Book of the Day Review

Center Stage by Denise Grover Swank / Reviewed by Jeanie Stewart

Center Stage

By Denise Grover Swank

ISBN 978-1939996435
Published March 15, 2016

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Center Stage

Killer Nashville review by Jeanie Stewart

Center Stage is aptly named. Denise Grover Swank’s main character, Magnolia (Maggie) Steele, is always center stage—not only in her career, but in her life. Maggie attracts drama the way a magnet attracts iron. At times it flies at her hard and fast, and the impact is beyond her control. When an on-stage blow-up with a cheating understudy sends her Broadway career crashing like the scenery around her, she’s left with nothing.

With no money, no job, and no place to live, Maggie is forced to go back home to Franklin, Tennessee. Her mama takes her in, but there is no sweet reunion. Maggie had fled Franklin ten years earlier in disgrace, and even she doesn’t remember the details of the awful night that still gives her nightmares.

Before Maggie can get her bags unpacked, Mama, insists she help out at the party she’s catering for a country music star. There, while serving crab puffs to the Nashville movers and shakers, Maggie stumbles across the body of a sleazy agent she’d once sent to the hospital and had recently threatened.   She immediately becomes a person of interest to the Franklin police.

The only way to prove her innocence is to find out who really killed the sleaze. The deeper she digs, the worse things get. She starts getting threatening emails. Her brother hates her. People from her past are angry about the way she ran out on them years ago. She meets new people but doesn’t know who to trust. And then there’s a second murder.

The author’s fast-paced writing and weaving of the past and present keeps the story moving. Center Stage is the first of four books in the Magnolia Steele Mystery series.  Act Two and Call Back are available now and the final book, Curtain Call, will be published this fall.

Readers who like strong heroines will root for Maggie. Who wants to harm her? Will she stay in Franklin or go back to New York City? And how will she cope when she finally remembers the horror of the night she left her past behind?  

Jeanie Stewart has been a mother, grandmother, speaker, freelance editor, teacher, and library director, but before, during, and after these, she was a writer. Her first novel was published in 1997. Eight books followed in Bantam’s SVU series, including thrillers: Don’t Answer the Phone and Deadly Terror.   She has published 9 children’s books for Steck-Vaughn and Rigby. Ten Book Summer won the Missouri Writer’s Guild 2002 award for Best Juvenile book. New Coach Blues won the same award in 2004. Shifting Ground won MWG’s award for best book about Missouri. She has also published numerous short stories and articles for children and adults