Award-winning author Sandra Balzo says she has been fascinated by the idea of a small town that swells into a city during tourist season for several years. And when she visited the High Country in North Carolina — Boone, Banner Elk, Blowing Rock — she knew she’d found the perfect setting for a new mystery series.
The mountains have three distinct tourist seasons: summer, when Southerners visit to escape the heat and humidity; autumn, when the change of leaves draws weekend crowds; and winter, when the skiers take over. Each season has a completely different feel and set of visitors, making for a plentiful supply of not only suspects and motives, but also potential victims beyond the series regulars.
The first book in the Main Street Mysteries series, “Running on Empty,” was a bestseller at Book ‘Em North Carolina. It’s no wonder: Her books have garnered starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, while being recommended to readers of Janet Evanovich, Charlaine Harris, Harlan Coben, Joan Hess and Margaret Maron.
The series is set in the fictional town of Sutherton, which she created by taking a lake she found on a map and relocating it against Sugar Mountain. In “Running on Empty,” police reporter AnnaLise Griggs is called home to Sutherton because her mom, Daisy, accidentally bled-out a donor at the local blood drive. The “accidents,” though, continue and it becomes clear to AnnaLise that it’s up to her to find out if Daisy is indeed the cause, as everyone else seems to believe, or the target.
A former member of the National Board of Directors for the Mystery Writers of America, Sandy and her fiancé, fellow crime writer Jeremiah Healy, split their time between South Florida and North Carolina. Sandra’s trip to Book ‘Em was her first time in Lumberton. She had only one day for touring the area but plans to leave more time when she returns next year.
When Sandra returns to Book ‘Em North Carolina next February, she’ll have the second book in the series, “Dead Ends.” This book will be released this summer; AnnaLise’s past comes home to roost in the persons of her ex-lover and his wife and daughter. As you might guess, somebody has to die.
Sandra will join more than 75 authors, publishers, book promoters and literary agents — as well as Hollywood producer-director-actor Chuck Williams and headliner Mary Alice Monroe, a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, at the second Book ‘Em North Carolina event at Robeson Community College in Lumberton on Feb. 23. The event is free and open to the public and proceeds benefit literary campaigns in Robeson County.
p.m.terrell is the award-winning author of more than 14 books and the co-founder of The Book ‘Em Foundation and co-chair of Book ‘Em North Carolina. Read more about the authors coming to Lumberton at www.bookemnc.org.