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Book Review: Secrets to Die For

Have you heard of the Detectives Around the World blog event? If not, and you love mysteries, you’ve been missing out. The event, which began in March with readers around the world nominating their favorite fictional detectives, culminates this week with bloggers around the world blogging about their favorites. I was fortunate enough to draw my first choice – Detective Wade Jackson of Eugene, Oregon.

My blogs this week include two here at The Blood-Red Pencil: today I review Secrets to Die For and on the 17th, I interview one of the Detective Jackson series beta readers, editor Dani Greer. (Dani jumps in to mention that she and L.J. are both founding members of the Blood-Red Pencil. We're engaging in a little blatant self-promotion!)

Secrets to Die For
By L.J. Sellers
Echelon Press Publishing
Copyright 2009
ISBN: 1-59080-654-9
Trade Paperback
Second in the Detective Wade Jackson mystery series
286 pages

In your favorite mystery of all time, how many pages does it take for you to meet and fall in love with a new character? Less than 2.75? And how long before your heart is racing in fear for that new character? More than three pages? In The Sex Club, L.J. Sellers introduced us to Detective Wade Jackson and proved she could plot a thrilling mystery. In the sequel, Secrets to Die For, Detective Jackson takes on another case and Ms. Sellers cranks up the suspense. Once past page three, I couldn’t put it down.

When young child advocate Raina Hughes’s battered body is found in close proximity to one of her client’s homes, the case appears to have an obvious culprit—the boy’s drug-addicted, ex-con father. But in good mystery fiction, cases are never simple. There’s a serial rapist on the loose in Eugene, Oregon, and some of the evidence surrounding Raina Hughes’ murder points in that direction. So which is it? Can Detective Jackson solve the case before the body count rises?

L.J. Sellers rips current social issues from editorial pages, wraps them in exciting, multi-faceted mysteries, and delivers thrilling reads. Pick up any Sellers mystery and you’ll find the full package–loveable, flawed human beings with interesting, imperfect lives; twisted, mean-spirited villains that we love to hate; “good” guys who aren’t so good; “bad” guys who have standards; a suspenseful tale with enough plot twists and red herrings to keep the mystery fascinating to the last page and leave the reader begging for more.

So what’s missing? In this humble reviewer’s opinion–book club discussion questions. The Detective Jackson mysteries tactfully handle social issues not generally discussed at the dinner table–teen sex, abortion, homosexuality, and rape, so far. The topics make the books ideal book club reads and can lead to some lively, thoughtful discussion.

What’s next for Detective Jackson? Keep an eye out for Thrilled to Death, due out in August and sure to be a popular beach read.

In the mean time, I highly recommend Secrets to Die For. But beware—you’ll be hooked on the series.

LJ Sellers has generously offered a copy of Secrets to Die For to one of our readers at BRP. To get your name entered in the drawing, leave a comment on one of the posts (today or April 17). Today’s comment topic:

Do you enjoy reading about social issues in fiction? What topics make you uncomfortable? Does inclusion of uncomfortable subjects make books more or less intriguing?

Charlotte Phillips is the co-author of the Eva Baum Detective Series, 2009 President for The Final Twist Writers Group and contributor to multiple blogs. Learn more about Charlotte and her books and short stories at:

News, Views and Reviews Blog

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  1. Loved The Sex Club. Looking forward to Secrets To Die For.

    Keep up the great work, LJ.

  2. Charmaine, The titles, the plots, the characters - all great.
    Happy reading,

  3. CJ,
    Now that I've read Secrets to Die For, I can't wait for Thrilled to Death. I think I heard it will be out in August. Maybe Lj will visit us today and let us know.

  4. August 21 is the official release date. I hope to have some ARCs to give away before that.

    And I have two books coming out next year: Passions of the Dead and The Baby Thief.

    Thanks for the support!

  5. In answer to the question posted, about socially relevent issues, there is no reason why genre fiction can't tackle the big questions. As a writer, I always like to deal with them and enjoy reading books. This sounds like a great read!

  6. I don't know why my above comment posted as anonymous. Must be my inner technophobe surfacing. Please enter me.

  7. Denise,
    Consider yourself entered. Good luck!

  8. I 've led several book clubs and I always cringe when members suggest a mystery. This is my experience: "So when did you guess who the murderer was?" (3-4 minutes of discussion). "Who were your favorite characters, and why?" "I liked that Bob guy." "Bob?" "The assistant D.A." "That guy was Jim." "Oh. Let's eat!"

    A facilitator needs something she can sink her teeth into, and it sounds like your books fit the bill, L.J.--THANK YOU! People love mysteries but they don't often leave much to discuss. I say, the more controversy, the better!

  9. Kathryn,
    I'm with you on this one.

  10. Sounds like a great read.

    Since L.J. includes subjects that can be controversial or socially relevant, it seems like her books would lend themselves to some wonderful book club questions.

