Book Review: Scrapbook of Secrets by Mollie Cox Bryan

Scrapbook of Secrets
Mollie Cox Bryan
Kensington Publishing, February 2012
ISBN 978-0-7582-6631-6
Mass Market Paperback

Cumberland Creek, Virginia—on its surface, a small town like many others, with its charm, friendliness, and sense of safety, but also with some of the drawbacks familiar to newcomers. Annie and Mike moved to this village with their young sons for all the advantages of small-town life but Annie has found it a bit difficult to be accepted because she is an outsider. Add to that her frustrations at having left an investigative journalism career behind and the normal day-to-day feelings of being trapped with the children and Annie is wondering if this move has really been a good idea. An invitation to join a scrapbooking party may just be her mental and emotional salvation.

Unfortunately, the party is canceled at the last moment because the mother of a member of the circle needs emergency surgery to remove the knife someone stuck in her neck. Soon after, reports begin to circulate about the suicide of a young woman who left a husband and four young children. Everyone assumes Maggie Rae was driven to such a desperate and final act of shooting herself by problems in her marriage and her emotional isolation. Then, Annie, Vera and Sheila discover piles of scrapbooking materials dumped on the curb at Maggie Rae’s home the next day, surely the act of a callous husband who doesn’t care. The ladies “rescue” the scrapbooks and decide to complete them for her children and to commemorate her life and, as they do and her secrets begin to come to light, they begin to question whether Maggie Rae did, indeed, take her own life. It doesn’t take long for the police to come to the same conclusion. With more than one potential suspect, how will the real killer be caught and will there be more victims before then? Is there a connection between Maggie Rae’s death and Beatrice’s stabbing?

Scrapbook of Secrets is the debut mystery of author Mollie Cox Bryan and I found it to be charming and entertaining with an edge many cozies don’t have. Suicide is not often a topic of this subgenre and the reasons behind the crimes are also unusual. That makes this a refreshing entry into the heavily populated crafts-related mystery field and, although there are some plot failures including a rather important one regarding the handling of evidence, none are so overwhelming as to interfere with a reader’s appreciation of the story. I enjoyed it very much, especially the characters and the picturesque setting, and will look forward to the next installment in the series.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2012.

Bio

Mollie Cox Bryan is a food writer and cookbook author with a penchant for murder.  Her stories have many forms: cookbooks, articles, essays, poetry and fiction.  Mollie grew up near Pittsburgh, Pa., and attended Point Park University, where she received a B.A. in Journalism and Communications. Her first real job out of college was as a paste-up artist at a small newspaper, where she was allowed to write “on her own time” and she did.

Mollie moved to the Washington, D.C. area, where she held a number of writing jobs, and has written about a diverse array of subjects, such as construction, mathematics education, and life insurance. While working in the editorial field, Mollie began taking poetry classes at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Md. Soon, she was leading local poetry workshops and was selected to participate in the prestigious Jenny McKean Moore Poetry Workshop. Mollie still writes poetry— not as frequently— and believes that her study of poetry informs all of her writing.

In 1999, shortly after the birth of her first daughter, Emma, Mollie and her husband moved to the Shenandoah Valley of Va., where he took a job at the Frontier Culture Museum and she stayed at home to take care of Emma and start a freelancing career.

Website/blog: Http://www.molliecoxbryan.com

Twitter: @molliecoxbryan

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/molliecoxbryanauthor

Email: molliebryan@comcast.net

Published Books

Mrs. Rowe’s Little Book of Southern Pies (Ten Speed/Random House, 2009) The Good Cook Book Club; named one of the best cookbooks of 2009 by Rose Kennedy of All Foods Considered.

Mrs. Rowe’s Restaurant Cookbook: A Lifetime of Recipes from the Shenandoah Valley (Ten Speed Press, 2006)

Unsilenced: the Spirit of Women, Commune-A-Key, 1999.  A poetry and essay compilation.

Honey, I’m Sorry I Killed Your Aquasaurs (and other short essays on the parenting life) E-book on Amazon. This is a compilation of my newspaper column, “Thoroughly Modern Mollie”.

A few publications Mollie’s articles are published in:

Grit, NPR’s Kitchen Window, The Christian Science Monitor, Taste of the South Magazine, Virginia Living, Relish

Currently, Mollie is a restaurant reviewer for the Daily News Leader, Staunton, Va.,  and a frequent contributor for the local NPR-affiliate, WVTF.