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'House of Secrets' is good, clean mystery

Tale focuses on exploits of fictional News reporter

AMERICAN FORK — If you're old enough to have read Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys series, you know that mystery novels can be good, clean fun.

Enter the first of a string of mystery tales by Jeffrey S. Savage of Spanish Fork.

He is creating a new series about the adventures of a fictional Deseret Morning News reporter.

It's not only a first for Savage, who also authored "Cutting Edge" and "Into the Fire," it's also the first mystery hardback without an LDS theme for Covenant Communications. And unlike most mystery novels published today, it leaves behind the sex, offensive language, violence and gore so prevalent today.

This first "Shandra Covington" novel — Savage and Covenant plan on publishing two a year — is "House of Secrets." It arrived in bookstores in early October and has been receiving positive feedback from readers, Savage said.

He's counting on the excitement to boost a mystery writing contest he has planned.

Would-be mystery writers are to compose the first 1,000 words of a mystery that somehow ties into food (since Covington is obsessed with food). It doesn't need to be a complete story, just the beginning.

Mail entries to P.O. Box 416, American Fork, UT 84003, attention: Melissa Stockdale. Include the entrant's name, phone and address on a separate piece of paper or e-mail entries to Include the entry in the body of the e-mail. Do not attach files.

Anyone is eligible to enter. Covenant will accept entries from Nov. 15-30 and will announce the winner Dec. 12.

Prizes include:

First place: $100, walk-on in a Shandra book and a meeting with the editor to discuss your project.

Second place: $50, a signed "House of Secrets" book and a signed original manuscript page.

Third place: $25 and a signed "House of Secrets" book.

Deseret Morning News columnist Ann Cannon unwittingly inspired "House of Secrets." The story line came from a column in which she told about the house in Bear Lake where her grandmother grew up. Later, her grandmother sold it and never looked back, never telling the stories she could have shared. Before Cannon could find answers to a number of questions, her grandmother died and a mystery was born.

"House of Secrets" launches from that same theme.

In the novel, reporter Covington grew up extremely close to her grandmother, who came to live with her. When her grandmother dies she leaves her the house, shrouded in mystery.

But then the story line gets larger. When Covington returns to claim her grandmother's house 20 years later, it's untouched but under two decades of dust and cobwebs. The furniture and details of daily living are still there. But Covington finds more than an abandoned, fully furnished house. She also finds a body in her grandmother's bedroom.

She leaves and summons help, but when she returns that body is gone. Instead, another body, freshly slain, has taken its place. Only two sets of footprints disturbed the dust — those of Covington and the corpse, so the suspicions turn to her. Now she must clear her name. . . .