Tag Archives: Jayne E. Self

Review: Death of a Highland Heavyweight, by Jayne E. Self

Death of a Highland Heavyweight cover artDeath of a Highland Heavyweight, by Jayne E. Self (Harbourlight Books, 2012)

Gailynn MacDonald designs artisan jewellery and works as a medical receptionist in the small seaside town of Hum Harbour, Nova Scotia. She’s perky, impulsive, and afraid of the ocean. And she can’t seem to stop getting involved in murder investigations.

She doesn’t go looking for them, but she does walk the beach each day looking for bits of seaglass to use in her jewellery. That’s how she found the first body (Mystery in Hum Harbour), and it’s what now brings her within earshot of screams from Hunter Hall.

Heavyweight champion Claude Oui (affectionately dubbed “Wee Claude” because of his large size) lies dead in the Hall, his wife Carrie Hunter-Oui helplessly trying CPR.

Claude suffered from post-concussion syndrome, and Gailynn’s fiancé Geoff, the town’s doctor, is afraid he missed a clue that could have saved the gentle giant’s life. Or did Claude trip on the stairs? Or fall victim to the burglar who stole some of Carrie’s collection of frog ornaments?

This last frightens Gailynn most of all, since her young cousin Ashleigh’s boyfriend has been stealing other frog ornaments as gifts. Josh seems like such a nice guy. But what if he’s a murderer?

Gailynn tries to leave the murder investigation to her police officer brother and his team, but she can’t help her suspicions. And she can’t stop asking questions, even though she’s supporting the grieving Carrie (including chairing the Hum Harbour Daze committee) and trying to plan her own wedding.

Death of a Highland Heavyweight is a cozy mystery with a strong sense of place and with characters who could be ordinary people like you or me. Well, not the athletes, but Gailynn, Geoff, Ashleigh and their families are everyday people.

I like Gailynn, with her kind heart, gentle spirit and overactive imagination. I like Geoff, too. He’s a decent man. And I like reading stories set in my home province. Locals like me can hear little things in the dialogue that authenticate Jayne Self’s right to write about us. This was true in Murder in Hum Harbour too. She knows this setting, despite living “away”, and that knowledge adds depth.

I also like the humour. It’s dry, understated, and slips in when you least expect it, adding yet another thread of pleasure to the story. I hope there’ll be a Seaglass Mysteries #3 in the works soon.

Visit Jayne E. Self’s website for more information on the author and her books. You can also find her on Facebook and at Canadian Christians Who Write, where she does regular interviews (including one with me).

[Review copy provided by the author in exchange for a fair review.]

Interviewed at Canadian Christians Who Write

We are as dynamic and varied as our country. And like snowflakes, no two of us are alike.

Our views, be they denominational, theological, ideological, political, social or personal, are uniquely our own.

Yet we share a common belief that Jesus is Lord, and a common passion for writing.

So says the home page of Canadian Christians Who Write. The blog’s host, Jayne Self, posts weekly interviews, and I was pleased to be invited to visit. You can find our conversations at Janet Sketchley part 1 and Janet Sketchley part 2. And be sure to check out the “recent posts” list on the right-hand side of the blog to see who else has been featured. It’s a great way to get to know some new-to-you writers, or maybe get to know a favourite a bit better.

Review: Murder in Hum Harbour, by Jayne E. Self

Murder in Hum Harbour book coverMurder in Hum Harbour, by Jayne E. Self (Harbourlight Books, 2011)

Part-time medical receptionist, part-time jewellery crafter, Gailynn MacDonald thinks she knows everything about everyone in Hum Harbour, Nova Scotia. That’s the way she likes it. But when her former employer Doc Campbell turns up dead aboard his beached yacht, and her sister-in-law becomes the prime suspect, quirky, over-excitable Gailynn vows to unmask the killer. With Geoff Grant, Doc’s handsome replacement, by her side Gailynn uncovers secrets and confronts childhood fears. And in the process she discovers that catching a killer is a lot like crafting her sea glass jewellery… it’s all in the details. (From the publisher’s website)

This is a short romantic suspense, perhaps a little longer than a Love Inspired book. As such, there’s not a lot of room for multiple plot lines. Both the mystery and the romance work well, and I like the author’s touches of humour (Cousin Mimi names her Daschunds Oscar, Meyer and Frank).

