new’. I could ‘see’ Edith here – the heart of a naturalist who appreciates being out-of-doors (but with dirt beneath her feet, not the unease of water) where she can feel one with the harmonic rhythm of the natural world. No wonder she appreciated the art of painting in ‘Plein Air’ fashion!

Edith charmed me and Willa encouraged my inquisitive nature – the two of them have such an ease about their personalities. They find a companionable equality in how where one thinks about something specific, the other is ready for a follow-up remark – they are two minds which sometimes act as one, as most couples tend to claim for themselves. They knew how to get the neighbours to talk about the idle things no one suspects would mean something whilst they kept a steady eye on their own affairs, too. Their sleuthing simply fit into the background of their days; it was a welcome addition but not one which overshadowed their other interests, either! As they continued to seek answers to questions which seemed unending – you started to notice why they thrived outside the city (here: New York City). This community of Grand Manan is as quirky and humbly eccentric as all my favourite small townes in fiction (or IRL).

This was a thinking man’s mystery – the ‘mystery’ in of itself is also unique, because instead of being an isolated incident it’s a piece of a wider puzzle! I like how mysteries take on an enlarged cusp of an area’s secrets – of how whilst the reader has to stay patient to understand the different components of what is being fused together, it’s the manner of how things pull apart and are put back together in proper order which is the most exciting! For me, this mystery was wicked enjoyable if only to draw further insight into understanding the people of Grand Manan and how where they live influences their lives.

The way Hallgarth paints the portrait of the island community rings true of what I know of this area myself – of where neighbours pitch in to help one another and where no one is ever left without assistance for something they’re working on. It’s the opposite of how many townes and cities function on the mainland stateside – where there are clear distinctions and disconnections amongst neighbours and community members; where each are practically living on their own ‘island’ (metaphorically speaking!).

The pace of the narrative is set in such a way to encourage you to sip tea and musefully ponder what your reading – to fully sense and feel this world, whilst allowing Willa and Edith to share the duties for how you navigate it. It’s one of those lovely immersive narratives where you can get lost in the descriptive narrative and feel as if you’ve lived half a moon in this setting. She has given all of us the chance to ‘know’ Willa Cather up close and personal – ahead of reading her stories – of peering into what was important to her and why she felt the legacy she left behind might slip past people who hadn’t realised the point behind her stories. Intuitive readers would notice and see her messages, but to the casual reader? I can see how her narratives might be glossed over for what was readily taken as the truth of what they revealled.

-quoted from my review of On the Rocks

As soon as I returnt back inside the series – I found myself alighting so readily true to where we’d find Willa and Edith, it felt as if no time had elapsed between visitations! I truly love the continuity of this series, but also, the authentic voice Ms Hallgarth has given her characters – they truly feel as if they are the women themselves, recaptured for us to acquaint ourselves directly of their living hours. It is a special treat indeed, to find myself wholly enthused by such an intricately written Cosy Historical Mystery series – but to have the benefit of being able to read the first and second novels in successive order, is simply wicked divine!

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Blog Book Tour | “Death Comes” (Book Two of the #WillaCather and Edith Lewis Mysteries) by Sue Hallgarth Such a special treat to continue reading Willa & Edith’s adventures!Death Comes
Subtitle: A Willa Cather & Edith Lewis Mystery
by Sue Hallgarth
Source: Publicist via Poetic Book Tours

Death Comes gives us another glimpse into the life and work of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and her talented life partner. The year is 1926. Willa and Edith return to Mabel Dodge Luhan’s pink adobe in Taos, New Mexico.

Willa is writing Death Comes for the Archbishop. Edith is sketching Taos Pueblo and hoping for a visit to the nearby D.H. Lawrence ranch. The previous summer they had stumbled onto a woman’s body. Now the headless bodies of two women add to the mystery. Sue Hallgarth presents an intimate portrait of Cather, Lewis, the spectacular New Mexico landscape, and the famous artists and writers Mabel Dodge Luhan gathered in Taos.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Find on Book Browse

ISBN: 9780985520045

Also by this author: On the Rocks,

Also in this series: On the Rocks


Genres: Amateur Detective, Biographical Fiction, Cosy Historical Mystery, Crime Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction


Published by Arbor Farm Press

on 1st October, 2017

Format: Paperback ARC

Pages: 268

Published By: Arbor Farm Press

Available Formats: Paperback & Ebook

The Willa Cather & Edith Lewis Mysteries:

On the Rocks (Willa Cather & Edith Lewis Mysteries) by Sue HallgarthDeath Comes (Willa Cather & Edith Lewis Mysteries) by Sue Hallgarth

Book One: On the Rocks (see also Review)

Book Two: Death Comes

Converse via: #WillaCather and #EdithLewis + #CosyMysteries or #Mysteries

About Sue Hallgarth

Sue Hallgarth

Sue Hallgarth is former English professor. She has written scholarly articles on Willa Cather and Edith Lewis, and Death Comes is her second book of fiction featuring the two of them. Her first book in the series On The Rocks, set in 1929 on the island of Grand Manan in New Brunswick, Canada. She lives in Corrales, New Mexico.

