Fairfield’s Auction: A Witherston Murder Mystery by Betty Jean Craige is a murder mystery set in the town of Witherson. All is not well in the town of Witherston. Long ago the Cherokees were cast from their land, their belongings claimed by the white man, and now they are being auctioned off as treasure for thousands, lining the pockets of the rich whilst the Cherokees are left unable to reclaim their heritage. Fairfield’s auction is such an event, countless treasures sold to the highest bidder, and those who protest and request respect for their own history, such as the Cherokees living in Tayanita village (known as Free rooster to the locals), are cast out. So many weapons, from tomahawks to a blowgun, but the final item certainly raised a few eyebrows, a live African Grey parrot by the name of Doolittle. Stressed and unloved, sealed in a small cage he finds himself sold like property to one of the only people present who believes animals too have souls, Dr Charlotte (Lottie) Byrd and this parrot can talk, its words betraying the neglect it suffered. In the meantime a mysterious person known only as Alpha has requested the ‘kidnapping’ of this bird by their recently recruited aid referred to as six, and this is where the real trouble begins. The town is snowed in, the roads in and out blocked by a storm fell tree and an 18 wheeler. Everything is at a standstill, and during this time it seems more dastardly deeds were afoot, the next day, two bodies were discovered. Was Alpha’s scheduled abduction of Doolittle part of the plan, who had the most to gain by the death of the two citizens, and what were their motives?
I do enjoy a good murder and Fairfield’s Auction: A Witherston Murder Mystery has no shortage of suspicious deaths and intrigue. Betty Jean Craige presents the case in a rather unique way, using articles from Webby Witherston, the online paper, alongside a dialogue driven narrative to lay breadcrumbs for the reader to follow, and most are very subtle. I did however feel the news articles, whilst unique, were overused and in some cases broke up the narrative. There is a very real feel to the plot and characters. I particularly liked the twins Jorge and Jamie, and found the small bedtime chatting routine, which appears a number of times, very endearing. Whist a murder mystery it also touches on social issues, especially relating to the acquisition of property, land, and expelling of the Cherokees. Betty Jean Craige combines history, culture, and difference of opinions, bringing them central to the plot in a manner that never nice seemed bias towards one view or the other. With interesting developments and unexpected twists it won’t fail to grab your attention.