Canadian author Jayne E. Self does a fine job of bringing the characters of the small, coastal town of Hum Harbour to life, and she absolutely nails the feel of the setting.

The novel is told first-person from Gailynn’s point of view, and she’s an enjoyable narrator. She’s impulsive, independent, and in over her head with this mystery.

I look forward to reading the next novel in the Seaglass Mysteries series, to see what misadventures Gailynn gets herself into but also to see how things work out for some of the other inhabitants of the town.

Murder in Hum Harbour is Jayne Self’s first traditionally-published novel, available in print and ebook formats from the publisher and most online bookstores. Caught Dead: A Dean Constable Mystery appeared on the Presbyterian Record site in 2010 as a weekly serial. According to the author’s website there are sequels in the works for both stories. You can learn more about Jayne Self at her website, and see the novel’s trailer here.

PS… if you’ve never seen sea glass, it’s lovely, especially if you find it on the shore and it’s still wet from the ocean. For examples of how it can look as jewellery, see the Sea Glass Jewelry site.

[Review copy provided by the author in exchange for a fair review.]


Friday Findings: A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider


Hot Apple Cider – the book – is a best-selling inspirational anthology, in the tradition of Chicken Soup for the Soul. It makes a terrific gift for someone in need of a little encouragement, or someone who simply enjoys reading a variety of stories written by “real” people. Watch for A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider – coming on May 1, 2011. Both anthologies are published by That’s Life Communications.

Co-editor and contributor N.J. Lindquist writes:

Over 30,000 copies of Hot Apple Cider have gone out through World Vision’s Girls Night Out and Couples Night Out programs and another 15,000 have gone out through other means. We’re hoping for similar results with Hot Apple Cider 2.

Congratulations to everyone whose work was chosen for the book. While some of the contributors are veterans, others are being published for the very first time.

A. A. Adourian, Scarborough, Ontario

Brian C. Austin, Durham, Ontario

Paul M. Beckingham, Vancouver, British Columbia

Bonnie Beldan-Thomson, Pickering, Ontario

Glynis Belec, Drayton, Ontario

Mary Ann Benjamins, Brantford, Ontario

Vilma Blenman, Pickering, Ontario

Bill Bonikowsky, Surrey, British Columbia

Ann Brent, Brights Grove, Ontario

Connie Brummel Crook, Peterborough, Ontario

Marguerite Cummings, Toronto, Ontario

Kevin J. Dautremont, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Donna Dawson/Fawcett, St. Marys, Ontario

Angelina Fast-Vlaar, St. Catharines, Ontario

Rosemary Flaaten, Calgary, Alberta

Ed Hird, Vancouver, British Columbia

Ron Hughes, Smithville, Ontario

Evangeline Inman, Fredericton, New Brunswick

David Kitz, Orleans, Ontario

Marcia Lee Laycock, Blackfalds, Alberta

N. J. Lindquist, Markham, Ontario

Les Lindquist, Markham, Ontario

Heather McGillivray, Chelmsford, Ontario

Heidi McLaughlin, Westbank, British Columbia

Ruth Smith Meyer, Ailsa Craig, Ontario

M. D. Meyer, Norway House, Manitoba

Wendy Elaine Nelles, Toronto, Ontario

Kimberley Payne, Millbrook, Ontario

Judi Peers, Peterborough, Ontario

Gloria V. Phillips, Collingwood, Ontario

Johanne E. Robertson, Toronto, Ontario

Denise Budd Rumble, St. Marys, Ontario

Jayne Self, Orangeville, Ontario

Adele Simmons, Whitby, Ontario

Janet Sketchley, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

Jeannie Lockerbie Stephenson, London, Ontario

T. L. Wiens, Beechy, Saskatchewan

The official release date for the book is May 1, 2011, just in time for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Canada Day. [Information from the Hot Apple Cider website and the press release]

Review: Caught Dead, A Dean Constable Mystery, by Jayne E. Self

Caught Dead: A Dean Constable Mystery, by Jayne E. Self (Serialized in the Presbyterian Record, 2010)

After 16 years in Buffalo, Dean Constable has returned to the town of Lynngate, New York, to help his brother care for their aging father and to serve in his first pastorate. He’s still settling in when his long-time friend Justin is killed in a car accident.

