Category Archives: Oklahoma Mystery

The Book Whisperer Reviews an Oklahoma Author: Hoklotubbe


Sara Sue Hoklotubbe, author of The American Café, is a Cherokee tribal citizen who grew up at Lake Eucha, see picture below, in northeast Oklahoma. Her mystery series stars Sadie Walela as an amateur sleuth. Hoklotubbe has published four novels in the series: Deception on All Counts, The American Café, Sinking Suspicions, and Betrayal at the Buffalo Ranch.


The stories all feature the northeast Oklahoma landscape and include Native American traditions and wisdom. Hoklotubbe includes an exploration of “myths, passions and fears of modern-day Cherokees,” according to Margaret Coel, author of the Wind River mystery series.

Carolyn Hart, fellow Oklahoma author, gives “five stars to The American Café, a riveting and lyrical novel. Sara Hoklotubbe draws on her Oklahoma and Cherokee heritage to create an absorbing tale with an appealing protagonist.”

Those words of praise are true about Hoklotubbe calling on her Oklahoma and Cherokee heritage. Sadie Walela is Cherokee and cares deeply about her heritage. In The American Café, Emma Singer returns to her hometown of Liberty, OK, after living in Carthage, MO, for years. She has returned to travel with her sister Goldie Ray who has sold her Liberty Café to Sadie. Sadie changes the name of the café to The American Café.

Unfortunately, shortly before Emma’s arrival, someone shot and killed Goldie as she sat on her back porch enjoying her morning coffee. Goldie’s death represents only one angle in The American Café mystery. Other avenues to pursue include Emma’s adopted daughter Rosalee who wants to know who her biological parents are and whether Pearl Mobley is both Goldie’s killer and Rosalee’s mother.

The story continues with more intrigue. Police chief George Stump, one of only two police officers in Liberty, appears to be working with a female bank employee to embezzle money from the bank. Newly hired second-in-command is officer Lance Smith who is methodical and careful in his policing.

With the many story lines, The American Café does not focus on one problem to be solved. Readers quickly learn of Goldie’s death by a mysterious shooter. Then Emma shows up with her prejudice against Native Americans and her insensitive comments to one and all about Native Americans. That part seems rather heavy-handed in pointing out prejudice. Police Chief Stump is corrupt and mean. Renegades are producing meth in the woods and possibly growing marijuana. Finally, Red, a Creek Indian, turns up in various situations, frequently helping Sadie.

The American Café contains some funny moments. Sadie does not know when she buys the café that Goldie has given out keys to a number of local residents, mostly men. They show up at the restaurant and start making coffee even before she is ready to open officially. Sadie learns that Goldie allowed the men to come earlier than she arrived; they would make coffee and drink it, leaving their money on the counter for Goldie when she arrived.

Sadie is supposed to be the amateur sleuth; in my mind, however, she does less to solve the crimes than others. She does act as a catalyst bringing people and ideas together so that the crimes are exposed and criminals caught.

Hoklotubbe maintains a Web site at this link:




The Book Whisperer Reviews a Tulsa Favorite


William Bernhardt received his first rejection letter at age eleven when he sent a poem to Highlights Magazine. He wrote about the Oklahoma Land Run. That rejection letter did not deter Bernhardt from continuing to write and to submit his work. He tells readers that he realized that the submissions were not good, but Bernhardt has learned over time how to correct those problems in his writing. Now, he has over twenty published novels along with poetry and nonfiction advice on writing. In the Ben Kincaid, Tulsa attorney series, there are 19 books, starting with Primary Justice in 1991 and ending with Justice Returns in 2017.

Capitol Offense, number eighteen in the Ben Kincaid series, shows Ben and his wife/law partner Christina McCall at their best. The two attorneys work smoothly together, each showing his/her own strengths to help the client in the best way possible even if the client is a bit hard to like and possibly a murderer like Dennis Thomas is charged.

Complicating the defense of Dr. Dennis Thomas, University of Tulsa English professor is the fact that Dennis has threatened the now dead police officer, Detective Sentz in front of others and on several occasions. When Detective Sentz is found dead in a hotel room stakeout and Dennis Thomas is unconscious on top of the gun which has killed Sentz, many people draw the conclusion that Thomas is guilty of murder.


