"An intriguing murder featuring high and low realities of life in Memphis!"
Reviewed by Audrey Lawrence
Posted August 21, 2016
Inspirational Mystery | Mystery
Danny Andre seldom asks for anything, but when he finally
does, it is too late. He calls Nicki Price, a longtime
friend from high school at 2 a.m., but she chatters on
about how great life is for her and he realizes it is
hopeless to burden her. Feeling devastated by not
appreciating the seriousness of his call, Nicki is
determined to help and opts to go to Memphis from her
home in New Orleans to find out how she can help.
Along with her cousin, Nate Price, and now most recently,
her boss in his PI firm, they arrive in Memphis. The
leads they have to Danny are few. When they arrive at
his place, they are shocked by what they see. Then when
the cousins connect with Isabelle, Danny's sister, she
beseeches them to find out what happened to her brother.
Will they be able to find Danny in time? How will they
WHAT HAPPENED ON BEALE STREET is the second book in a new
romantic suspense series, Secrets of the South Mysteries,
by Mary Ellis. Already well known for her Amish and
historical romances, fans of Ellis will enjoy how she
nicely links WHAT HAPPENED ON BEALE STREET to her very
well received first book in the series MIDMIGHT ON THE
MISSISSIPPI, while still making a satisfying standalone
mystery for her readers.
Ellis gets top marks for character development as both
main and secondary characters are well-developed and
authentically described. I found Nate Price to be a
likable and realistic character and hope to read more
about him in the future. Nicki Price is a caring and
compassionate person; however, for my taste, I found too
many of her actions and reactions in the story make her
seem more like an immature teenager than a newly trained
private investigator about to be married. That character
misalignment is a bit ff-putting for me to identify with
her as a strong character. Fortunately, the subject
matter, the history and the mystery keep me intrigued to
find out WHAT HAPPENED ON BEALE STREET.
Ellis is also skilled in developing storylines and has
two mysteries going on that definitely highlight the
juxtapositions of the high and low life in Memphis,
including the lives of the contract musician and the
homeless. While Nate is busy pulling together his
information and clues while being very careful to not
cross the line into police work, Nicki is off on her own
scavenger hunt for clues to a different mystery,
including meeting a number of clever seniors.
So head on down to Memphis and find out for yourself WHAT
HAPPENED ON BEALE STREET! You are sure to find an
intriguing story, a puzzling mystery, some scary
suspense and a touch of romance, along with some great
background info on the Blues and a grand old hotel.
WHAT HAPPENED ON BEALE STREET is an exciting
the Secrets of the South Mysteries from bestselling
author Mary Ellis. These standalone, complex crime dramas
follow a private investigator’s quest to make the world a
better place…solving one case at a time.
A cryptic plea for help from a childhood friend sends
cousins Nate and Nicki Price from New Orleans to Memphis,
the home of scrumptious barbecue and soulful blues music.
When they arrive at Danny Andre’s last known address,
they discover signs of a struggle and a lifestyle not in
keeping with the former choirboy they fondly remember.
Danny’s sister, Isabelle, reluctantly accepts their help.
She and Nate aren’t on the best of terms due to a
complicated past, yet they will have to get beyond that
if they want to save Danny.
On top of Danny’s alarming disappearance and his troubled
relationship with Isabelle, Nate also has to rein in his
favorite cousin’s overzealousness as a new and eager PI.
Confronted with a possible murder, mystery, and mayhem in
the land of the Delta blues, Nate must rely on his faith
and investigative experience to keep one or more of them
from getting killed.
Nicki Price opened one eye to find an irate face looming
over her in the dark room.
“Why do you pay a phone bill if you refuse to answer the
thing?” Her roommate slapped the phone down on Nicki’s
plexus, none too gently.
“I do pick up when people call during daylight hours.”
Letting her cell fall to the floor, Nicki turned over and
snuggled deeper under her covers.
Chloe Galen plopped down on the edge of the bed. “Nic,
you’re a partner in a big-time PI agency. You need to be
ready for adventure twenty-four-seven.”
