Books by John M. Daniel
REVIEWS FOR BEHIND THE REDWOOD DOOR
Genre-Go-Round, Midwest Book Review
Carol Mallon and her five foot tall husband Guy have lived in Jefferson City on the northern California coast for three years. She owns and runs Scarecrow Books the local bookstore while unemployed by choice the fifty something Guy helps her as an unpaid loving volunteer. In deep love, each believes they enjoy the idyllic life.
The Mallon couple is eating at the Redwood Door Tavern with the Jefferson Nickel weekly paper owner River Webster and editor Pete Thayer. However, River and Pete have broken off their person relationship. He leaves presumably to work on a story. She follows immediately to talk with him, but River finds Pete dead with a knife protruding from his chest. River asks former publisher Guy to run the paper and he agrees. However once he takes over the Jefferson Nickel, he begins to have problems. His computer is tampered with and then destroyed; while Petes office and home are ransacked and disks are missing. Guy spots a familiar face who might be the culprit behind the killing and other incidents. Before he can act on his inclination, he receives a visitor looking for two missing children.
Behind the Redwood Door is a complex mystery with a colorful rustic background. The exciting story line will keep readers on the edge of their seats with wonder as they try to figure out who is the evil serpent is who is destroying paradise and why. John M. Daniels writes an enthralling whodunit within a vivid setting.
Guy Mallon (who, at five feet tall, is vertically challenged) and his wife Carol (at standard height) own a used book store on the north coast of California, a land of rocky shores and redwood forests with a rich history of gold, lumber, Native Americans and hardy entrepreneurs.
Guy and Carol are in the Redwood Door, a local watering hole, when their friend Peter Thayer, who is also the publisher of a local weekly newspaper, is murdered behind the pub. Peter's live-in girlfriend, River Webster (a woman with a checkered past) and he had just had a disagreement. So, of course, River is the first suspect.
The pace of this mystery is fast, always with a surprise around the next corner. Guy has a run-in with a local fisherman and ends up in the harbor. It's not easy being smaller than your average twelve year-old. Author John M. Daniel has a great character in Guy, who does not dwell on the fact he is so short he uses it for humor at times. He's just a regular guy who knows his limitations. Carol makes a great foil for him not condescending and counts on him as any wife would.
The mystery revolves around the townspeople, the town that is rich in history, and the usual riff-raff. There are swindlers, fishermen, dope growers, floozies - you name it and any group will be represented. Now murderer has to be added to the mix.
I reviewed Daniel's second book, Vanity Fire, and found it really good. I think the same of Behind the Redwood Door. You also might want to check out the first of this series The Poet's Funeral. Worth the effort. Daniel's descriptions of the town and the surrounding countryside make me want to put the area on my bucket list.
Mary Ann Smyth
On the northern shore of California, nestled in the stunning redwood forest, sits a used bookstore run by Guy and Carol Mallon. This is one of those small towns where everyone dreams of living. This is definitely NOT the location where murder and mayhem would ever be found.
Pete Thayer, the editor of the local newspaper is found stabbed to death behind The Redwood Doora tavern that the Mallons love to hang out in and have a swig or two. Pete was a very close personal friend of Guy and his wife, so it is no surprise that Guy leaps into the case to try and find out what happened. Carol has serious regrets and fears about delving into the crime and even though Guy will not be swayed from his ultimate goal, his determination and the support of Petes girlfriend, River Webster is enough to make him go out on a limb to discover the murderer.
As Guy works the case, he finds himself becoming embroiled in a history of dirty politics, newspapers warring with other newspapers, dope dealers, and a family situation. The two families in question are the irresponsible Websters and the hard-headed Connollys who have hated each other for years. Guy finds himself going back and forth between the present and past in order to unveil the culprit.
This book is a field day of fantastic characters, some likeable, some not, but thats what makes for a good story. The Mallons, Sheriff Blue Heron, Gloria, the bartender, and River Webster are all sympathetic and helpful, but the world that belongs to people like Seamus and Billy Connolly will definitely have readers wanting to grab up their pitchforks and take them out. The author has the gift of being able to jump back and forth in time without messing up the story, and the fans will be waiting very impatiently for the next story about Guy, Carol, and their cronies to emerge from the Redwood Door.