DA David Gillerman, who will soon be running for re-election, leads the legal team prosecuting Thomas. Ben Kincaid, recently appointed US senator from OK and back from Washington, D.C., is also facing an election campaign. How will his defending Dennis Thomas, accused of murdering a police officer affect Kincaid’s upcoming senate campaign? Kincaid is too principled to worry about the effect on his senate campaign; he focuses attention on helping Thomas.

The story begins when Thomas’s wife Joslyn Thomas, oncology physician, does not come home one night. That evening, Dennis tries looking for her himself without any luck. The next day, he goes to the Tulsa police station where he is directed to Detective Sentz to make his missing person’s report. Sentz refuses to write up a report, send out a team, or even a notice of the fact that Joslyn is missing. He contends that adults can disappear if they wish. Dennis knows Joslyn would not simply leave; she is a responsible doctor with patients who depend upon her. Dennis becomes more and more agitated over the lack of action in searching for Joslyn. Also, Dennis sees out of the corner of his eye a person who appears to be directing Sentz to ignore the missing person’s report, but Dennis cannot quite see who that person is. This fact will become important at the end of the story; the person’s identity when revealed at the end will shock the readers.


Kincaid brings in his expert witness, a psychologist who has been treating Dennis Thomas. However, each time Kincaid and McCall score an effective point in Dennis’s favor, the DA counters with more damning evidence against Thomas.

Why are the officers staked out at a Tulsa hotel? How does Dennis find Sentz in the hotel, especially if this stakeout is top secret? What kind of sting operation is underway? What causes Dennis to blackout completely and not come around for two hours after the murder is discovered even though Dennis has been transported to the hospital? These are all questions readers will have.

William Bernhardt has an extensive Web site at this link: As part of that site, readers can check out Bernhardt’s blog here:

Watch a YouTube video in which Bernhardt describes what it is like to write a legal brief:



The Book Whisperer Reviews an Oklahoma Author


Carolyn Hart, Oklahoma author, has published fifty-eight books and still going. She has created several mystery series: Henrie O, Death on Demand, and Bailey Ruth Raeburn. In addition to the series novels, she has written a number of stand-alone novels. Letter from Home falls into that stand-alone category.

Letter from Home won the Agatha Award for Best Mystery of 2003. It was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by the Oklahoma Center for Poets and Writers. Hart has received numerous other awards for her other fiction. In 2003, at the National Book Festival on the Mall in Washington, DC, Hart was included as one of ten mystery authors for Letter from Home. She received the same honor again in 2007 for Set Sail for Murder, seventh in the Henrie O series.

A native Oklahoman, Hart graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma. Hart continues to live in OKC.

As a guest blogger on Dear Reader,, Carolyn Hart writes about being a child during WWII. She tells readers, “The war dominated our lives.” As a teenager and adult, Hart has continued her interest in WWII, reading about it and writing about it. In fact, Hart has written novels centered around WWII: Escape from Paris, Brave Hearts, and Letter from Home.

Hart also developed a love of newspapers and became a reporter herself, if briefly. Her love of reporters and newspapers has helped her create several journalists in her stories. Letter from Home combines both of Hart’s interests in WWII and newspapers.

Set in hot, dry small-town Oklahoma in the summer of 1944, Letter from Home tells the story of Gretchen Grace Gilman, 13 (almost 14), who becomes Gazette reporter GG Gilman. Gilman goes on to become a famous newspaper reporter. A letter from a long-ago friend has brought GG, now a successful journalist, wife, mother, and grandmother back to her small Oklahoma hometown. Thus, readers see the story through Gretchen’s eyes from 1944.

Who has written the letter which summons Gretchen from her happy, successful life in CA back to OK? Readers see bits and pieces of the letter as Gretchen visits the cemetery where so many from her early life lie buried: her cherished grandmother, her father, Mr. Dennis from the Gazette, Faye Tatum, and Clyde Tatum. As she looks at the graves, she remembers that last summer she spent in her hometown, looking back on the terrible events that culminated in two deaths, a lack of justice then, and also her beloved grandmother’s death from a heart attack.

