With The Last Word Ellery Adams’ Books by the Bay series escalated from good to great, and Written in Stone, the fourth book in the series, continues that greatness. While the books are mystery fiction, they defy the restrictions of genre and dabble in romance and general fiction. Thus it is no surprise that the cast of characters defy normal expectations for the types of people who would associate together. And it is the characters who truly drive each book.
Written in Stone takes on the difficult topic of racism but, typical of this series, does so not of white vs. black but rather against the backdrop of the January 18, 1958 Battle of Hayes Pond, a Ku Klux Klan attack against the Lumbee Indian Tribe near Maxton, North Carolina. This was a real battle in which the KKK tried to drive the Indian tribe of their land and was itself so defeated that this spelled the end of the KKK in that area.
The book opens with Olivia being given a summons to visit Munin, the self-titled witch who lives deep in the woods of a local island. She perceives that her life is to end shortly and wants to repay a debt she owes for Olivia’s mother’s once having nursed her from a potentially deadly illness. Olivia, always eager to learn more about the mother she lost at the age of 7, hurries to visit Munin and is given a piece if pottery called a memory jug that has various items embedded inside it that Munin informs Olivia will guide her to a deeper understanding of herself. What she doesn’t tell Olivia is that this jug will also guide Olivia in solving the murder of Munin herself.
Olivia and the fellow members of the Bayside Writers Club attend a powwow held by the members of the Lumbee Tribe to commemorate the Battle of Hayes Pond, where another murder takes place, with a clue of a poem about time left behind, and the team must act quickly to prevent the murder of still others.
As in the previous three books, this book contains excellent characterizations and makes readers eager to follow the lives of the characters in the book Olivia continues to explore family issues, while her relationship with Chief Rawlings blossoms. We gain much greater insight into the present and past lives of the characters in the book and become further invested in each one, including the delightful Captain Haviland, the standard poodle who goes everywhere with Olivia.
Written in Stone expands the problems of racism to examine the ostricization of anyone who is different from the dominant group. Hence it shows how the gorgeous, multiethnic Malay hated high school because everyone treats her as an outcast for not belonging to their own particular racial group. Olivia too faced discrimination in her own elite boarding high school because despite being sent there by her blue-blooded grandmother, she was teased mercilessly and had no friends because she was the daughter of a fisherman. This book makes you angry in exposing the petty ways we humans find to insulate ourselves from those unlike us and shows how much we miss in not opening ourselves up to the things that other people have to offer.
I found this book to be as powerful as the previous, and I was disappointed when I sensed a denouement coming because I didn’t want the book to end. I appreciated the way Adams does not preach but rather shows the value of diversity. And for those people who care less about the deeper issues in a book and prefer to focus purely on the plot, you will not be disappointed, as the story line itself gives great satisfaction!
The reader, Karen White, continues to do an excellent job of narrating this book in the audio version, which is available both on Audible and in MP3-CD formats. She brings the characters to life.
Once again, if I could give this book more than five stars I would, but since I’m limited to the maximum, the book earns five very bright gold stars!
Written in Stone is available on Amazon, in bookstores, and in libraries.