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Publisher: Black Opal Books (2016)
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There is a point in time when what is done cannot be undone. That’s a tough lesson to learn for the attendees at Fairfield’s Auction. Most of them are residents of Witherston, a rural town in Georgia. The items up for auction represent the history of a divided community. After all, what is the community? Is it property to be bought and sold and owned, as the white settlers viewed it? Or is it land not to be divided but shared as the original Cherokees believed? And the historic items that are on display to be auctioned, is it right that the tomahawks and Cherokee blowguns stolen from the tribes be sold at high prices by the settlers’ descendants? Who really owns the history that is on sale? And is ownership worth killing for? Disagreement can lead to murder.

Mr. Hempton Fairfield is an antique dealer of Cherokee artifacts. His auction is enthusiastically attended. As the character, Neel points out, “ ’Lots of people like history . . . We want to know our ethnic and cultural roots.’” But not everyone supports this sale of historic items. There are protestors with signs saying the Cherokees were robbed. Tension is high as the bidding proceeds. The final surprise for sale is an African Grey parrot. Outrage ignites again. Residents are appalled to see for sale an apparently abused, talking, living animal being. Charlotte Byrd is herself determined to save this bird named Doolittle, and take the saucy animal home with her.

After the auction, the police are kept busy as threats are made and then bodies begin to turn up in the town. Who could be the killer in their midst? There are ominous text messages to investigate a suspenseful hunt to match specific Cherokee artifacts to descendants’ families, and what follows is one wild. It seems that no one knows anything, and no one is talking, except the African Grey Parrot. With the abuse that bird has seen, those comments are certainly alarming. Charlotte’s family and friends are tenderly training Doolittle to see a bright future for himself. And then there are the chickens. Lots of chickens. Everywhere. This mystery is filled with humor and passion, and an urgency to bring the killer to justice before another person, or animal, is murdered.

Craige challenges her readers to track physical clues, to follow tech clues through texts and blogs, and also to re-examine preconceptions and perspectives. It’s a soulful glimpse into a time and history of rural Georgia, and how the deeds of yesteryear impact the populations of today. History cannot be undone. It’s what you do with today that will create tomorrow’s history. How will you affect your descendants? That is the question that Witherston will face.

Fairfield’s Auction: A Witherston Mystery won First Place in the CIBA 2017 M&M Awards for Mystery novels.