A Promising New Mystery Series

In ‘A Scenic Hills Summer’ we meet Colette, an unforgettable heroine

Julie Borden
3 min readAug 7


Cover courtesy of Reedsy Discovery. Image created by reviewer in Canva.

Disclaimer: Please note I received a free ARC of this book from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for my honest review.

When we first meet Colette Birzhan, she is enjoying the oasis of her home environment, the Chelsea townhouse she shares with her best friend Jackie and their cat, Mr. Bojangles. Colette and Jackie are clearly living their best lives. They are both trans women who endured years of struggle before creating this current reality in which they are free to embrace and revel in their true identities.

They clearly take none of the pleasures in their lives for granted. Colette loves to sleep late; Jackie loves the rare Sundays that Colette gets up early enough to join her for Sunday brunch.

They have a witty rapport between them, and value their friendship over romance, enjoying occasional no-strings relationships, usually when Colette is traveling.

And she does travel. She is a prominent investigative journalist and is drawn to stories others might ignore or misrepresent. She fearlessly goes after the truth, no matter where it takes her.

The story begins when Jackie shares an item from the local paper in her hometown of St. Louis. Several male sex workers have been murdered. Local reporting has been sloppy, and law enforcement has been indifferent. Jackie recognizes the spark in Colette’s eye and has booked her a plane ticket before Colette even announces her intention to go and investigate.

Colette goes where others wouldn’t be willing. Upon arriving in St. Louis, the first contact she makes is a homeless man who gives her insights into the murders from his own unique perspective. A reporter sticking to safe and traditional sources would never be privy to that information.

The story is well-paced and engrossing. It takes the reader into the minds of several memorable characters who are either on the margins of society or barely visible to others, revealing them in their full humanity. I got attached to a few of them.

That led to my one and only criticism of the book. When I was pages away from finishing it, I was debating about whether I would give it four or five stars. It’s that good. But then a character I had grown to care about disappears without much comment or concern from others, including Colette.

I suppose it is a realistic portrayal of someone who has difficulty trusting and forming connections. But it made the story feel incomplete and left me feeling sad. (I gave it three stars.)

According to his website, Shannon Yarbrough plans to make this at least a three-book series, with the second coming out in March 2024. I will definitely read it, as well as any others that follow. I can easily see Colette taking her place alongside Tess Monaghan and Kinsey Millhone as a brave heroine who follows her curious nature into dangerous places and sheds much-needed light on them.

I would like to thank Shannon Yarbrough for the opportunity to read and review this ARC.



Julie Borden

Social worker, therapist, reader, writer, head-in-the-clouds dreamer, awed by most everything. (She/her) Reach me at JulieBordenLCSW@gmail.com.