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BETTER OFF READ
A Bookmobile Mystery
BY NORA PAGE
When her best hope of saving her storm-damaged library is found murdered, senior librarian Cleo Watkins hits the road in her bookmobile in search of justice.
Septuagenarian librarian Cleo Watkins won’t be shushed when an upstart young mayor threatens to permanently shelve her tiny town’s storm-damaged library. She takes to her bookmobile, Words on Wheels, to collect allies and rally library support throughout Catalpa Springs, Georgia.
However, Cleo soon rolls into trouble. A major benefactor known for his eccentric DIY projects requests all available books on getting away with murder. He’s no Georgia peach, and Cleo wonders if she should worry about his plans. She knows she should when she discovers him bludgeoned and evidence points to her bestfriend, Mary-Rose Garland.
Sure of Mary-Rose’s innocence, Cleo applies her librarian’s sleuthing skills to the case, assisted by friends, family, and the dapper antiquarian bookseller everyone keeps calling her boyfriend. Evidence stacks up, but a killer is overdue to strike again. With lives and her library on the line, Cleo must shift into high gear to close the book on murder in Better Off Read, the charming Bookmobile series debut by Nora Page.
In all her seventy-five years, Cleo Watkins had never harmed another human being. Not intentionally, and certainly not in anger. Cleo considered herself a proper, well-mannered Southern lady. She’d never harmed a book. Cleo was a librarian.
Now, however, Cleo considered the hardback in her purse. Zen and the Art of School Bus Maintenance had a fine, firm spine. It was compact, perfect for carrying along to appointments . . . and for winging at the man in the plaid purple shorts. Cleo steadied her stance in the overgrown lawn. She rolled her wrist and stretched her elbow. In a younger decade, she’d played South Georgia amateur softball. She bet she still had a good pitch left in her, and there’d be no missing Mayor Jebson “Jeb” Day and his smug, pink cheeks.
Catalpa Springs’ new mayor stood a few yards away, too busy smirking to notice Cleo’s ire. He plucked a dandelion, sun glaring off his prematurely thinning crown. Bermuda shorts revealed more pale leg than Cleo cared to see.
She smoothed her blouse and patted her soft white curls, half-expecting them to be as spiky as her emotions. She turned her mind and gaze to nicer things. The azaleas in the side garden were lovely this spring, flashy magentas against powdery pink crabapples. A cardinal flitted among the blooms. Cleo tried to follow the bird. However, her gaze kept catching on the horrible sight beyond: her beloved library, wounded.
Mayor Day straightened, beheading the dandelion with a flick of his thumb. “Yep,” he said. “Like I was saying, Catalpa Springs has more important needs than a library. I can’t authorize any repairs at present. You understand.”
Cleo most definitely did not understand. She couldn’t comprehend how this man—immature in years and character, not to mention lacking in manners and long pants—could be mayor of her charming town. She didn’t want to understand his words.
“More important?” she said, her drawl lengthened with aghast. “The Catalpa Springs Library is an institution. A historic landmark. A community treasure.” She waved toward the elegant folk Victorian structure, sorrowfully shrouded under blue tarps and wrapped in caution tape.
Several weeks ago a violent storm had brought down the great live oak that had stood beside the library for over a century. The trunk shattered the graceful curved porch. Branches pierced the roof, inviting in rain, hail, and an unhappy possum. The stately wood-paneled reading room suffered a soaking, as did many of its reference materials, including irreplaceable genealogies and local archives.
Cleo had wept at the damage. She could shed a tear now, but reminded herself again of important mercies. The oak had waited until after hours to give up its ghost. No patrons or employees had been present. The possum survived unharmed, as did the bulk of the collection. Only the roof needed fixing. And some soggy reference materials. And the porch and steps and entire east wing and staff room and possibly the electric and floors . . . and, most of all, their mayor’s attitude.
Cleo stood to her full five foot three. “We must repair our library. Why, without a library, what are we?”
Nora Page enjoys rainy weather, the perfect biscuit, and quiet evenings in with her husband and cat. You can often find her in the company of books.
Links to Nora’s website, blog, books, etc.
Better Off Read by Nora Page, published by Crooked Lane Books (May 8, 2018), http://www.crookedlanebooks.com/titles/better-off-read/
Better Off Read is available for order from your favorite local bookstore or online at
Thanks, Nora, for sharing your book with us!
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!