California’s Central Valley is most noted for extreme heat, its famous literary giant, Saroyan, and the feeling of a peaceful agricultural community that has morphed into a large city. Yet its long hot summers bring out the worst in people at times.

In Valley Fever: Where Murder Is Contagious: A Collection of Short Stories Set in the San Joaquin Valley, the authors explore the unique flavors that set the Valley apart from other parts of California, but also its dark underbelly.

The opening story, A Tale of Two Sittings, is set in the now defunct, yet iconic eatery, in Fresno’s Tower District: The Daily Planet. Just the mention conjures up all kinds of nostalgia for me, and I can almost literally see the scene unfolding. I’m hooked, as I read the story and see how a very clever murder unfolds. The opening line says a lot:

“It was the best of crimes, it was the worst of crimes.”

Each series of stories is captioned under Fine Dining, Valley Heat, Stormy Weather, Deadly Destinations, Culture & Consequences, and Holidays Can Be Murder.

Some stories were funny, all were quirky, and there was a tongue-in-cheek aspect that I relished.

An enjoyable read for anyone who has ever lived in or visited the Valley; for those who just enjoy good murder mysteries; and for others who are simply curious about this part of the world, you will not be disappointed. Five stars.


Welcome to some serendipitous fun today as we share Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and as we showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

Since I live in California’s Central Valley, I bought this collection of short stories from a few authors I’ve met at Valley events.  It has been on my TBR Pile, just waiting for the right time to come out.  Valley Fever:  Where Murder is Contagious, is a collection of stories by three women who write about the underbelly of Fresno, the “All-American City,” and its surrounding areas.  The authors:  Sunny Frazier JoAnne Lucas, and Cora Ramos.

Today’s beginning is excerpted from the first story, A Tale of Two Sittings, by Sunny Frazier:

It was the best of crimes, it was the worst of crimes.

It was a crime so well thought out, so magnificent in execution, I had to admire the murderers.  Passion prompted the act, vanity was its undoing.


The p. 56 snippet is from Fresno Heat, by Jo Anne Lucas.

Larry laughed on cue.  “Nells is no shy, retiring public servant like…what was his name?”  Larry snapped his fingers at us.  “That guy last year, the city councilman.  Tarnally, yeah, Edward Tarnally.  Remember him?”


I like the beginning, especially the first line, reminiscent of the famous opener in “A Tale of Two Cities.” 

What are you showcasing today?  Come on by and share!