Historical murder mysteries set in Dayton inspires fresh series in Wyoming

M. Ruth Myers is the author of a long running series of books; the Maggie Sullivan mysteries were set in Dayton during the 1940′s. Maggie Sullivan is a private investigator. Over the course of those 10 books readers were also introduced to Heebs Kelly, a character who learned some gumshoe tricks from Maggie.

Initially Heebs appears as a loveable street urchin. He grows up to become a reliable sidekick for Maggie and assists with her detection. As the Maggie Sullivan series drew to a close Heebs became a soldier heading off to fight in WWII.

The author just began a new series that features Heebs Kelly as her protagonist. Heebs returned from the war. He had been seriously wounded and lost one of his hands. As “A Penny Earned” opens he is driving from Ohio to Wyoming. The year is 1955 and he’s heading to Cheyenne to track down Paul, his dear wartime friend.

The author has lived in the Yellow Springs area for decades. She was familiar with Cheyenne during that period, she grew up there. While Heebs is still an hour away from Cheyenne he intervenes in a life and death situation, a small dog was being chased by coyotes. Heebs rescues this pup, the next thing we know they are tooling along the highway together in their ‘49 Buick. Heebs mistakenly believes he’ll drop the dog off with a veterinarian in town.

We can make all the plans we want, right? Upon his arrival in Cheyenne Heebs quickly realizes he is now stuck with his new furry friend, or instant sidekick. He needs to meet up with his old pal, Paul. His plans get disrupted by reality again. He heads over to Paul’s office. He finds Paul there, dead. Murdered.

Heebs shifts into private eye mode to investigate Paul’s death. It turns out Paul paid up the rent on his office in advance-his widow offers it to Heebs as a place where he can conduct his gumshoe endeavors.

He sifts through stuff in his dead friend’s office. He finds something, a penny, thus our title ‘A Penny Earned’. What does this obscure coin mean? How does it connect to the demise of his best friend? That, dear readers, is for you to find out.

Over the course of the Maggie Sullivan books and now this new series the author does a fine job distilling the essences of the periods she describes, the 1940′s, and in this new one, the mid 1950′s. All those luscious period details are there and to the delight of this reviewer all the paraphernalia of our current age, the computers, cell phones, the fast food joints, do not yet exist.

As Heebs tunnels away he uncovers a potential witness who might identify Paul’s killer. This fellow, Squiffy, is thoroughly disreputable, and obnoxious. He becomes an annoyance to Heebs who has to somehow manage to keep this guy breathing long enough to testify. That obscure penny becomes the crucial clue in solving this murder mystery.

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit www.wyso.org/programs/book-nook. Contact him at vick@vickmickunas.com.

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