“Spoken like a true artist-in-residence, who paints solely
when the creative impulse strikes but under no
before noon. Besides, Price Investigations is not a big-
agency. I work for my cousin for chump change.”
Nicki tried to bump Chloe off the bed with her hip. “Isn’t
it the middle of the night? Why are you still up?”
“Because whenever I doze off, your stupid phone wakes me
How can you stand the theme song from a TV Western for a
ringtone? If you don’t answer the next time it rings, I’m
coming back with a bucket of cold water.” Chloe picked the
phone from the rug just as it began its annoying tune
as though on cue and handed it to her friend.
Nicki sat upright and kicked the tangled covers to the
of her bed.
“Hello?” she demanded crossly. “Whoever you are, do you
any idea what time it is?”
“Nicki?” A familiar voice on the other end sounded
“It’s Danny Andre.”
“Danny. I’d recognize your Barry White imitation
underwater.” Nicki changed her tone as every trace of
sleepiness vanished. “How are you? Where are you? I heard
you moved to the big city to seek fame and fortune. I have
major news too—a new job, cool apartment, and a real live
fee-ahn-say.” She couldn’t help grinning as she said that
“That’s great, Nic. I’m happy for you,” he said. But the
subsequent moments of silence didn’t convey much
Nicki’s smile vanished from her face. “Hey, what’s going
I don’t hear anything from you for months, and then you
in the middle of the night?”
“Sorry about that. I keep forgetting normal people keep
“Forget about normal. What’s wrong, Danny?”
“Anything I can do?” Chloe whispered. She was lingering in
Nicki shook her head as she dug through her nightstand for
pen and paper.
“Remember our promise that we’d be able to tell each other
anything? I didn’t know who else to call since my sister
had enough of me lately. This might send Isabelle around
bend.” His laugh sounded hollow.
The fact that her childhood best friend resurrected a
playground pledge sent a chill through Nicki’s veins. “Of
course I remember. Nothing has changed, so spill your
What did you do? Knock over the Natchez Savings and Loan?
Why not hide out in New Orleans? Providing you dress like
tourist, no one will find you in the French Quarter.”
Her jest fell short of its mark, while the sound of his
labored breathing tied Nicki’s gut tied into knots.
please say something. You’re scaring me.”
“Then that makes two of us. I’m in real trouble, Nicki. I
got myself into a mess.”
She closed her eyes, trying to rectify his pleas with her
best friend from the sixth grade until their high school
graduation. Danny Andre was the sweetest guy she knew.
Everyone liked him, from their Sunday school teacher to
surly old man who kept every ball that landed in his yard.
Even her mother liked him, despite insulting every other
male that crossed the Price threshold. Danny was more
diplomatic than a Swiss banker and twice as generous.
“How much trouble can someone get into playing a saxophone
in a Memphis orchestra?” she asked.
“I play in blues clubs where I pick up gigs and fill in
regulars. My job is a far cry from the New York
“What? Your granny told you to stay out of the bars when
Nicki waited for a sarcastic retort, but she heard the
of muffled sobs instead.
“Sorry. No more bad jokes. Tell what I can do to help.”
“Could you come to Memphis? Maybe bring your cousin and
new fiancé of yours? Bring some of his friends too. The
Unfortunately, she hesitated a second too long. “Sure.
Hunter and I will drive up as soon as he’s done testifying
in court. Shouldn’t be more than a few days. I would love
see Memphis as soon as he can break away. I’ll check if
“I’m sorry, Nic. How stupid of me to think you could drop
everything and hightail it upriver. We ain’t in the
grade anymore. Let’s get together when things calm down
Hunter. I’ll call you.”
“Wait, Danny! Give me your address and I’ll come this
weekend even if Hunter can’t. I’m not too busy for my
But he had already hung up.
“What’s wrong with him?” asked Chloe.
Nicki turned to face her future sister-in-law. “I have no
idea. I’m obviously terrible at crisis intervention. If
somebody was out on the ledge contemplating suicide, I’d
probably ask them to wait till after my pedicure.” She put
her face in her hands and groaned.
