An anthology by Margie Walker, Shirley Hailstock, Bridget Anderson and Shelby Lewis
Kensington Books / 329 pages
ISBN: 0-7582-0274-1


   In most case when someone dies, their will is read, and the named executor handles the deceased person’s affairs. From that point on, all of the business is done, material and liquid assets are distributed to the beneficiaries identified in the will, and life goes on. But in the new Kensington Books anthology, Where There’s A Will, this whole process is given a brand new twist.

   In death, as in life, Henry Chambers, the owner of Liberty, Georgia’s only African-American private investigation firm, knows how to stir things up. And he does it well. Upon his death when his will is read, his four daughters learn that they must each solve one of his unfinished cases before they can get their inheritance.

That revelation takes them aback because they are each now successful professionals in other states, and taking that kind of time away from their work is not something they’re prepared to do. One by one, Maxine, Morgan, Taylor, and Samantha Chambers return to Liberty, Georgia—the tiny town they left in search of opportunities in life, work, and love. The last thing they want to do is go back there for the length of time that’s required to solve those cases.

  Daughter Maxine Chambers, the Houston, Texas-based banker is the focus of Margie Walker’s novella, “Curtains.” The successful professional swears on all that’s holy that this is her last trip home, and when she returns, it’s to bullets. Someone wants her dead and isn’t shy about showing her that. She meets Sergeant Lucious Kimble, a tough cop, who’s definitely all man beneath his uniform. Maxine is lonely and love-starved, but not blind, so she realizes how fine he is. Before she knows it, feelings she thought died long ago, are reawakened and she finds herself not able to get him off her mind. Still, she has inherited the grudge someone has for her father, and she’s determined to put an end to it.

 The oldest Chambers sister, Morgan, turns down a case in Shelby Lewis’s novella, “Redemption.” This former police sketch artist, now ballet teacher, wants nothing to do with law enforcement—until tragedy hits home. Her students begin to get murdered, and the killer says she’ll be next. Deep in her heart, she believes that her dad’s death set the murders in motion and the only way she’ll find out for sure, is to go back to the one place she vowed never to return. Once there, she learns more than she bargains for!

   Taylor Chambers goes to Liberty for the reading of her father’s will, but she plans on returning home after that. However, that would be too simple, and she winds up with a case of a missing woman. In Shirley Hailstock’s novella, “The Bad Penny,” Taylor finally has the chance to be like her beloved father, Henry. A wealthy socialite disappears, and her family’s banking that she will stay gone so they can lay claim to her fortune. They don’t count on Taylor nosing around. She gets too close, and it soon becomes clear that her life depends on not finding the answers she’s seeking.

   Bridget Anderson’s “Identity Crisis” concentrates on sister Samantha’s investigation of a rich investment advisor who’s not the man everyone thinks.  As a publicist for a popular record label, she knows all about smoke and mirrors and creating images. It’s not long before her snooping around turns up things he would have rather stayed hidden.

   Where There’s A Will is an excellent anthology of four emotionally-gripping stories about love of family and life. Peopled with strong, well-drawn three-dimensional characters, we learn about what drives them to fulfill their father’s last wishes despite the fact that they hate their small, unprogressive hometown. The characters are the foundation on which this story is built, but the plot becomes emotionally-packed plot when we are allowed a glimpse into each sister’s head as to what’s plaguing her, her demons, and how they relate to her returning to Liberty.

   Although Henry is dead when the anthology opens, we meet him through his four daughters, and through Donna Hill’s masterful narrative joining the four novellas together. It can be surmised that he had foresight and knew just what his daughters needed to make them complete as women and united as sisters. And he knew what to do to bring them to that point.

   The theme of home wasn’t just about the physical house where the Chambers sister could return, but a state of mind, a base, of sorts, and their eventual sanctuary. This was pointed up very well in this anthology and underscored throughout each novella.

   In retrospect, this is a fine book and deserves to be read. There’s a little something in it for every reading taste: romance, mystery, intrigue, and all sorts of skeletons are uncovered as the story unravels. Humor is laced throughout as well, making for a most enjoyable and light-hearted read. However, don’t let the levity fool you: there is a message of hope, redemption, and forgiveness cleverly written into the pages of this wonderful work.                                                         


Nathasha Brooks-Harris is the author of Panache, and Emma award-winning contemporary romance novel.