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Why appreciate reading the Appendixes first in regards to this series:

Ms Hallgarth writes wonderfully cosy (refers to the breadth of what she shares) Appendixes for the readers (such as I) who know quite little about her lead characters: Willa Cather & Edith Lewis. In fact, I’ve learnt quite a heap about both women, simply by reading these lovely mysteries by Ms Hallgarth – as one credit to her writerly muse is how well she’s etched them back into the foreground of our minds – of bridging them into our world right now, so wholly true of themselves, you’d wonder why you hadn’t stumbled across them previously! I love when characters are fully realised – dimensionally created and give you such a startling account of ‘who’ they were even if they are being re-imagined by another person’s intuitive thoughts on their behalf.

In this, I appreciate the back section of both novels – there are beautiful notes about whom we’re about to greet inside the stories whilst giving a bit of a back-story upon why the setting and the tone of the current story was selected to be told. For me, it’s an invaluable reference – as although, I have known most of the critically well-known characters ‘by name’ throughout my life, I haven’t yet had the pleasure of joy in reading their collective works or in testing to see if their stories resonate with me as they have the readers before me who’ve found their works stimulatingly brilliant. It is hard to know which writer will attach a fondness in our hearts until we can find their words and ruminate after them ourselves. Therefore, finding D.H. Lawrence is included in this installment, along with the lovely art and writer enclave of Taos; featuring the creative culture ebbing in the background – something felt quite wicked at the jump-start! Almost as if – Willa Cather & Edith Lewis were single-handedly finding all the places in which to travel, retreat or live where a creative economist could not only thrive but find peace of mind to create. Theirs had to be an interesting travelogue of memories – of people, places and points of reference for how art & literature was fuelled by the voices of their day.

Ms Hallgarth also tips her hat towards letting her readers know of her writing process – of how she’s become attached to her characters and how the real-life persons whose inspired her left behind a tome of inspiration for her to discover. It’s a lovely progression of how crafting stories is a thoughtful and mindful progression of listening to your own intuition and letting your writing take on an organic flow of narrative which befits the story-lines your writing. She also mentioned why the settings are being selected as they are per each installment of the series (this was something I asked of her for my forthcoming  interview) – whilst noting why Willa & Edith preferred Grand Manan over Taos; in this regard, I agree with their choice: the Fundy Isles sound much more akin to the kind of respite from social life they were hoping to find rather than another queue of engagements Taos would have provided.

My Review of death comes:

I have felt as Edith has – where you stumble across a place set just outside the space of what you expect – of where colour and splendor co-merge into this ‘experience’ of place like you’ve not yet known could exist. Even the crispness of the air, I can relate too – as you travel, you discover remarkable places hidden in ordinary locales – within those places, you can find the remarkable awaiting you. You simply have to be willing to get there first and see what is already awaiting your eyes to feast on the horizon. Even now, I muse, I will remain close to Edith – there is something quite telling in how she fuses her internalisations and murmurings of thought into how she interprets her ‘moments’. She has a way of observing the world round her in such a way to have the environs affect her – by instilling a clue towards what sets this moment apart from the rest of the moments yet to come. I must admit, reading her passages is a true joy because it’s following in the steps of a seeker whose attune to the mysteries of life. Her artist perceptive analyses are equally enjoyable.

As I was reading over the travels Edith & Willa were recounting to John Dunn – I remembered how I had a lovely conversation with a Zuni artist at a Native American Arts & Crafts Faire when I was a child – she encouraged me to have one of the Zuni medicine bottles she had made. I never forgot her, or her quiet wisdom either. I have been blessed with conversations with Native Americans throughout my life – from different tribes and backgrounds, all of whom were either artists, artisans or writers. Somehow I have always felt ‘creatives’ find each other – as surely it has been true for me. My Mum peppered my childhood with retold tales of her travels through the Southwest – tucking into this installment was delightful for having had a precursory knowledge of the locales being mentioned and the native cultures therein.

Edith and Willa have a weight hovering on their shoulders about a mysterious death the previous Summer – one which no one seemed too eager to solve. This death has kept with them throughout the year, now returning to where they once found a body carelessly disposed of – they find themselves caught between the toils of injustice and the rightful purpose of seeking answers to a question no one else thought to ask: how could someone die unexpectedly like this without someone asking who they had been whilst alive? Both women had a strong fortitude for rightful duty – even if they had to carry the load of burden themselves, the guilt of doing ‘nothing’ on this woman’s behalf is what was needling Edith now.

