Monday, August 27, 2012

McFarland continues intriguing mystery series

    Nora McFarland spent years shooting video for a TV station in Bakersfield. I met her while working at the Bakersfield Californian newspaper and McFarland gave me insight into the region that I’ll never forget. Because for years when I lived in L.A. people always laughed about Bakersfield. It was a place to drive through on your way to San Francisco, not stop.
    Bakersfield has its less than savory side — massive dairy farms, oil fields. But there is more to the sleepy San Joaquin Valley town that once beckoned Dust Bowl exiles in the 1930s (think “Grapes of Wrath”). I discovered Basque cuisine, Buck Owens and tenacity among its citizens.
    McFarland embraces all in her Lilly Hawkins mystery series, from the Tule Fog that swallows everything in its path to its roadside diners offering all-American fare, where I fondly remember enjoying lunch with McFarland when she was beginning this series.
    Her latest is “Going to the Bad” and, like her previous two novels, keeps you hanging on the edge of your seat to its conclusion. The story revolves around Lilly Hawkins, a TV news photographer who is now more into assigning stories because of the shift in journalism making reporters shoot their own video. She still drives the TV van and carries equipment with her, so whenever mysteries pop up you know Lilly will have that camera ready.
    In “Going to the Bad,” this time the mystery’s personal. Her beloved Uncle Bud, who’s anything from perfect, has been shot and his life hangs by a thread. Because Lilly can’t stand to wait in a hospital room for news, she makes news of her own. She begins following leads that take her through Christmas Eve into Christmas Day and a past Bud insisted she never find out.
    If you haven’t discovered McFarland yet, I suggest reading all three in the series; I’m still partial to that first one I had the pleasure of witnessing in early stages. But don’t miss “Going to the Bad,” a well-written, edgy mystery with humor, suspense and fun surrounding a stubborn but very likeable character in a profession few people understand.