    Straight From Hel

  11. Yay Charlotte! Thanks for kicking off the theme week. And you had such a great choice to kick it off with. Glad to hear all the discussion.

    Kathryn, oh my, your post made me wince. Maybe I'll start incorporating discussion questions into my blog. It hurts my heart that people are talking about crime fiction that way. Yow!

    Thanks again Charlotte! :)

  12. Jen,
    You are most welcome - it was a joy to review this book.

    I must have a warped sense of humor. I laughed when I read Kathryn's comment.

  13. (Just to be otherwise) I actually don't really enjoy reading about current events and difficult topics when I'm reading escapist fiction. I want to melt completely into a different world when I read; perhaps the reason that my chosen genre is fantasy ;-)

    That said, "hooked by page 3"... wow! Now that does sound like a book worth reading.

    Blood-Red Pencil

  14. Elle,
    I have to admit that any book that treats such subjects with a heavy hand is likely to fly across the room unread - especially if the author it blatently pushing a view different from my own. However, I enjoy reading books that work in some real world issues in a natural, even handed way that allows a peek at multiple sides of social issues.

  15. To me there are no detectives comparable to the Hardy boys. Read all the books as a kid, and have later reread them with the boys.

  16. I was a Nancy Drew fan myself. I tried to interest my niece, but she wanted Trixie Beldon.

  17. Do you recommend book club questions at the end of every book?

  18. Good review! No spoilers but it sounds intriguing. I'm looking forward to reading it.

  19. I like your comments, Kathryn. I think that's why discussion questions can help so that you move beyond just the "genre-level" questions and into the meat of the story because any good story has something ELSE to talk about.

    Looking forward to reading your next book, L.J.!

  20. First, you don't need to enter me in the drawing. I have both these books in my Kindle. Have I read them yet? No, but I will, I promise.

    Now, as to the book club question and social issues. I facilitate two book clubs at my local library. One of them reads mysteries exclusively and we have great discussions. Yes, some of them do have a tendency to be who said what and who did what, but that's OK. Those are the meetings that we do a lot of trading of what did you just read and who is a good new author and the discussion always continues.

    I think social issues are fine in mysteries and indeed desirable at times. I probably don't wish them in every mystery I read, but I certainly don't mind them in some of them.

    I just wanted to make a plug for mystery book groups and say that mysteries are discussable. :-) I also take my advance copies of books and even books I've purchased and do a little reader advisory at the end of the meetings. Each book is available for members to take home and read. The members love this part of the meeting.

  21. Kay, it sounds like you're running great book clubs. And thanks for buying my books. I hope you enjoy them. My next book, Thrilled to Death, is more of a pure thriller, because I try to make each story unique in theme and structure.

  22. J.M.
    No. Most books I just like to read and enjoy.

  23. Kay,
    There's a mystery book club at one of our local Indy stores. They often host author events for new books. I love that group! They always have a list of mysteries to recommend.

  24. I wish I could just read 14/7!! I think I'd need to, just to make a dent in all the titles I want to read.LOL

    These books look fabulous.

  25. The question regarding current social events/crimes/trends being in books, is a PLUS in my love of reading! An action that totally turn's me off and would be hard for me to read is animal abuse. Otherwise I find reading about current crimes provides me with a lot of insight into the crime that I probably would never know due to a lack of dicussion with knowledgeable individuals.
    I'd love to win a copy of "Secrets to Die For"!!!
    Thank you for the opportunity!!!
    darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

  26. A little amount of social issues content in a mystery is OK with me but if there is a lot I would probably quit reading.

    Secrets to Die For sounds like an interesting read & I certainly like to be hooked in the first chapter.

    Helen Kiker

  27. Thanks for the intro to L.J.! You echoed my thoughts regarding social issues exactly, Charlotte. I enjoy reading books that work in some real world issues in a natural, even handed way that allows a peek at multiple sides of social issues.

    I'm really interested in what you all have had to say about book clubs. I just joined my first book club in February and really enjoyed it so far.

    Btw, you're not the only one with a warped sense of humor, Charlotte. I figured the next question at Kathryn's sample book club would be, "Are you drinking red or white?" ;)

  28. I do love to read about current social issues in fiction, and feel much more comfortable reading and thinking about them than I do actually discussing them! I guess that's why I like to's the most comfortable way to make my voice heard!

  29. Love a book that hooks me in the first few pages and keeps me up until I finish it. Secrets to Die For sounds great.

  30. I think mysteries are the perfect medium for discussing social issues. So yes.

    I used to live in Eugene, so that alone makes me interested in reading the books. I'm sure the Eugene of today is not quite the same as the Eugene of the mid-1970, but I bet I'd recognize at least some locations.

  31. Beth, I've been in Eugene since 1977 and much of it is still the same. The UO has expanded but the core of old, red-brick buildings is unchanged and most of the historic housing is still downtown. Saturday Market and Oregon Country Fair are going strong too. Thanks for stopping in.


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