It was touching how the protective shield Edith tried to keep round Willa’s shoulders was examined – of how Willa simply wanted to know readers were reading her stories without the admiration reaching her ears – whilst Edith tried to sort out if she had a need to worry over someone’s praise on Willa’s behalf and finding, much to her relief there were small moments of relief, where Willa was good natured about such things. It showed Edith’s dedication to respect her wishes but also, how she hoped Willa could enjoy some of the praise sent her way if the praise blessedly wasn’t heavy handed when delivered.

As Hallgarth pulled back the layers on what was happening in Taos – in regards to the lack of preservation of the land and the natural beauty of the region, we saw Taos through the eyes of a man (Spud) who hadn’t quite known what he would find here in a place he felt not only gave him breathing-space but a renewal of hope for how to live his life without the confines of regular society. It was a place you could unwind your mind – similar in vein to Grand Manan (as previously disclosed in ‘On the Rocks’) but with the added benefit of being wrapped inside the cultural traditions of the Southwest. The undercurrent of this artistic and writerly haven were elements of crime and of the complexities of unearthing motive when the reasons behind a crime remain elusively hidden from view. It was Spud’s earnest appeal to his own conscience which re-sets the tone of how this particular stop in Edith & Willa’s travelogue isn’t absent of societal prejudices and how lives can become reduced in their worth when others fear to stand for the rights everyone has as a whole. It’s an interesting backbone to the the story – as it tucks into the heady subjects not oft broached but aptly in-tune with History.

You also get an intimate observation of the Anglo and Pueblo relations during this part of the early 20th Century where tensions were sometimes not avoidable if people tried to cross through cultural divides the communities were not yet prepared to handle. In this, Mabel and her husband Tony stood out – as they were attempting to unite their cultural heritage at a time when this was tolerated but only just so. The lands were not as secure as they once were for the Indians and the rate of progress moving through Northern New Mexico was not keeping in step with the locals who called this area their beloved home. The toils of progress are neverending – especially environmentally where polluters and industries can overtake common sense – in this instance though, it had more to do with protecting the lives who lived here and allowing them to carry on with their cultural heritage. This was an area thriving with Mexican and Native American culture – whose lives were at risk and (one) of the mysteries inside this story is to root out ‘why’. There is also an under-thread focus about human trafficking and the dangers to women who are removed from their homes by the hands of those who seek to make a profit on their behalf. I’ve seen critical episodes in tv series dealing with Criminology on this subject but each time I see the situations re-examined my heart feels heavier somehow, as no one should have to endure this in their lives.

The fuller scope of this story deals with how women are treated by men and how the rights for women are being affected by the ills of the men who wish them harm. There are a lot of undertones in the narrative which fit well with the current topical discussions happening in our contemporary world – of where women are just realising their voices no longer have to remain silent and there is strength in numbers. Similarly, Hallgarth presents both sides – the darker tone of what isn’t kosher and the characters herein who are attempting to understand things in their own way. You can see the war of thoughts plaguing Adam in particular – he was unexpectedly placed front and center into the trafficking when he saved Maria. It didn’t take long for him to protect her or care about her well-being – being of different backgrounds, linguistically they were worlds apart, but Hallgarth shows how kindness and sympathy for others can lend interesting insight into how to circumvent language barriers! Adam and Maria found a way to communicate but not through a mutually known language – rather, they learnt to read each other through gestures, emotions and even, the tone of their inflections as they spoke.

As I haven’t yet had the joy of reading Willa’s novels, I appreciated the break-down of how her stories bent into universal truths and the understanding of how the mind and heart grieves their losses whilst finding the will to move forward after tragedy. Hallgarth gives a strong intuitive interpretation on behalf of Willa’s stories – she let’s you see past the world Willa created for you to read in order to follow what inspired the stories themselves – a purview of Willa’s own mind. She has found a beautiful balance of creating this rhythm of Willa & Edith’s lives – of how their lives were rhythmically attached to Willa’s writing pursuits and how, they created their own artful insight into what they needed to do per season. They lived their lives to an accord which suited their interests but also, the well-being of taking respites away from the general public. They knew what they needed and acted to ensure they remained healthy – in both mind and spirit.

Edith and Willa were curious intellectuals as well – they liked to lay pensive on topics others might shy away from if only to seek an resolve in the end which would benefit the curiosity which led to the discussion. Oft-times you can hear them musing about things which might not have a ready response but of which, implored them to seek understanding. They were also open-minded about everything – from lifestyles to distinct passages of history where bigger events were happening in the background of their lives. They never shied away from talking about something important or of finding a way to lend their voice and attention to a cause they supported – all of this is deftly ascribed through their personalities and character composites by Hallgarth whose embedded such a wholly true impression of them within these stories as to give you a tangible reading about who the women were in life.

