A Method to Madness: My review

A Method to Madness: Judith White


Can the appearance of a rich client change your life? Sam Flanagan became a private detective after leaving the police force under difficult circumstances. The year is 1943 and the war has not ended and jobs are scarce and the economy poor. Just when he’s about to chuck it in for the day out of nowhere enters Phyllis Killburn, rich, smart and definitely deceptive in many ways hiring him to follow her philandering husband Edwin Kilburn. Phyllis is the daughter of tire-tycoon Alden Whitaker. With the help of an old newspaper named Harry he hopes to uncover information about his client and her husband. A news article from 1941 provides information about the wedding and several photos that accompany the article would help identify her husband and her father. But, in the wedding announcement she is listed as Phyllis Calvert why?

Staring at Edwin’s photo, assessing him just from his looks both Sam and Harry wonder what he saw in Phyllis and why not go for someone younger? Uncovered is her past marriage explaining the last name and more direct thinking this new husband was just out for her money. So, why did she purchase a gun after leaving Sam’s office? Why did Sam need one for protection?


Meeting the editor of the Chicago Tribune Harry introduces Sam as a reporter from Detroit enabling him to have access to information a press pass and more. Added in as they leave the Tribune they see his client with her bodyguard who just happens to be the same man that he met on the plane ride to Chicago. Just what was Phyllis ranting about and why was she there? Why would Edwin marry someone 20 years his senior? Enlightened by the editor of the Tribune about Edwin and many other facts he learns something about his past and Phyllis too. A father that dominated her life and would not allow her to live it her way or stay married to a man he disapproved of. Divorce was not difficult for her first husband as the payoff was better than the marriage. Enter Edwin for all appearances seems happy with Phyllis but just what is really behind her hiring Sam and this reviewer feels there is much more to her that has not been revealed. But, the plot becomes more intense as Sam decides to follow some leads and learn more about Edwin from several sources. Added in Phyllis summons him to her house to discuss Edwin and implies that he might be trying to eliminate her even though everyone else seems to think he is a great guy.


Author Judy White takes the reader back to Chicago when Capone ruled the streets, mobsters were commonly seen in bars and the war was still on the rise as Churchill and Roosevelt met for the first time when an American President flew overseas. Learning more about Henry Ford and his relationship with Phyllis’s father helps the reader know just what kind of a man Adrian Whitaker was and why his daughter might just be as ruthless. All evidence points to the fact that Edwin is definitely up to something and that he might have been involved with the military. Just what his secret is has not been revealed. With money as no object she hired Sam to dig deep into Edwin’s activities and hopefully with Harry Blevins and his ties to the tribune he might succeed. But, living with his grandmother is a challenge and she often forgets where she is and who Sam is when he calls her.


Enter into the mix Mary the cook and Brigitte the maid who Sam shares some tea with and learns more about an argument between Phyllis and her husband. Tailing him he finds him in the embrace of a young nurse seeming to comfort her. When questioning the owner of a diner that she and Edwin frequent he provides Sam with a first name and nothing more. As things heat up and the tension mounts and the frame of the puzzle starts to fill in some of the missing pieces but the final picture is not complete. A dinner party would change it all as Sam meets many of Phyllis’s friends, the discuss focuses on the war and Patton and then he breaks the news to her about the other woman named Corinne. But, what happens next you just won’t expect as Edwin is seated on the couch and when Brigitte screams what everyone sees will stun them. Someone or something killed Edwin but the reason too soon to tell as the guests react in different ways. From Dr. Harrell and his wife Enid whose expression is cold and unfeeling to the many of the guests who seem more concerned with having another spot of coffee or a drink, you begin to wonder whether anyone cares about the deceased except his wife, Mary and Brigitte. When the police arrive the questions begin but just what are the answers and why would anyone take out Edwin at a dinner party in the plain sight of many witnesses? But the author creates a twist you won’t see coming as the police divulge something about the murder that is not quite what you expect. A martini glass that Edwin drank from with the rim covered in lipstick and the liquid poisoned. Just whom did the glass really belong to and who was meant to die if not Edwin? But, Sam is smart and although he is now back home his thoughts are still with Myra and Harry in Chicago and he can’t seem to shake that he is missing something about Edwin’s death.


