Living with Dora is her daughter Jenny who has come home to lick her wounds after a painful divorce. Their constant visitor, friend, and next door neighbor is the irascible Zoe Zola, a Little Person, who writes big books on famous literary figures. The threesome often enjoy an evening sitting on Dora's front porch shooting the breeze and catching up on Beaver Falls gossip. One evening as they're discussing village affairs a shadowy figure totters down the street in an ankle length old dress, walks up to the little library, and instead of leaving and taking a book just leaves a sheaf of papers.
When Dora checks the little box she discovers hand-written poems. Dora, Jenny, and Zoe are agog over the apparent re-emergence of a celebrated poet. As an act of friendship, Jenny and Zoe visit Horizon Books in Traverse City and select a sampling of current poets and leave the books on Emily's porch. Emily returns the next night to Dora's porch and tells the trio she appreciated the books and needs help. Emily's sister who lived with her for years has run off with a man, and a cousin from Traverse City who dropped off her groceries has unexplainably quit. Would someone do her grocery shopping? Zoe reluctantly volunteers and soon begins to suspect Emily and her self-imposed isolation are even stranger than they appear.
The news of Sutton's appearance back in the world takes Beaver Falls by storm and a poetry reading is set up by the village's lone grand dame and a soldout reading is booked for the Traverse City Opera House. Ah, but the train is about to leave the tracks. A gruesome murder leads back to Beaver Falls, the Beaver Falls reading is just plain weird, and Emily Sutton is moving the needle from eccentric to completely unhinged.
Buzzelli writes with a keen eye for character, sharp wit, clever literary asides, and knows smalltown life in northern Michigan. The pace is leisurely and the plot builds from the quaintly odd to a full-blown novel of terror with a great twist at the end. This is billed as a cozy mystery and I just don't understand the term. What's cozy about a mystery, unless it's where did that darling cat find that ball of soft and fuzzy Alpaca yarn? A third mystery in the series is due out this fall.
She Stopped for Death by Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli. Crooked Lane Books, 2017, $25.99
Then there are the places one never heard about before cracking this book. Like the 2.2 acre Beth Olem Jewish Cemetery, founded in 1860, that is completely surrounded by GM's Poletown Plant. It is open to the public twice a year and visitors must pass through plant security gates. Or, the revelation that one of the last remaining Negro League ballparks in the country can be found in Hamtramck. Attempts are underway to preserve the crumbling structure and turn it into a community park and a monument to the Negro Leagues.
The author doesn't turn a blind eye to Detroit's history of racism and segregation. I'd heard about the 8-mile Wall that a developer built to separate a black neighborhood from a new, lily-white subdivision. But I didn't know that the Federal Housing Administration and the Home Owners Loan Corp. refused to approve loans to the white-only project unless the developer built the wall. It still stands as a memorial to institutional racism and today is decorated with murals.
Also found in the book is Baker's Keyboard Lounge, the world's oldest continuously operated jazz club. Detroit's famous Elmwood Cemetery where the famous and near famous lie in perpetual rest in a cemetery that received accreditation as an arboretum and offers regular tours of its plantings. Also found in the book is a Mortuary Science Museum, the state's largest used and rare bookstore, a parking garage built in a former theater, Detroit's oldest house, Detroit's Jewish bathhouse dating to the 1930s, and St. Anne Catholic Church, the second oldest Catholic parish in the USA.
There are 90 sites in this fascinating book. Each write-up is succinct, informative, and quickly gets to the essence of why the site has been included in the book. Open the book to any page and it's like opening a bag of Better Made Potato Chips (also in the book), you just can't stop diving back into the book or bag.
Secret Detroit: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure by Karen Dybis. Reedy Press, 2018, $20.95