“Give yourself a break. It’s hard to be Johnny-on-the-spot
at two o’clock in the morning.” Chloe walked over to the
and bent to give her friend a hug.
“Who is this Danny person? Does my brother have something
worry about? I know for a fact Hunter is crazy about you,
‘crazy’ being the operative word.”
Because trying to get back to sleep would be a fruitless
endeavor, Nicki got out of bed, slipped into her robe, and
then padded to the coffeemaker in the kitchen. “Danny
was the only person in high school who didn’t think me
during a weird period of my life.”
“An old boyfriend from your misguided youth rears his
Chloe perched on a tall kitchen stool.
“Not a boyfriend, just a friend. Danny is in trouble, but
was too busy explaining how great things were for me to
Chloe’s expression softened. “What kind of trouble? IRS
liens, problem with the musicians’ union, advice for
lovelorn? Hunter could help with the first, Nate the
and I’m your girl for the third.”
Nicki released an exasperated sigh. “I have no idea. He
up too fast. I need to get to Memphis ASAP. Danny wouldn’t
have called unless it was serious.”
As soon as she swallowed a mouthful of reheated coffee,
punched in his number. The call went straight to voice
“Do you know where he lives in Memphis?”
“Yet you’re going to jump on a plane.”
“Yep. He and Christine Hall were my closest friends. Danny
refused to ask someone to our prom so we could go as a
of nerds. Now that Christine is dead, I need to step up to
the plate.” Nicki poured coffee into a travel mug.
“What about your job?”
“PI work isn’t like being a bank teller, Chloe. Nate and I
have to wait for clients to hire us.”
“Do you plan on telling my brother where you’re going?”
Nicki stopped fussing with sugar packets. “Of course I
but I don’t want to call him until the sun is up. One of
should get a decent night’s sleep. Until then I’ll take a
shower and pack a bag. The more I replay the conversation
with Danny, the more I think I shouldn’t waste time.”
With that she walked back to her room and into the
curtailing Chloe’s questions. Steam soon enveloped her in
moist cocoon, but Nicki found no solace. The fear in
voice echoed in her ears. Why had she been so blithe, so
careless with his request? It wasn’t as if he pestered her
with one demand after another.
By the time she was dressed and had dried her hair into a
mane of curls, the love of her life had arrived. Hunter
Galen was sipping coffee at the table when she walked back
into the kitchen.
“Rumor has it you and I are going to Memphis. It’s one of
favorite cities—birthplace of the blues and home of the
tastiest barbecue in the South.”
Hunter smacked his lips and reached for her hand. “Good
morning, my love.”
Nicki threw her arms around him while scowling at her
roommate over his shoulder. Chloe simply shrugged and
offered her an adorable smile.
“What are you doing here, sweet man?” Nicki kissed the top
of Hunter’s head, his hair still damp from a shower. “You
have a big day ahead of you. Your busybody sister must
forgotten you have to testify in court or bad people will
get away with murder.”
Chloe placed a cup of coffee on the table and slunk from
“I couldn’t sleep anyway.” Hunter tightened his arms
“What’s up with your friend? Is this the knight who
you from a snake-infested island? Nate said the guy swam
from shore to carry you back in a pirogue.”
“You already called my cousin?”
“Yes, on my way here. I needed to know about any rascal
would invite you to visit at two a.m.”
“I’m going to slap your sister silly,” Nicki fumed.
“I’d pay a dollar to watch, but first tell me the story
about snake island.”
Hunter kneaded her back with his long fingers.
“Nate and his pals stranded me in the middle of a swamp
without a pole or oars. I couldn’t use my hands for
because gators live in that water. My cousin planned to
return when the moon rose. Danny heard about their prank
the Dairy Queen and rescued me first. But he certainly
didn’t swim. He paddled out in another pirogue and towed
mine back. My, how stories change with each retelling.”
“I would love to meet so brave a hero.”
Nicki buried her face into Hunter’s starched shirt, trying
to forget the panic in Danny’s voice. “I can count on one
hand the times Danny asked me for anything. Today, he gave
me a chance to even the score, and what did I do? Rambled
about how great life is ever since I found true love. How
could I be so self-centered?”
