A Witherston Murder Mystery

There is an old saying, it takes a village to raise a child. Betty Jean Craige has taken it one step further, it takes a village to solve a murder! Betty Craige is no beginner to the publishing world, I believe that she has 17 books in print, however Downstream marks her debut into the world of fiction.

The murder/mystery genre is a tough one to come up with a new twist. Betty Craige may have found the formula.

The setting for the book is a somewhat sleepy community, Witherston boasts a population of 4000 people. At the heart of the story is billionaire Francis Hearty Withers. The Withers family have been a part of the community for generations. Actually it may better phrase it, ‘the Withers have shaped the community over the generations’.

On his 100th birthday Francis Withers drops a bombshell on the community, he has changed his will, one billion dollars will be divided up equally between every resident of Witherston, and a further billion dollars will be given to the small town to ensure its future prosperity. This sounds too good to be true, and a couple of days later the sprightly Frances Hearty Withers promptly drops dead. But what may have caused his timely or untimely demise?

In some ways the $2 billion might be considered as a bribe, it comes at a cost, the building of a pharmaceutical production facility for BioSeneta where a new experimental drug Senextra will be manufactured. The drug is controversial to say the least, it promises to extend human life by decades.

Supporters claim it to be a huge step forward in medicine, possibly the greatest medical breakthrough of all time. The detractors are less enthusiastic. Messing with nature is a dangerous pastime and can result in unintended consequences. Real life examples of man making ‘improvements’ are bountiful. Exotic snakes and Nutria in Florida, Asian Carp and Zebra Mussels in the Midwest, and of course rabbits in Australia are just a few. In many ways these all pale into insignificance in comparison to Senextra. With people living to maybe 130 the socio economic cost is incalculable.

Francis Hearty Withers announcing the change to his will is met with a mixed reaction from the small community. To some the idea of inheriting $250,000 is a gift too good to be overlooked, to others Senextra is an abomination. Some residents are so vocal that Mr. Withers leaves the stage announcing that he has had a change of heart, no Witherston resident will get a dime, and he will be changing his will as soon as possible.

Two days later his body is found. Well lets face it he was a 100 years old, death is hardly surprising at that ripe old age. Even though it seems like natural causes, most think that unnatural causes are to blame. But who might the killer be, and why?

This is a great question, it did not matter if you were pro or against the drug, all 4000 residents had a motive, not least of which the $250,000 promised to each resident, an offer only on the table until he could change his will. Then we have the people against Senextra, and the building of the plant, the plans called for clear cutting 37 acres of old growth forest to make room. Maybe even BioSenecta themselves, his rant about changing his will had included the fact that no BioSenecta plant would be built in Witherston, was it possible that they had a need for that location, maybe the creek that ran through the property?

I love a good mystery and I was on the hunt for the killer from page one. Betty Jean Craige did not make my quest an easy one. False trails abounded, it was exactly what I like in a great mystery. I was firmly convinced I had the story solved several times. I was convinced it was BioSenecta who wanted the water in the creek, I was convinced it was the environmentalists from Keep Nature Natural, oh my list goes on and on.

Downstream is very well constructed, it is a joy to read. As a reviewer it would be a huge disservice to the author and indeed the reader for me to give any spoilers, but there is a twist in the tail on the very last page that leads me to believe that Betty Jean Craige is not quite done with some of the characters.

To get your copy of this most entertaining book use the Amazon link above.

Simon Barrett

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