Ending the Varney Curse, the sixth Sally Nimitz mystery, is being released today, but publication wasn’t the point when MaryJo Dawson wrote the first one.
“I wrote it for fun,” MaryJo says of The Death of Amelia Marsh.
All six books are available in ebook, from Amazon and other retailers, as well as a tradeback edition for readers who prefer printed books. The Death of Amelia Marsh is a Kindle freebie, and I reviewed it on Amazon when MaryJo was no more than an online acquaintance. She’s now a treasured friend who has allowed me to read final drafts of her last two mysteries, and I readily admit I am biased about her work.
That said, I do recommend Sally – it’s such a relief to encounter a sensible, instead of a silly, sleuth in a more or less cozy mystery. More, because MaryJo’s mysteries do feature amateurs who solve mysteries (not all of which are murders!) without vulgar language or gruesome grit. Less, because the characters are more developed and the insights much deeper than those in most of the current crop of cozies.
Still, it’s best to let someone who can be impartial review Ending the Varney Curse. Instead, let me introduce you to MaryJo, if you don’t already know her, or, if you do, perhaps tell you more than you already know.
MaryJo, like Sally, had a satisfying career in nursing, most of it in obstetrics. I suspected as much while reading her first mystery, because the descriptions and details resonated with authenticity. I didn’t know, though, that, like me, she was initially inclined toward literature and history. She backed into nursing.
“The profession chose me,” MaryJo recalled. “My parents were stunned when, after a year of college, I chose to apply to nursing school. My main reason? It was less expensive. We had little money, and my dad was going to borrow so I could so on with my education.”
Nursing school, especially back then, allowed students to work while pursuing their education.
“There were times during those three years that I wavered in my choice. But God was looking out for me, because throughout my life, with its many ups and downs and different locations, I was always able to get a good job,” MaryJo recalled.
A native of Wisconsin, MaryJo has lived and worked in many places from Maine to Mississippi. She now lives with her husband, Bill, in a small town at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in southeastern Colorado.
MaryJo also draws from her own background in creating what I call fiction for Christians (or Jews, or just those who want a clean read). Her stories aren’t really Christian fiction – you won’t find heavily moral messages or preachiness and the references to prayer are subtly matter of fact.
“Throughout the series, the lifestyle (Sally) believes in and lives pops up consistently. It is essential to who she is, who her best friends are, and how the various mysteries are handled,” said MaryJo, who was not only brought up as a Christian but who has, as I have seen firsthand, become a woman of a deep and abiding faith.
Readers who are hostile to religion might not find as much to like as those who are more welcoming, but faith isn’t exactly a theme in these mysteries. Instead, it is a part of who Sally (and recurring characters Anne and George) are, and MaryJo shows us this, rather than tells us so.
Perhaps it’s no wonder that one of the writers who inspires her is Dorothy L. Sayers, best known today for her Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries but whose serious writing includes many works of Christian non-fiction. Other influences and inspirations are Josephine Tey (whose Brat Farrar is a personal favorite), Rex Stout, and the husband-and-wife team of Brock and Bodie Thoene.
You won’t find MaryJo on Facebook. She doesn’t blog, or maintain a website. She does participate in Amazon’s Meet Our Authors Discussion Forum, which is where I first encountered her, but she limits her time online, striking a balance between activities there and offline.
“There are only so many hours in a day. I can’t spend them all on the computer, nor do I want to, so picking and choosing became a necessity,” MaryJo explained.
When she’s not writing, you might find MaryJo in her garden or on a walking path. She calls herself a “pretty boring person” and says she’s very comfortable with that. She loves family and friends, home and hobbies, and she knows something about exquisite chocolates . . . as I know firsthand!
Recent reads include:
Dead Wake by Eric Larson, which was selected by her book club
The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart
Read a sample of MaryJo’s books, or buy from Amazon by clicking on these links:
The Death of Amelia Marsh — available as a free Kindle ebook; tradeback, $10.10 (USD).
The Disappearance of Douglas White — ebook, $2.99 (USD); tradeback, $11.49 (USD).
The Strange Situation at Emlee — ebook, $2.99 (USD); tradeback, $11.49 (USD).
The Truth About Charlie — ebook, $2.99 (USD); tradeback, $9.99 (USD).
Did Lucy Bedford Have to Die — ebook, $2.99 (USD); tradeback, $11.99 (USD).
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