Thursday Themes

Thursday Themes – Joan Livingston

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I’m very excited today to welcome Joan Livingston to my blog. Joan is the talented author of the Isabel Long detective series, and her third book, Checking The Traps is out tomorrow.

Over to you, Joan…

Checking the Traps (The Isabel Long Mystery Series Book 3)

Theme in Checking the Traps: Perseverance

By Joan Livingston


Hi, Jo. Thank you for this opportunity to appear on your blog. Here goes.

It takes guts to be an amateur private investigator solving cold cases in the sticks. And as Isabel Long, the protagonist of my mystery series, learns, it also takes perseverance. That is certainly true of her third case in Checking the Traps.

First, Isabel’s stick-to-itiveness is part of her gutsy personality, which suited her former jobs as a newspaper reporter and editor. She also doesn’t take crap from anybody, especially when she’s trying to uncover some information. She won’t let anyone or anything get in her way.

To get the job done, Isabel relies on the skills she used as a longtime journalist. So, she is methodical about her approach to each case, especially since they happen in very small towns.

Her first case in Chasing the Case involves the disappearance of a woman 28 years earlier. It was actually Isabel’s first case as a rookie reporter. Obviously, someone has been keeping a secret for a very long time, and Isabel relies on good old-fashioned footwork including interviewing sources and suspects, plus checking public records and old newspaper clippings.

Isabel doesn’t know where this case is going, but she’s going to follow it to the end.

She does the same when the daughter of a junkyard dealer hires her in Redneck’s Revenge. The woman, who inherited the business, is convinced her father wasn’t too drunk to get out of a house fire, that he was actually murdered. In this case, Isabel encounters a rough group of characters, including two drug-dealing brothers who terrorize her a bit.

In Checking the Traps, one of the brothers hires her to find out how their half-brother died. Did he jump off a bridge known for suicides or was he pushed? What interests Isabel in this case is that the half-brother, Cary, was a highway worker who wrote poetry good enough, it turns out, for a famous poet to steal.

Yes, Isabel perseveres in that case, too.

Here is a scene. Isabel is riding in a truck with the two brothers, Gary and Larry Beaumont, to the bridge where Cary supposedly jumped.

Gary hits the wipers.

“Who you gonna see first, Isabel?”

“I’ll have to figure that out, probably Stan, the Penfield road boss. After we’re done here, I’m gonna draw up my list and work from there. I call it checking the traps.”

Gary makes a squawk.

“Checkin’ the what?”

“Checking the traps. When I was a reporter, that’s what I called it when I’d go through my list of sources. I’d give them a call or stop by. I’d just be friendly about it. I got some good stories that way. When I became an editor, I told my reporters to do the same. I also reminded them that checking the traps has another meaning. Make sure somebody isn’t feeding you fake shit to throw you off.”

“I get ya,” Gary says. “Did you always find somethin’ in one of those traps?”

“No, but I might the next time because the people learned what I was looking for.”


Friday was the day I checked the traps when I was a reporter. I would call the school secretaries, because frankly they always knew what was going on, and certain people in town government. It was all off the record, of course, until it became a bona fide story. I stopped by a couple of the general stores. The guy who used to own the store in Titus was one nosy newcomer with a keen sense of hearing, thank goodness. I got a lot of stories from him, and only one was a dead end. Too bad Jeff Murray sold the store a couple of years ago, but he would be worth a phone call if I can track him down. I’ll add him to the list.

I come out of my thinking state when Gary startles me with his voice.

“When do you plan on startin’?”

“I’d say right now, wouldn’t you? We’re going to look at that bridge and I want to see what’s around it like people’s homes. Six years isn’t that long a time. Maybe somebody living there remembers something useful. I also want to call the town police chief. I know some people here from when I was a reporter. Titus is not that far from where I live.”

“Right.” Gary nods. “We’re almost there.”




Isabel Long is a bit banged up from her last case with a broken collarbone and her arm in a sling. But that doesn’t stop her from pouring beer at the Rooster Bar or taking her third case with Gary Beaumont, a local drug dealer who once terrorized her. Gary is convinced his brother didn’t jump off a bridge known for suicides. Somebody pushed him.

Gary’s brother was a boozer who drove for a highway crew. But what interests Isabel and her ‘Watson’ — her 93-year-old mother who lives with her — is that the man wrote poetry.

The chief suspects are one of Gary’s business associates and a famous poet who plagiarized his brother’s poetry for an award-winning book. Yes, he was that good.

As a journalist, Isabel did regular meetups with her sources for stories. She called it checking the traps. She does the same as a private investigator, and this time, she’ll make sure she doesn’t get caught in one.



Joan Livingston is the author of novels for adult and young readers. Checking the Traps, published by Crooked Cat Books, is the third in the mystery series featuring Isabel Long, a longtime journalist who becomes an amateur P.I. The first two are Chasing the Case and Redneck’s Revenge.

An award-winning journalist, she started as a reporter covering the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. She was an editor, columnist, and the managing editor of The Taos News, which won numerous state and national awards during her tenure. Recently, she was named editor of the Greenfield Recorder.

After living eleven years in New Mexico, she has returned to rural Western Massachusetts, which is the setting of much of her adult fiction, including the Isabel Long Mystery Series.


Chasing the Case:

Redneck’s Revenge: http://mybook/rednecksrevenge

Checking the Traps: http://mybook/checkingthetraps




Twitter: @JoanLivingston






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