One of my favorite authors (I have a lot of them, but then, there are so many books!) is Virginia Lanier. She wrote a series of mysteries featuring Jo Beth Sidden, the central character who breeds and trains bloodhounds for search and rescue. Virginia Lanier was a housewife in Georgia who loved to read mysteries and got her start writing them when she threw the book she was reading across the room in disgust. She decided that she could write something better and she did – publishing her first book when she was 65.
That first book, Death in Bloodhound Red, won the 1996 Anthony Award for “Best First Novel.” Opening the book is immersing yourself in the world of southern Georgia. You can feel the swamp around you and find yourself swatting at bugs as you read. Lanier’s writing puts you in the middle of the searches in the Okefenokee Swamp. The main character, Jo Beth Sidden, is a feisty southern woman who never backs down, which often gets her in trouble with the law officers with whom she works. She is fiercely loyal to her friends, thinks she knows what is best for everyone, and lives in a compound to protect herself from an abusive and obsessive ex-husband. The character is rich and deep and you feel that she is someone you would like to know.
The first book in the series was published in 1995. Virginia Lanier went on to write five more Jo Beth Sidden books before her death in 2003: The House on Bloodhound Lane, Ten Little Bloodhounds, Blind Bloodhound Justice, A Brace of Bloodhounds, and A Bloodhound to Die For. You want to read these books in order to follow the character development and learn the new characters who are added in. I read them for the first time about 10 years ago, and enjoyed them so much that I decided to read them again. Jo Beth is one of those characters that you never forget.
As well as loving this series, I am inspired by the story of Virginia Lanier. She decided to do something at a time in her life when others said she was too old, and she succeeded wonderfully. We should never give up on our dreams – no matter what our age.