The hot Oklahoma summer adds to the mystery surrounding Faye Tatum’s death and her husband’s disappearance. Because Faye has been visiting the Blue Light night club in town while her husband Clyde is away serving his country, gossips believe she has been cheating on Clyde. Therefore, the logical conclusion is that Clyde in a fit of jealousy has killed Faye and then fled. Small town gossip feeds that theory. Faye and Clyde’s daughter Barb insists her mother has been faithful to her father. Her mother has gone to the Blue Light only because she likes to dance.

As he writes his story, Cooley, writer for the Gazette tells Mr. Dennis, Gazette editor, and GG that “Faye Tatum … danced every dance. But with everybody. You know what I mean, no particular guy…. She danced with a bunch of guys.”  Even though Faye does not single out one guy with whom to dance, the gossip continues. Besides being a wife and mother, Faye is an artist. That’s enough to add to the suspicion surrounding her because she is not like the other mothers in town.

As people press the police to find the murderer, presumably Clyde Tatum, the Oklahoma heat presses down on the town. Hart describes the heat well throughout the book. As Gretchen and her grandmother walk to the Tatum home on their way to Faye’s funeral, readers feel the heat: “Blazing heat pressed against them. Every patch of shadow from the thick-leafed oaks was a welcome respite, a fractional lessening of the heat’s burden.” In the church, the description continues with “the heat was suffocating, thick and heavy as the dusty purple velvet curtains at each end of the opening into the chapel.”

Gretchen’s grandmother’s last name is Pfizer; she still speaks with a heavy German accent. Often, she forgets and lapses into German phrases in speaking to others. Occasionally, in grandmother’s café, some stranger remarks about the German even though grandmother has changed the name from Pfizer Café to Victory Café and keeps pictures of local men serving in the army at the register.

Gretchen is a precocious, responsible young lady, wise above her thirteen years. She helps grandmother in the Victory Café and writes grownup articles for the Gazette. She is even well on her way to solving the murder when she suddenly must leave her hometown following her grandmother’s heart attack and subsequent death.

Hart has captured the heat of that 1944 summer in small-town Oklahoma. Letter from Home forms a good mystery with an unexpected twist at the end. Does Clyde kill the love of his life out of jealousy? Could someone else be the murderer? Will justice be served?

Carolyn Hart has an extensive Web site where readers can learn about all of her books and more:






The Book Whisperer Examines an Oklahoma Author


Mary Coley began writing nonfiction; in addition, she has been a journalist, a park planner, an environmental educator, and a public relations officer. Coley grew up in Enid, OK, but now makes Tulsa her home.  Cobwebs became Coley’s first full-length novel. She worked on it off and on for ten years until she was satisfied with it and ready to publish.

Coley followed Cobwebs with Ant Dens, Beehives, The Ravine, and Blood on the Cimarron. You might say she has got the hang of writing full-length novels now.

Mary Coley recounts her love of the written word by explaining that she learned to read in kindergarten. Even as a second grader, her love of the environment became evident as she read National Geographic along with a wide variety of other subjects. Luckily for Coley, her father had an extensive library, so she made good use of it.

Coley advises would-be writers to get busy and write their stories. She suggests they join a writers’ group and attend writing conferences. Take a creative writing class. Also, joining a book club helps writers through the diverse readings and discussions. Coley does remind her readers that “writing takes a lot of work and a lot of tenacity.” As a composition teacher in a community college, I liked to remind my students of a quote by Pete Hamill: “Writing is the hardest work in the world not involving heavy lifting.”

Coley became interested in writing Cobwebs after learning about the history of the Osage and their becoming some of the wealthiest people in the world by receiving oil and gas royalties. In the 1920s, the Osage suffered mysterious deaths and outright murders because homicidal and thieving whites wanted to strip the Osage of their money. The US government aided in the massacre of the Osage because it decreed that the Osage must have a white guardian, thus legalizing theft.

Jamie Aldrich who lives in New Mexico where she teaches biology has returned to Pawhuska, OK, after a thirty-year absence. As a child, Jamie and her sister had spent summers in Pawhuska visiting their great-aunt Elizabeth. Now, Elizabeth, ninety and bedridden, has called asking Jaime to come to Pawhuska intoning, “Come now, Jamie. You must come before it’s too late.”


Picture above from;imode#.WosMcudMGUk.

That phone call sets Jaime on a journey she does not expect and even endangers her life. Jaime does follow her great-aunt’s bidding and takes a week off from her teaching, thinking that is all the time she will need to help her aunt. The reality is quite different from Jaime’s expectations, however.

