In gourd artist Bruce's strong debut, the first in her gourd craft mystery series, Brooklynite Lili Marino takes a cottage in Walden Corners, N.Y., in lieu of payment for a writing job she did for a man she never met, Tom Ford, whose foundation has just gone belly-up. She makes instant friends with the town's only black family, Henry "Coach" Johnson (who coaches high school football), wife Nora and son Scooter. When Lili finds Coach dead face down in a pond, the obvious culprit is a hunter, but nothing proves to be obvious. Bigotry, old feuds and football rivalries surface, as Lili picks up on a few smalltown problems like corporate pollution and Tom Ford's rise and fall (and rise?). Plus there's Lili's alcoholic mother, a baseball star brother, a sister she can't connect with and an attractive local guy. Bruce deftly weaves insightful instructions on dealing with grief and loss as well as details of the ancient craft of gourding into the plot. The resolution is as inevitable as it is unexpected. Agent, Deborah Schneider at Gelfman Schneider. (Sept.)
Correction: The agent for Melanie Jackson's The Master (Reviews, Aug. 1) is Jake Elwell at Weiser & Elwell.