When the editor of a local newspaper is murdered, Guy Mallon is recruited to replace him
putting him squarely in the middle of multi-generation family feud in Behind the Redwood Door, the third mystery in this series by John M. Daniel. Guy and his wife Carol own the Scarecrow Bookstore, a used bookshop in Jefferson City, a small coastal town well north of San Francisco, where the couple used to own a publishing company. Carol runs the business without much need of help from Guy, leaving him to enjoy the peace and quiet of the region and to pursue his interest, local history. After Pete Thayer, editor and writer for The Jefferson Nickel, is killed behind their favorite tavern, River Webster, who owns the paper, asks Guy to fill in for Pete. Guy agrees, but only if he can write about the town's history, bringing to life accounts of times gone by. But then the Scarecrow is broken into, with books on the town's history destroyed. Other acts of vandalism follow. River suspects it is the work of Seamus Connolly, owner of the rival paper the Jefferson Republican. Connolly's family has been at odds with the Websters for well over 150 years, since Jefferson City's founding in the 1860s. But Guy isn't so sure, and looks to the past to determine if he can find something that might help explain what's happening in the present. Behind the Redwood Door is as much history as mystery, and fans of either or both genres will enjoy the storyline here. The history is (presumably) a clever blending of generally known facts from the region and a fictional recreation of roots of the town of Jefferson City. The whodunit element is nicely constructed, the murder mystery peppered with plenty of red herrings. Also noteworthy is the setting along the northern California coast, which is drawn with details that make it come alive, both in the past and the present.
Betty of The Betz Review
North Coast Journal
Outside the bar, a woman screams. Inside, conversation stops, a bartender mutes the TV, and Guy Mallon exchanges glances with his wife before shouldering his way out into the mist. His friend sits propped against a dumpster, throat slashed. His sequoia-green sweater was soaked with black blood.
In Mallons mythical Jefferson County the bar is called the Redwood Door, but it is unabashedly modeled after The Alibi, just as Jefferson City, with its statue of Thomas Jefferson on the Plaza, is a slightly skewed Arcata. The town is a conflation of North Coast places, with a rocky harbor and a daily newspaper owned by a wealthy, right-wing businessman.
Oh, and the murder victim?
Editor of the local alternative weekly.
Watching Mallon track down the murderer is only part of fun in Behind the Redwood Door, by McKinleyville author and book publisher John M. Daniel. The rest comes from locale and celebrity spotting.
Daniel insists no one is real, and only a little scenery is borrowed. The land whites stole from the Indians, the fight over the shopping mall, the casino at the Steelhead Rancheria, all are inventions. The editor of the weekly Jefferson Nickel is very loosely modeled after a friend of Daniels, now deceased, who once edited the New Times in San Luis Obispo. The publisher of the daily Jefferson Republican, Seamus Connolly, is modeled after no one we know, Daniel says. Certainly not the former publisher of the Eureka Reporter, who Daniel says he has never met.
Seamus Connolly is a small town person, and I dont think Rob Arkley would be called that
because he delves into national political matters, says Daniel. The author is sitting in his light-filled living room, across the street from one of the peculiar home-castle amalgams on a stretch of the Hammond Trail. During the week, he and his wife Susan run their small press publishing company, Daniel & Daniel, from their home. On Sundays, John Daniel retreats to his office and writes. Its the most fun thing I do all week, he says. I love it. He has written a memoir, a writing guide and a modest handful of mysteries, including three featuring Guy Mallon, a book publisher who tends to stumble into mayhem.
Behind the Redwood Door is fast-paced and readable, a satisfying companion for a rainy afternoon even without the local angle. Its got family feuds, marijuana growers and layers of interwoven stories of the strong preying on the weak.
Even a genre novel like a mystery has to stand for something, says Daniel, and in this one my big crusade is against bullying at all levels.
As in the real Humboldt, some of the bullies win, and some of them lose.
Carrie Peyton Dahlberg,
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