But, Sam would not give up and when his grandmother mentions something in passing about Phyllis things start to fit into place and with Sam’s help the real motive for murder and the killer is revealed. Edwin worked with the military to help vets in need of therapy. Just why the killer wanted him dead you have to find out for yourself. How it all comes together so brilliantly is the work and writing skill of author Judith White that keeps you in suspense until the very last chapters when she reveals the truth. Lies, deceits, deceptions and one clever killer that things he/she might get away with it. Sam Flanagan is one great private detective and everyone knows the author has more cases for this man. Throughout the novel you hear the inner most thoughts of Sam told in the first person as he takes you through the case step by step, introduces you the his grandmother who might seem like she rambling but if you listen closely her method of madness just might be totally sane.

Fran Lewis: reviewer

Falling Women and other short stories

Falling Women and other stories: Ellen Herbert



Survival is something many people struggle with each and every day. Childhood nightmares and memories come haunting our thoughts when adversity strikes as adults and often linger in our hearts and minds forever. Lucy and her sister are about to embark on a trip that would change their lives and perspective on life forever. Parents that are arguing, lives that are being disrupted Falling Women and other stories begins with the story of two sisters Lucy and Vera whose parents decide to send them away with their Uncle and Aunt until their problems can be worked out. But, what happens to these two girls will bind them closer together as the trip proves difficult, the end result almost tragic. Allowing children to swim in a pool unattended is dangerous and what happens when both girls decide to swim in the hotel pool will haunt Vera forever and cement her fear of drowning. Ten-year-olds fears linger on as she relates what happened to her and her sister and some important tips when you see someone that appears to be drowning. Survival, some will do anything to make sure they do and risk their lives for someone they love. The second story is titled When the Forsythia Blooms and focuses on the tragic life of one woman whose husband wants to place her in a mental institution. Marla drinks and is often drunk. Thurman, her husband has it all worked out to put her someplace where she can no longer do harm to herself or be in his way. But, Thurman’s untimely death would change things radically for Marla and her close friend and maid Olivia would be there every step of the way to help her survive the evils she inflicts on herself. Life can create many obstacles but when we cause them ourselves who is to blame?


As we hear Marla’s voice and learn more about her life we realize that when Thurman died she made some drastic changes in her appearance and her life. The author allows the reader to hear Marla’s thoughts about her early life with Thurman, the funeral and her new lease on life. A new man in her life and she begins to flourish. But, when the final decision is made as to whether to start a new life with him you will be surprised at what Marla does as her faithful and true friend Olivia stands by her side.

Higher Ed is an interesting story that focuses on a family where the father does not want his children to go to college. Two sons that disappointed him and a daughter that was accepted to Medical School on the promise that she would land a rich man. When things do not turn out, as he wants her mother creates an illusion to keep him silent. Just how this plays out and will her father agree to pay for the rest of her education you won’t learn until you read Higher Ed. An ending you won’t believe and a mother who you will admire and much more. Just what does Luella do to make sure her daughter becomes a doctor? Just how does her plan help her too? This story you have to read for yourself and find out just how far a mother will go for her child.  The Calling and Jazzland are the next two stories followed by The Yellow Sneakers. Braxton, North Carolina might be a fictional town the people whose voices you hear in each of these stories are no different than the ones in the cities or towns where you live. As Marla fights were way to the top and rids herself of being an alcoholic and another story is told about Vietnam and Iraq. The people living here fight the same demons and have the same nightmares we all do and struggle to live each day just to survive or find their way back to families with the help of some good friends and family members.