I wasn’t sure where to begin my readings of Willa Cather – however, after reading the notations about what inspired O, Pioneers and My Antonia (the Triangle Fire in Washington Square – a day in history I know quite well due to Meredith Tax’s novel) – I shall start with these as I would like to move past Tax’s novel which was guttingly realistic and overwhelmingly accurate as far as what she conveyed about humanity and the will of surviving circumstances outside of your own control.

For this, is one of the best reasons why to read this series – of drawing closer to the women themselves – of finding yourself in sync with Edith & Willa; whilst feeling inspired to re-take up from whence you left off and read the passages of thought Willa herself left for us to enjoy. I have Ms Hallgarth to thank for this and as my mind wanders about where we shall find the girls’ next – I hope I can read these two stories by Willa ahead of the third installment’s release.

On the Cosy Mystery writing styling of Sue Hallgarth:

Being able to read these two novels back to back has been a special treat for me – they provided me with hours of enjoyment – tucking into the lives of Willa & Edith as if they were long lost best friends rather than strangers I’ve only just had the pleasure of greeting into my life. Ms Hallgarth channels their spirits to such a degree of capture, you truly feel their spirits reach you through her narratives. It is also a credit to her, whose research has bridged such a great gap between what we know of them and what ‘could have been’ – these mysteries feel plausible – as if their not just literary theory but they could have been (real) living adventures both of these women would have enjoyed encountering. There is an introspective intuitiveness threading throughout the series – each installment builds upon the last, giving you a lovely tome of insight and joy to fill your hours.

I especially love how the stories are stylised too – of keeping the photographs sprinkled throughout the story-line, of rooting us to what they are observing (as seen through said photographs) but also, in how the stories are paced. There is an ease of approach I first felt in ‘On the Rocks’ being carried through ‘Death Comes’; you can ascertain this is a subject close to the heart of Ms Hallgarth’s own joy – the stories not only leave her curious to find a way to tell, but for us, who are reading them – we were left with a fierce appetite for ‘more’.

There is a long history of injustices in the Southwest – especially in regards to Native American lands, rights and culture. Not one to turn away from highlighting history’s truths, Ms Hallgarth addresses a lot of what I learnt of myself when I was a child listening to my mother’s stories. I learnt a bit more in school but mostly, I held onto my own beliefs (and those of my family) for keeping my heart open to how our differences are never meant to divide us; despite the work of some who believe they should. I have appreciated Native American culture, heritage, religion and traditions since I grew up in a family who celebrated learning about different cultural backgrounds. Therefore, I knew immediately why Edith and Willa were being dearly affected by the inaction on behalf of the deceased woman who was dismissed solely due to her cultural identity. This part of their story is reflective of how even in the light of intense prejudice, we must continue to shine a light of hope on tolerance and acceptance. Of finding the middle ground and the way towards true progress in the acceptance of all persons whose lives are different from our own but of whom deserve our respect all the same.

A note about Mabel:

One of my happy discoveries reading Biographical Historical Fiction pieces is being able to ‘meet & greet’ new living persons I haven’t yet stumbled across myself – similarly, to why I love watching TCM (Turner Classic Movies) because for each ‘new’ to me Classic film actor or actress, I get a wonderful mirth of films and roles to seek out on their behalf – almost as if those films were just released and I am caught up in the moment those roles were first known to film enthusiasts. Herein, one character I took to liking quite immediately was Mabel! She was beyond ahead of her time and it’s how she chose to see life and live her life which impacted me the most because she was quite the remarkable woman! (see also Wikipedia)

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Reader Interactive Question:

I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary! Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who picked up the same story to read.

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “On the Rocks” and “Death Comes””, book synopsis, author biography, and the tour badge were all by Poetic Book Tours and used with permission. Tweets embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review Banner using Unsplash.com (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna  and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2017.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • 2017 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Wednesday, 20 December, 2017 by jorielov in #JorieLovesIndies, 20th Century, Amateur Detective, Apothecary, Art, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Bootleggers & Smugglers, Canada, Canadian Maritimes, Compassion & Acceptance of Differences, Cosy Historical Mystery, Creative Arts, Crime Fiction, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Edith Lewis, Equality In Literature, Fundy Isles, Historical Fiction, Indie Author, Inspired By Author OR Book, Inspired by Stories, LGBTTQPlus Fiction | Non-Fiction, Literary Fiction, Naturopathic Medicine, Poetic Book Tours, Seclusion in the Natural World, Sisterhood friendships, Small Towne Fiction, Social Change, the Nineteen Hundreds, the Roaring Twenties, Village Life, Walking & Hiking Trails, Willa Cather, Women's Rights




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