Jaime arrives to find Aunt Elizabeth’s attorney, Sam Mazie, in the kitchen and her aunt in her upstairs bedroom. Jamie feels a brief sense of recognition when she meets Sam, but she cannot quite place how she knows him. Elizabeth, though weak, is glad to see Jaime. Elizabeth continues to remind Jamie that “time is running out,” but Jaime tells her aunt they will talk when her aunt is stronger.

Jaime does not know anyone else is in the home after Sam leaves besides her and Aunt Elizabeth. However, someone tries to smother Aunt Elizabeth although Jaime does not see anyone else. The would-be murderer slipped out without being seen. Thus, police chief Green suspects Jaime has tried to murder her aunt even though Jamie is the one who calls 911.

Green also learns that Jaime’s husband Ben has died recently of cancer, but Jaime has been investigated in his death. Although Ben begged Jaime to help him die, she could not despite the extreme suffering he experienced because of the cancer. This dark cloud hangs over Jamie along with her sorrow over his death. Now, people in Pawhuska are looking at her as if she wants to murder her aunt.

Back in New Mexico, Jamie’s son has a new job and she would like to be supportive of him and learn about his work. Too, her daughter is getting married soon, so Jamie wants to be involved in the wedding plans. Finally, Jamie’s mother must have some medical tests. Yet Jamie must remain in Pawhuska to discover what Aunt Elizabeth wants and to keep Aunt Elizabeth safe.

As Jamie stays in her aunt’s home while her aunt is in a coma in the hospital, strange events occur. Jamie knows someone has come into the house even though she locked the doors and windows. Threatening notes appear. Windows are broken. And worst of all thousands of black widow spiders are let loose in the house. Readers are also privy to a suspicious character dressed in black and wearing a hoody who hovers in the shadows of the garden watching Jaime and plotting more destruction and death.

Who sends the threatening notes and why? Who is the mysterious figure standing in the shadows? Jaime must figure out the connections and learn about the murderous shadow. What would cause all this intrigue? As Jaime continues to stay in Aunt Elizabeth’s home, she learns more and more about her family’s past and their Osage blood. Old family secrets, long hidden, surface.

Jamie goes through old pictures and learns about family history, but the process is agonizingly slow. People in town do not trust her, so finding an ally becomes difficult. Jamie also keeps getting hurt because of traps laid by that unknown person. Because of her persistence and resilience, Jamie finally discovers the truth. What is that truth? You must read Cobwebs to discover it for yourself.

Read Mary Coley’s blog postings about her adventures in writing at this link:

For more information and to follow Mary Coley, visit her full Web site at this link:

The Book Whisperer Reviews an Oklahoma Mystery Writer


The Old Buzzard Had It Coming by Donis Casey is the first of now ten mysteries in which Alafair Tucker, farm wife of Shaw Tucker and mother of nine (soon to be ten), becomes an amateur sleuth. The story begins in January of 1912 in southeast Oklahoma, near Boynton and Muskogee. The mystery unfolds when Harley Day, near neighbor to the Tuckers, is found dead, assumed frozen in the January snow.

Alafair, always willing to help a neighbor, goes to the Day farm to help Miz. Day prepare Harley’s body for burial. In washing the body, Alafair discovers a bullet hole under Harley’s left ear. Obviously, Harley has not died of exposure alone; the bullet hole suggests another scenario.

Harley Day, a particularly unlikable fellow, has plenty of enemies who might have wished him dead. He’s a mean drunk and frequently mistreats his wife Nona and sometimes his children. As a farmer, Day leaves much to be desired. If not for his oldest son John Lee, now nineteen, the farm would be in complete ruin. To supplement his income and supply his own needs, Day has a moonshine still hidden on his property.

Harley and Nona Day have seven children living at home. Three have died as infants, and their oldest daughter Maggie Ellen has run away to Sands Springs or Okmulgee and married a bricklayer, according to the family. She had promised her sister Naomi she would return and take Naomi away too, but the family has never seen Maggie Ellen again.

Alastair becomes more involved in the mystery of Harley’s death when she realizes her seventeen-year-old daughter Phoebe is in love with John Lee Day. Upon discovering that a ladies’ pistol Alafair’s father has given her is missing, Alafair becomes worried that Phoebe knows more about Harley’s death than she is letting on. Alafair fears John Lee has shot his father and that Phoebe is complicit in the murder.