“Chloe said he woke you up from a dead sleep.”
“If you heard how scared he sounded, Hunter, you wouldn’t
make excuses for me.”
“I would make excuses for you even strapped to a rack
beneath a pendulum blade.”
Nicki pulled away. “Something bad has happened. I need to
to Memphis but haven’t decided whether to drive or fly.”
“I’ll ask the DA to petition the court for a continuance
book us on the next flight.” Finishing his coffee, Hunter
got to his feet.
“No, sweet man. Thank you, but you don’t want to annoy the
judge. Besides I’m a licensed PI, equipped to swim through
whatever snake-infested waters Memphis has.” Nicki reached
for her shoulder holster and Beretta from the shelf above
“Have you ever been to Memphis, Nicolette? Have you spent
time in the clubs and smoky after-hours dives where
“No, but Danny was a former choir boy at First Baptist
Church of Natchez. I doubt he would hang out in those
places.” She placed a bottle of water into her bag.
“People change. I’m sure singing gospel on Sunday mornings
didn’t cause whatever trouble he’s in.”
Nicki pivoted to face him. “You need to be in court. I’ll
what I can and come back before you miss me.”
Hunter lifted her chin with one finger. “Humor me by
Nate to go with you. Memphis is no place for a brand-new
detective, male or female. Before I leave for court, I’ll
arrange your flight, hotel, and have a rental car waiting
the airport. Please, cher?”
Nicki grinned. “But Nate was the one who stranded me on
“I remember. Rest assured that history won’t repeat itself
in the Mississippi delta. And if you’ll be in Memphis for
while, I’ll fly up once I’m done testifying. I know some
special places you will like.”
“You have a deal, Galen. Call the airlines while I finish
packing. Then I’ll enjoy pressing Nate’s buzzer until he
drags himself out of bed.”
However, when Nicki arrived at her cousin’s apartment, the
door was ajar.
Drawing her weapon, she crept inside, fully prepared for
mayhem. But by the time her eyes adjusted to the dark, she
heard the sound of water running in the bathroom and
humming the Mississippi State fight song.
She inched her way to Nate’s bedroom, where a half dozen
shirts and pairs of trousers had been strewn across the
unmade bed. “Nate?” she called from the hallway. “It’s
Nicki. Why is your door wide open?”
Her new business partner emerged from the bathroom dressed
in jeans and a sport shirt. “Because Hunter called and
you were on your way. Give me another ten minutes and we
be off.” Nate took his gun from the nightstand drawer
with an extra clip of ammunition.
“You’ll come to Memphis without begging or bribery?” Nicki
remained where she stood, not wishing to invade his
“Sure, why not? We don’t have any cases at the moment, and
your well-heeled fiancé insists on paying our expenses no
matter how long we’re gone. And that’s just two of my
reasons.” Nate placed his shirts and pants into a suitcase
and then dumped everything else on top unceremoniously.
“I’m not sure why Hunter wants to help Danny. He doesn’t
“Because he doesn’t want you driving your car or staying
a cheap motel in a bad neighborhood. And, frankly, I don’t
either or I wouldn’t be taking expense money from him.
was my friend too, Nic, and Natchez boys stick to
Nate zipped up the case and then said, “Are you ready?
Hunter said he booked us on a nine o’clock flight.”
Nicki blinked, confused. Because Danny hadn’t played
in school, the two barely knew each other. “Wait a minute.
Did Hunter tell you to act like this dynamic duo thing was
your idea? So I wouldn’t get my feathers ruffled?”
“Don’t overthink this, Nic. An expense-paid trip to
somewhere I haven’t been sounds like a vacation.”
She sighed but decided to give in gracefully. “Okay, but
let’s leave before Hunter hires a private bodyguard for
Turning, she pulled her case out the door.
I’m in real trouble, Nicki. I got myself into a mess.
Each time Danny’s words replayed through her mind, the
uncomfortable feeling in her gut turned downright ominous.
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