A former police officer, Dean is determined to leave investigating to the experts—until Justin’s sister Paige pleads for his help. And until he sees signs of an official cover-up.

The story takes place just after Christmas, and Dean has charge of his father, Tony, for the holidays. As well as finding the truth about Justin’s death, Dean must prove himself to his parishioners, his father, and himself.

The mystery is well done, with hints and clues and complications, and the characters have a depth that drew me into the story. Not only did I want to see what happened, I cared about the people it was happening to.

Jayne Self knows churches and small towns. She gives us the usual background characters: the busybody neighbour, the big shot who wants church run his way, the single church lady with an eye for the new minister. We recognize them, but these aren’t flat stereotypes. Just like real people, they come with surprises.

Even more real and complex are the main players: Dean, Tony, and Paige. Dean’s an adopted son and he’s never felt like he belonged. Paige grew up in her brother’s shadow. Tony is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. These, plus each one’s lifetime of experiences, shape them into believable individuals worth spending time with. In that sense, I was disappointed to reach the end of the book. I’m looking forward to Dean’s next mystery, Hit’N Miss.

Jayne writes with compassion for her characters, and this is especially clear in Dean’s attempts to care for his father. He makes mistakes, but he treats Tony with a gentle dignity. Often we don’t know how to respond to people suffering dementia, and Dean gives us a positive example.

Caught Dead is a mystery complete with poignant moments, humour, and evocative descriptions. Check out this one from the scene of Justin’s crash:

“Crooked headlights shone on a row of weathered monuments. Their narrow shadows pointed toward the church like bony fingers reaching for a second chance at life.” [The police] “strung their yellow tape around the cemetery like a macabre Christmas garland.”

Or Dean, observing wildlife tracks in the woods:

“Signs Dad taught me, familiar bits of creation that spoke to my heart long before I ever recognized the voice of their Creator.”

As a minister, part of Dean’s job is to preach. But the novel isn’t preachy. Dean is an authentic Christian, a fairly recent convert, with strengths and weaknesses. The spiritual element of the novel flows naturally because it’s part of Dean’s story. He’s growing spiritually as well as in other areas of character. What stuck with me was his discovery that he’d been doing well trusting the Head (Jesus) of the church, but not so well trusting the rest of the body (his fellow believers).

Like any good mystery, Caught Dead is hard to put down. It’s currently available online as a weekly serial at the Presbyterian Record. One of the reasons I leapt at the chance to review it is I’d get to read the rest of the novel without the enforced breaks.

Jayne E. Self is a Canadian author whose previous credits include articles and short stories. Caught Dead is her first published novel. It was a finalist in 2009 for The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award (for unpublished work). To learn more about Jayne and her novel, see the Caught Dead book trailer on her website.

[Electronic review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.]

Caught Dead: A Dean Constable Mystery, by Jayne Self

Dean Constable is a Presbyterian minister and a former cop. He lives alone with his dog, Hamlet, but as the story opens he has a house guest: his father, who’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

It’s midnight, there’s a freezing rain storm outside, and his father says there’s a car in the cemetery next door.

Caught Dead, by Canadian author Jayne Self, is a cozy mystery and a two-time finalist in the Best New Canadian Christian Author contest. You can read chapter one online at the Presbyterian Record site.  The novel will run as an online serial. [Edit: perhaps the easiest way to keep up with these weekly installments is to start at the Caught Dead page, where you can find each chapter’s listing. Note that the newest one will always be at the top.]

Jayne and I have been classmates at numerous Write! Canada sessions, and I admire her work. If you like mysteries, I hope you’ll check this one out. I think we’re in for a good read.