A mother just wants to reconnect with her son after placing him in foster care. Spending time with him becomes difficult as Danny withdraws more, seems to recent having his mother around and ignores her when she comes to spend time with him. An evening out where she takes him to a basketball game and feels out of place. Imagine your mother wearing bright yellow sneakers to attend a game with your favorite team playing and still not wanting to be seen with her. A foster family that adores him and that he adores. A better life than she can give him Lisa is not formally estranged from her son but it seems like it. Entering the stadium and handing over her tickets she is stopped by someone at the gate. Unsure of why she is surprised to be asked to participate in a shooting contest for prizes and one thousand dollars to the winner. Not wanting to embarrass her son but with some encouragement from him she agrees. But, the events of the game do not bring her any closer to Danny and one simple act of kindness does not bring them any closer. Placing him in foster care was meant to give him a better life and education than he would have living with her. Working for Verizon was good but Lisa still wanted more of a relationship with Danny. When her turn comes to shoot you won’t believe what happens and you need to find out what Danny does. Sometimes the simplest things and one simple act can change things for two people.


Falling Women is the signature story in this outstanding collection of short stories. Two sisters Fran and ML close at one time and almost inseparable but life takes its toll on both of them and one wrong doing or mistake will not only tear them apart but ostracize one sister in the eyes of the town of Braxton. Braxton is a cold and hard place to live. Gossip often overtakes truths and people are judged by their actions, monetary status and morals. As we meet the two sisters we learn that both have high hopes of going to college but need to work and get extra money in order to afford the tuition. Losing their mother at an early age and with their father working two jobs to support them, these girls are sheltered in some respects but not in others. Both girls are often called upon to babysit. ML handles the job one way but Fran seems to lift or take things home that interests her to share with ML. Books, love letters and other written things are what she pilfers and then returns. But, when she lifts a book that she finds under the bed of the new head of the bank and his wife catches her placing it in the pile of children’s books no one trusts her anymore and she is banned from sitting with any child in Braxton. Two sisters close, loyal living in the same house yet different. Braxton is an unforgiving town and this one misshape or mistake made her town pariah. Then, something changes it all as she gets a job in the library and befriends the head librarian. Fran goes to college and graduates and then returns home to find out that her sister is having an affair with Mr. Rose the same man whose wife caught her with the porn book.  But, sometimes things change when you least expect them to and Mrs. Bledsoe requests that Fran sit for her and that’s when she meets Oliver. Two wandering children finding their way outside when she’s not looking and she meets who she thinks is the man of her dreams a soldier returning from Vietnam who is the son of a dignitary and she marries him putting her up on a huge pedestal in the eyes of the town. But, like the title says: Falling Women and they do sink or fall down as Oliver and Fran part ways when he finds someone else and the town drops her down to a lower status and ML is considered a harlot you might say as she marries this man whose family would rather not know her. The Hurdlers and the Prodigal Pirates are the next two stories followed by the Goalkeepers. Parents sometimes think that what they do will have no effect on their children. Kevin is a young boy who is smart and is living with his Aunt Mimi. His mother Lydia left him three years before. As the author allows the reader to briefly get to know Lydia you wonder why she would ever leave this amazing young man. Wanting to learn more about goalkeeping his aunt makes sure that she gets him the books needed. Soccer is his game and he and his team have a special game that weekend. Added in is his hope of having his aunt adopt him if the can find his mother. When she is found she makes an appearance at the game where Kevin is playing goalie during the second half. What she does and why she decides to let his aunt adopt him or not you have to learn for yourself as Lydia says there are two sides to every story but you decide whether this is a happy ending or end for yourself after you read it. Imagine the young cheerleaders and imagine a mayor who decides to run off with one. The entire collection is unique with characters that will either endear you to them or make you wonder how they manage to survive another day. An alcoholic woman has to find her way out of drinking and bonding with those in the A.S.A.P group who kept her secret meet Sasha and read the story and learn more. But sometimes things that happen in the past come full circle in the present as we once again meet Vera as an adult. Vera almost drowns when she was ten and saved her sister’s Lucy’s life in story one. As her son Jake wants to join the swim team memories of the past and fear instills Vera. His father his ally who signs him up for the team even though Vera is afraid. Her fears would abound as he became better and stronger as she watched each meet and her fears melted away until the final one. Thinking he was in trouble what happens will either endear you to Vera or make you wonder if she will ever let go of her own fears. What happens next you have to read for yourself and the bond between mother and son you decide after reading the ending?

Twelve stories of survival, hope, despair, love, loyalty and many of life’s lessons that we all can learn.

Fran Lewis: Reviewer

Let’s give this book: FIVE GOLD STARS