SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. — Sunbury Press has released Sherry Knowlton’s first novel Dead of Autumn, a murder mystery set in the Cumberland Valley of Pennsylvania.
About the Book:
Alexa Williams is a successful lawyer, volunteers weekly at a women’s clinic, and has a sexy weekend boyfriend—not to mention an endearing best friend in her giant English mastiff, Scout. But one autumn day, when Scout takes off into the Pennsylvania woods, Alexa discovers a nightmare she’d never imagined. From that fateful day, Alexa becomes entangled in a murder mystery—one that she tries to unravel by linking it to experiences and symbols in her own life.
Dewilla Noakes, a child of the Depression, has recently lost her mother. Her father, packs up the girls—and their attractive cousin, Winnie—and hits the road to look for a job on the east coast. Along the way, money becomes tighter, food becomes scarcer, and relationships become strained. Dewilla’s father fears he’s failing his daughters. Running out of options, he begins to consider the unthinkable to end the misery he’s brought upon his family …
Horrific scene of the “Babes in the Woods” referred to in “Dead of Autumn.”
Alexa soon finds herself amidst violence aimed at the clinic where she volunteers, brought on by pro-life extremists. In a bizarre turn of events, she’s almost raped, ambushed by religious zealots who wish to convert her, then taken by surprise as another romance enters her life. Plus, she seems to be seeing quite a lot of the local law enforcement these days.
No matter what else happens in her life, Alexa can’t shake feeling some sort of connection to the mysterious murder victim. She thinks back to the stories she heard as a child, about the Babes in the Woods, who were murdered close to where the victim’s body was found, wondering if that might be why she draws the connection. But when the murderer strikes again, Alexa must rely on her knowledge of local history and terrain in order to save her own life.
DEAD of AUTUMN ties together the struggles faced by females, young and old, past and present, and the degrees of power they embrace to combat their situations.
“Last one, Scout,” Alexa warned as she arced the ball high into the air, but her throw went astray. The ball clipped a low-hanging branch, plummeted to the ground, and disappeared over a small hill. The mastiff chased after the ball as it hit the dirt and rolled down the far slope.
For a few seconds, Alexa lost sight of both Scout and the ball. She rushed in their direction, calling out to the dog. She stopped dead in her tracks then sprinted when she heard Scout barking furiously. When the pitch of his bark rose to a high keen, an icy tremor fluttered down Alexa’s spine.
Frantic thoughts of bears, porcupines, and animal traps flew through Alexa’s mind as she reached the top of the rise. She slowed as she caught sight of Scout about twenty yards away. Still yelping, the red ball forgotten at his feet, the mastiff seemed riveted by a bushy area near the small stream.
The dog didn’t appear to be hurt, but she still worried that some wild animal was involved. This state forest saw several cases of rabies every year, and she didn’t want to confront a rabid fox or other animal. She picked up a fallen branch.
Despite repeated calls, Scout would not come to her. Alexa continued to edge nearer, her heart thumping. She glimpsed a bright flash of pink at the far base of the mountain laurel and wondered why Scout would flip out over a pile of trash. Tensed to flee, Alexa tiptoed still closer to Scout and whatever had him behaving so strangely.
A slight, blonde girl lay completely still beneath the mountain laurel, a patch of her torn fuchsia blouse lifting on the breeze. Her legs, clad in trendy blue jeans, skewed at an impossible angle to her waist. Her back rested on a pile of scarlet leaves, right arm flung above her head; blue eyes staring sightless at the sky.
Alexa gasped and let the branch slip from her fingers. She reached out to grip Scout’s collar, and the dog immediately stopped his keening. An abrupt silence fell over the forest. The sudden quiet unnerved Alexa. The small slope blocked any sounds of traffic from the road. She could hear nothing except the muted burble of the creek and the dry rustle of autumn leaves.
The murmur of the dying leaves seemed to whisper a warning. Alexa scanned the surrounding area, but she and Scout were alone.
Alone with a dead body.
About the Author:
Sherry Knowlton (nee Rothenberger) was born and raised in Chambersburg, PA, where she developed a lifelong passion for books. She was that kid who would sneak a flashlight to bed at night so she could read beneath the covers. All the local librarians knew her by name.
Sherry launched her writing career with a mimeographed elementary school newsletter and went on to write and edit for her high school and college newspapers. Since then, Sherry’s creative and technical writing has run the gamut from poetry, essays, and short stories to environmental newsletters, policy papers, regulations, and grant proposals. Dead of Autumn is her first novel.
Sherry spent much of her early career in state government, working primarily with social and human services programs, including services for abused children, rape crisis, domestic violence, and family planning. In the 1990s, she served as the Deputy Secretary for Medical Assistance in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The latter part of Sherry’s career has focused on the field of Medicaid managed care. Now retired from executive positions in the health insurance industry, Sherry runs her own health care consulting business.
Sherry has a B.A. in English and psychology from Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA.
Sherry and her husband, Mike, began their journey together in the days of peace and music when they traversed the country in a hippie van. Running out of money several months into the trip, Sherry waitressed the night shift at a cowboy hangout in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Mike washed dishes in a bakery. Undeterred, they embraced the travel experience and continue to explore far-flung places around the globe. Sherry and Mike have one son, Josh, a craft brewer in upstate New York.
Sherry lives in the mountains of South Central Pennsylvania, only a short distance from the Babes in the Woods memorial.
Dead of Autumn
Authored by Sherry Knowlton
List Price: $19.95
6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
Sunbury Press, Inc.
BISAC: Fiction / Thrillers / Crime
Also available on Kindle
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