Local Outer Banks author Joseph Terrell is one of the nicest people you’ll meet —a true Southern gentleman. Which makes the inevitable murders of his mystery novels slightly at odds with his personality.
His latest book, The Last Blue Noon in May, is the sixth in his Harrison Weaver series, and luckily it’s all fiction (if it wasn’t, the Outer Banks would be the new murder capital of the United States.)
His books are a great read. The style is crisp and easy to follow; the characters are believable, and the protagonists especially become real, three dimensional characters who the reader comes to genuinely care about. The Last Blue Noon in May might be his best novel yet.
The story involves the unsolved disappearance of a little girl 20 years in the past. That disappearance, and how it reverberates through the years, allows Terrell to add layers to the makeup of his characters.
Chief Deputy Odell Wright is normally optimistic and competent as a character in Terrell’s books, but as the the book opens, the image of the deputy is different.
“His shoulders, usually so broad and erect, were slumped and rounded. He rubbed the palm of one had across his close-cropped black hair, which had only the beginning along his temples of silvery gray. Then he propped his chin up with the same palm. He seemed to lack the stamina or the will to hold his head up.”
It was Chief Deputy Wright’s little sister who had disappeared 20 years ago. Every year on the anniversary of her disappearance he would bring out that file, with all the details of the investigation…every lead that failed… every interview that told investigators nothing…every image in the binder, and study it, hoping somewhere there was a something that someone had missed.
The disappearance of Wright’s sister is backstory to the murder, though it is central to the plot—and there’s an interesting twist there as well.
Terrell’s novels are murder mysteries, so there’s always a victim. In his previous novels his victims are solely the creation of his imagination. That’s not the case in Last Blue Noon. The victim is based on a real figure in Eastern North Carolina history.
For about 25 years until she died in 2015, Kay Grayson was known as the Bear Lady. Living a hermit’s life in a remote area of East Lake, she had come to love the bears that roamed the area, regularly feeding them and interacting with them.
No one is sure exactly how she died, although the coroner told relatives he was fairly certain she had not died in an animal attack.