I’m excited to get to be a part of Celebrate Lit’s blog tour for Manuscript for Murder, the first book in Chautona Havig’s Hartfield Mysteries, a series I have really enjoyed thus far! (You can see my review of book four and the series to that point here.)
Since this tour post is quite long, I’m going to do things a bit differently and give you my short review right up front. Before I even give you the details about the book! How’s that for shaking things up a bit?
Mommynificent’s Review of Manuscript for Murder
This is an entertaining, clean read with a well-formulated plot and engaging, eccentric characters. I just finished reading it for the second time. My first time was about three years ago. I found it stood up to the re-read test and I enjoyed it just as much – probably even more – even though I already knew “whodunnit.” There’s a lot of nuance in the descriptions and dialogue that I missed the first time because I was so absorbed in figuring out the mystery! I thoroughly enjoyed this time through so even if you’ve read this one before, I highly recommend you pick it up again.
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About the Book
Book title: Manuscript for Murder
Author: Chautona Havig
Series: The Hartfield Mysteries, Book 1
Release date: October 13, 2012
Alexa Hartfield. Author, local celebrity, fashion connoisseur. She chose Fairbury for its close proximity to Rockland, its small town atmosphere, and its low crime rate.
Then someone made her life a literary cliché.
A mysterious accident with a light bulb sparked an interesting idea for her latest novel—and for Fairbury’s new serial killer. The first replication infuriated her. The second left an even worse taste in her mouth. The third blasted more than her self-confidence, and the fourth beat her down so far she’s considering giving up writing completely.
Who is killing Fairbury’s citizens, and furthermore, why and how are they using her novels to do it?
About the Author
Chautona Havig lives and writes in California’s Mojave Desert with her husbnd and five of her nine children. Through her novels, she hopes to encourage Christians in their walk with Jesus.
Guest Post from Chautona Havig
How Arrows & My Obsession with Vintage Clothes Inspired Murder
A swath of fabric cut across my bedroom at an odd angle but that angle ensured that I could stretch it all out. With painstaking precision, I pinned every last piece to the fabric, disgusted at the enormous waste stretching out before me.
The pattern called for three and a half yards. I’d crammed it into two at most.
Just as I picked up the scissors for the first cut, Mom popped her head in the door to see how I was doing. I pointed out the waste. “Grandma said patterns always told you to buy way too much, but I’ve got enough to make another dress!”
Mom stepped closer. I want to say a cigarette hung from her lips, but let’s face it. No way would Mom ever allow the ashes to drop on the carpet. But it felt like one was there, nonetheless. Mom pointed. “Chautona, I don’t know anything about sewing, but I think those arrows are there for a reason.”
And with that, she turned away.
I stared down at the pattern. My arrows zig-zagged all over the place. A glance at the directions showed all arrows going exactly the same direction. Straight up and down the fabric.
You know, if I’d been doing this for the first time in 2017, I could have just zipped on over to “the Google,” as Mom calls it, and looked up why. Instead, I grabbed a thick sewing manual I’d bought for a buck at Pick-N-Save and flipped through it until I found a section on laying out patterns.
A couple of minutes later, I flew down the stairs. “The book says that the long, smooth edges are called selvages. The arrows are supposed to run parallel or the dress might hang wonky.”
Here, I can guarantee Mom took a puff of that cigarette. Man, I hated those things. “Well, like I said. I don’t know anything about sewing, but they looked important.” She blew a puff of smoke.
That’s when I suspected that Mom knew more about sewing than she’d let on.
What does this little sewing lesson have to do with mysteries and murder?
Well, see. This was a test dress. I’d only decided to learn to sew because I’d also decided that I wanted Nancy Drew’s wardrobe. In 1982, you couldn’t buy trim, neat clothing from the 50’s. I had Gunne Sax skirts and preppy tops with ruffles that my parents hated. When they found out I wanted a sewing machine to make clothes like that, they got me one.
Yep. I cut my reading teeth on Nancy Drew and didn’t stop there. I read all the youth mysteries—Bobsey Twins, Trixie Belden, Hardy Boys, Meg Duncan (she was a fave, too), and when I got a little older, Phyllis Whitney.
I loved the challenge of seeing events play out—and figuring out why. Why told me who. You get to where you can figure out things rather easily. But if you make me doubt my ideas, that’s good enough. I love that.
Is it any wonder that one of the first books I conceived was a mystery? I’d never put the ideas together until I began working on this post, but really… is it any wonder that I gave that author a love of vintage fashion? Too funny. But those arrows on that pattern? They taught me pretty cool lessons as a kid. Like Mom said:
“Those arrows are there for a reason.”
Isn’t that what God’s directional arrows in His Word are like? They’re there for a reason. They keep us from getting all wonky. It’s why Alexa writes the kind of books she does. I never could, but as she says when she describes telling someone why she writes horror/suspense,
“I tried to describe a world where we never see justice—where sin surrounds us, but the only response we see is a sweet romance or a heartwarming tale of doing good to our neighbors… And God is a God of more than love and mercy. [He’s also a God of] justice.”
Alexa writes what she does to help people sort out those crossed arrows and see that there is a point to it all—that eventually justice and mercy converge paths into one rather than criss-crossing all over the place, trampling each other. She doesn’t write Christian fiction, but I don’t know how a Christian can write fiction without some part of faith shining through. In Alexa’s, and I hope in mine as well, there’s an overarching theme that illustrates that the Lord hasn’t forgotten the people He created.
July 25: A Baker’s Perspective
July 25: Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations
July 26: Book Reviews From an Avid Reader
July 27: The Fizzy Pop Collection
July 28: Bigreadersite
July 29: Avid Reader Book Reviews
July 30: A Reader’s Brain
July 31: Blogging With Carol
August 1: Mommynificent
August 2: Moments Dipped in Ink
August 3: Carpe Diem
August 4: With a Joyful Noise
August 4: A Simply Enchanted Life
August 5: Lots of Helpers
August 5: Christian Bookaholic
August 6: Kat’s Corner Books
August 6: Southern Gal Loves to Read
August 7: Karen Sue Hadley
August 7: Blossoms and Blessings
In honor of her Manuscript for Murder Celebration Tour, Chautona is giving away a mystery prize package worth over $100. Enter here: https://promosimple.com/ps/bc16
Would you like to know what’s in it? To find the first clue, click on the giveaway image above. This will take you over to Chautona’s website to begin the search for clues and you might find a special giveaway just for clue hunters! Can you find all the clues before Augusta Septimus does? Good luck!