I’m thrilled to be batting cleanup on Joan Hall’s blog tour for her new release, Menagerie. I can’t tell how much I enjoyed this collection of stories – but you can read all about it in my review below. Give a big welcome to Joan!
Hi, Teri. Thanks so much for hosting me today on this last stop of my book tour. It’s a pleasure to be here to talk about my latest release, Menagerie, a mixed-genre compilation of thirteen short stories. Each stop features a different title and I tell how the story came about. Today, I’ll tell the story behind Mystery Woman. With a title like that, I don’t need to tell the genre.
Stories of the unexplained intrigue me. A favorite TV show from back in the 1980s was Unsolved Mysteries. One of the first episodes told the story of Glen and Bessie Hyde, a newlywed couple who disappeared in 1928 while rafting through Grand Canyon on the Colorado River.
Despite being warned not to continue their trip by noted Grand Canyon photographer Emery Kolb, the couple continued the journey. When they didn’t arrive at their destination, a search party found their abandoned raft, which was actually a wooden scow, along the shores of the river. The raft was intact, and their gear still inside. There was no sign of the couple, and their bodies were never found.
In the early 1970s, a group rafting the river stopped for the night at the location where Glen and Bessie disappeared. An older woman on the trip claimed to be Bessie and stated she killed her husband. The woman later recanted the story.
In Mystery Woman, Nicole Aldridge takes a rafting trip down a fictional river. Among the people in her raft is an older woman named Anna Holloway. Anna is a strange one who tells Nicole conflicting stories. First, she said she’d been on a rafting trip many years earlier. Later, she denied it. She talked about her husband, but Nicole later learns Anna never married. Anna is also obsessed with the story of a couple who drowned while rafting the river in the early 1950s.
A year later, Nicole and Tim Ross, who she also met on the trip, learn some startling information about Anna.
Below is an excerpt.
“Anna, you haven’t told us what you do,” Tim said.
The older woman’s expression softened. “I’m a retired schoolteacher. I turn seventy in a few days.”
A course of birthday wishes followed.
“I’ve never been on a rafting trip, so this is a gift to myself.”
Nicole furrowed her brow. “I thought you told me at lunch you had rafted before.”
“You’re mistaken, dear. I don’t know why you would think that.”
She opened her mouth to reply but let it go. Maybe the woman was forgetful. Might even have early-onset dementia.
After dinner, everyone gathered with the larger group to sit around the campfire. The rhythmic chirr of cicadas, crickets, and other night insects signaled nightfall. A smattering of stars appeared, and a half moon was almost directly overhead. The faint smell of sagebrush, along with smoke from the fire drifted in the breeze as coyotes howled in the distance.
Tim opened a can of beer as he took the seat next to Nicole. “Care for one?”
“No, thanks. I had a couple of glasses of wine at dinner. Any more alcohol and I’ll be down for the count.”
“Never thought I’d have such amenities on a camping trip. Rib eyes. Grilled vegetables.”
“Don’t forget that Dutch oven cake. You were right. This is almost like a luxury cruise.”
Mark Mills rubbed his hands together. “Who’s ready for a ghost story?”
Nicole listened absently as he told of a mysterious light that often appeared on the rim of the canyon. When others chimed in about similar sightings in other parts of the country, she studied those around her, especially Anna Holloway. She couldn’t shake the feeling the older woman was hiding a secret.
King’s. The Tower of London. Glass. What do these have in common?
Each is a famous menagerie.
While this Menagerie doesn’t focus on exotic animals, it does contain a collection of stories that explore various trials people face and how their reactions shape their worlds.
Survivors of a haunted bridge. Women who wait while their husbands fight a war. Former partners reuniting to solve a cold-case murder.
These are just three of the thirteen stories in this compendium, encompassing past and present, natural and supernatural, legend and reality. The genres and timelines are varied, but there’s a little something for everyone who enjoys reading about simpler times and small-town life.
Purchase Link: https://books2read.com/jh-menagerie
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I absolutely adored this collection – every single story. Usually with short story collections there are at least a few that aren’t as interesting or don’t work for me. But that’s not the case here. Maybe it’s because there are thirteen stories and it was released on a Friday 13th – which has always been lucky for me because my son was born on a Friday 13th. Who knows? I’ll try to choose a few that stuck with me longer.
Ghost Bridge – The small town of Clarkston and its citizens completely charmed me. I wanted to join Kate and her dog Dakota on her porch and have a glass of wine. I wanted to sit with them and listen to the clip clop and creaking wooden wheels of the horse and buggy carrying the ghost of Dr. Noah Stoddard across the bridge by her house. The ending was perfection.
Seven Days – Stressed out author Mindy Jarvis spends a week at a friend’s cabin – where there’s no wifi or cell reception. I initially balked at that, thinking there’s no way I could do it. By the end of the story, I was envious of Mindy and wanted to trade places with her for a week. It had me reminiscing simpler times.
Summerwood – Lead guitarist in a popular band, Dylan Grant collapses on stage due to exhaustion. He travels back to his hometown to recover and make some life-changing decisions.
Lone Wolf – Cowboy Jake McLaughlin saves a wolf whose leg is caught in a trap. He has no idea the wolf will repay that kindness. I nearly cried at the end of this heartwarming tale.
This is a fabulous collection of suspense, mystery, and contemporary stories that will appeal to a variety of readers. There’s something for everyone, and I enjoyed it from beginning to end.