These fears prompt Alafair to question everyone despite the fact that her husband’s first cousin, Scott Tucker, is the sheriff. Alafair determines that she will find out the truth. Knowing that Phoebe is in love with John Lee, Alafair worries that John Lee will be found guilty of the murder. When John Lee runs away, Alafair becomes even more concerned. By watching Phoebe closely, Alafair discovers John Lee’s hiding place and waits until Phoebe is in school so she can question John Lee and assure him that she is working to find the real killer. Alafair does not believe John Lee has murdered his father, but she needs more information to prove his innocence and along the way protect her daughter as well.

Casey has written a first-rate mystery and peppered the story with colloquialisms of the time and place. She also includes a number of references to food since Alafair and Nona both have large families to fee. At the end of the book, Casey has included recipes for Josie’s Peach Cobbler, buttermilk biscuits, several variations on cornbread, and molasses pie. The picture below is of molasses pie. On her Web site, Casey has included a number of other recipes:


At the Web site, Casey also includes information on her other books along with a blog about her writing and her book tours. Casey provides background on how she began writing the Alafair mysteries. After doing genealogy research on her family in order to give the information to her siblings for Christmas, Casey began remembering stories her grandparents had told. In sharing those stories with her husband, he told Casey stories about his own ancestors in Oklahoma. With all the stories she collected from both families, Casey said to herself, “Donis, you have enough material here for ten books.” Thus Alafair was born.

Casey goes on to tell readers that she wantedto take the opportunity to try and evoke not just the events of the time, but the smells, the tastes, the sound, the hot and cold of it — the daily one-foot-in-front-of-the-other life of a farm wife with nine children. I love the language, too. One of my uncles walked into our house one day and said, ‘What in the cat hair is going on?’ How could I let that fade into oblivion?”

That’s what readers will find in The Old Buzzard Had it Coming and the other Alafair mysteries, a taste of Oklahoma from 1912 and on into WWI.

Tony Hillerman, native Oklahoman and well-known author, praised Casey and Alafair. He said, “As an Okie farm boy of the dust bowl depression days, I can testify that Donis Casey sounds like she’s been there and done that. She gives us a tale full of wit, humor, sorrow and, more important, the truth. Her Alafair Tucker deserves to stand beside Ma Joad in Literature’s gallery of heroic ladies.”

Carolyn Hart, another Oklahoma writer, describes The Old Buzzard Had it Coming as “vivid and unforgettable as a crimson Oklahoma sunset.” Hart goes on to say The Old Buzzard Had it Coming “is a book to savor, lyrical, authentic, and heartwarming.”

Casey’s stories receive praise from Library Journal. Roundup Magazine, the Historical Novel Society, The Daily Oklahoman, Booklist, Chicago Tribune, and others.


A recipe from Donis Casey’s Web site is War Cake found below:

War Cake

1 cup molasses

1 cup corn syrup

1-1/2 cup water

1 package raisins (exact quantity according to preference)

2 TB fat (vegetable oil)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cloves

1/2 tsp nutmeg

3 cups rye flour

1/2 tsp soda

2 tsp baking powder

Boil together for 5 minutes the first nine ingredients. Cool, add the sifted dry ingredients and bake in two loaves for 45 minutes in a moderate oven. (I baked it at 350º F. – Donis)

I like to use golden raisins because they are tender and look nice. I use a 1/2 pound package from Trader Joe’s. The corn syrup I’ve used is plain old white Karo, but I’ve also used maple syrup (which is delicious), agave syrup, honey, and a combination thereof. It’s all good.

The recipe for Fruit Cocktail Cake below is from Donis Casey’s family. Alafair would not have made this cake in quite the same way since she would have used fruit she canned herself. Still, I thought this recipe worth including.


Fruit Cocktail Cake

1 ½ cups sugar                                    1 #303 can fruit cocktail

2 cups flour                                         2 eggs

2 teaspoons soda                                1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon salt

Mix ingredients in order and pour into a 12X9 pan. Bake 45 minutes in moderate oven

Before baking, sprinkle top with ½ cup brown sugar and ½ cup nuts.