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Shady Hollow

Shady Hollow

by Juneau Black

Narrated by Cassandra Campbell

Unabridged — 6 hours, 16 minutes

Juneau Black
Shady Hollow

Shady Hollow

by Juneau Black

Narrated by Cassandra Campbell

Unabridged — 6 hours, 16 minutes

Juneau Black

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The first book in the Shady Hollow series, in which we are introduced to the village of Shady Hollow, a place where woodland creatures live together in harmony-until a curmudgeonly toad turns up dead and the local reporter has to solve the case.

Reporter Vera Vixen is a relative newcomer to Shady Hollow. The fox has a nose for news, so when she catches wind that the death might be a murder, she resolves to get to the bottom of the case, no matter where it leads. As she stirs up still waters, the fox exposes more than one mystery, and discovers that additional lives are in jeopardy.
Vera finds more to this town than she ever suspected. It seems someone in the Hollow will do anything to keep her from solving the murder, and soon it will take all of Vera's cunning and quickness to crack the case.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Black’s books — Shady Hollow, Cold Clay and Mirror Lake . . . have become my favorite new comfort reads. The plotting is sharp, the prose lean and the atmosphere pure joy. Vixen and the rest of the critters never feel like anthropomorphic Disney cartoon characters. I eagerly await a fresh infusion of Shady Hollow mayhem.”
The New York Times

“This captivating tale offers sunshine and murder in perfect proportion to keep readers entertained and engrossed in deceptively placid Shady Hollow.”
Shelf Awareness
“An absolutely delightful cozy read. . . . An remarkable empathy is also on display in these pages, putting this book firmly in the category of heartwarming reads despite the murders it chronicles.”
—Criminal Element

 “Watership Down meets Mickey Spillane. A mystery of rare and sinister charm.”
—Alan Bradley, New York Times bestselling author of the Flavia de Luce series

“A magical confection that will leave you nostalgic for the storybooks of your youth.  It’s quirky and clever, charming and smart.  I read Shady Hollow in one sitting and can’t wait for more!”
—Sarah Addison Allen, New York Times bestselling author of First Frost

“Get ready to fall in love with Shady Hollow and its quirky cast of animal characters. Charming and clever, Juneau Black will take readers on delightful ride as the mystery unfolds. I can’t wait to read more!”
—Amy E. Reichert, author of The Kindred Spirits Supper Club

“Need a book to curl up with by the fire? This is it! Shady Hollow must be the coziest of cozy crime stories. It’s a whimsical woodland murder mystery like no other! I not only enjoyed reading about it—I want to live there, surrounded by enigmatic pandas, diligent mice and well-read corvids. I have to try the food, listen to the gossip and visit the tiny café—and I don't even care that there is a murderer on the loose!”
—Leonie Swann, bestselling author of Three Bags Full

Kirkus Reviews

Under the fig-leaf Black pseudonym, newcomers Jocelyn Cole and Sharon Nagel introduce an animals-only village in which members of many species coexist, except when they’re killing each other.

Nobody much liked Otto Sumpf, but nobody can imagine who disliked the toad enough to stab him in the back and dump him into a pond. The mystery deepens when Solomon Broadhead, the adder who serves as Shady Hollow’s medical examiner, announces that Otto has been poisoned as well, presumably by something introduced into the bottle of plum wine foxy reporter Vera Vixen found near his body. Tracing the bottle to its likely source, the Bamboo Patch vegetarian restaurant, she learns from owner Sun Li, a giant panda with a medical background, that the likely agent was heartstill, a little of which goes a long way. Of the two bears in the local police, Chief Theodore Meade is as usual out past his depth, and the paw prints at the crime scene have led Deputy Orville Braun to arrest crooked raccoon Lefty, who’s obviously innocent of this particular crime. The killer meanwhile moves on to bigger game, wealthy sawmill owner Reginald von Beaverpelt, who survives one murder attempt thanks to Sun Li but not a second, leaving Shady Hollow on shaky financial ground. Although it’s clear that Reginald has been carrying on with rest-home aide Ruby Ewing, the authors mercifully avoid any lurid details of beaver-sheep sex. Instead, intrepid Vera, the most charming figure here, dutifully checks alibis and interviews suspects who draw more clearly on human than animal stereotypes.

A series debut that retains many of the conventions of a village cozy, just more broadly drawn, like a greeting card.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940176162851
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication date: 03/12/2022
Series: A Shady Hollow Mystery , #1
Edition description: Unabridged

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1


One lovely dawn in late August, the sun was cresting the tops of the distant hills to pour its golden light over the forest. Gladys Honeysuckle, always an early riser, was already on the wing, more than halfway into her daily journey toward town. She was a hummingbird (as her name implied), and her bright green wings were always in motion, going about a hundred miles an hour. Her tongue seemed no different. Gladys had something of a reputation as the town gossip. Conveniently, she was well employed by the Shady Hollow Herald, the town’s sole newspaper, where she wrote a regular column about town events and goings-­on. Not a prestigious post, perhaps, but one suited to her gifts. BW Stone, the editor of the Herald, had kindly provided Gladys with a small desk in the newsroom, making her the first gossip columnist to rate as a regular reporter. This distinction made Gladys puff up her chest with pride and ensured her daily attendance at the paper. BW Stone liked all his reporters to be on-­site, where he could keep his sharp skunk eyes on them.


Gladys was a widow, and her chicks were grown and gone. A true empty nester, she looked forward to going to work every day. Further, she was determined to prove her worth to the paper, thus assuring that her job would exist forever.


On this particular morning, she left her small straw-­nest cottage, located high in a beech tree outside town, and flew toward the center of the village and the newspaper office. Peering down the quiet paths partly hidden beneath the leaves, she saw that almost no one else was about yet. She spied only Joe, ambling along the north track, his massive hooves surprisingly quiet on the road. The moose was not by nature an early riser—at least not compared to the birdfolk. But Joe wouldn’t dream of allowing a customer to wait outside his coffee shop. He was up well before dawn to open the café, with fresh joe ready to serve. He seemed to be at work at all hours, with nary a complaint, despite being alone in the world but for his son, Joe Junior. Servers and cooks came and went . . . Joe was a constant.


Gladys paid Joe little mind while she winged her way over the forest. She had her own issues to worry about, thank­you­very­much. While she darted over the tallest branches, her buzzing brain was fully occupied with thoughts of her youngest, Heather, who had recently moved in with her new husband. They were both grown, true, but it’s a mother’s prerogative to worry about her offspring, and Gladys was no exception. Of course her chick claimed to be happy. They lived off in their own world, a day’s flight away. But who really knew?


Not Gladys, who uncharacteristically was feeling quite left out of the loop and was rather anxious as a result. This was a state she never wanted to be in. She trembled at the very notion of unheard gossip.


Lost in thought, Gladys circled twice over the millpond, gaining height on an updraft. She glanced down at the water, yet to be touched by sunlight. Coasting on the wind, she spied something out of the ordinary, a shape that didn’t quite fit. She swooped back around for another look. What could it be? A sack of some type? A bit of lost wood floating in the pond? She dipped even lower, her natural curiosity bubbling forth.


The object broke the smooth surface of the water, shapeless and perplexing in the pale dawn light. It was still and quiet, but it was no clump of weeds or loose log that had drifted to the middle of the pond at the behest of the gentle current.


The hummingbird’s heart went cold. This shape was getting awfully . . . familiar. Her wings beating furiously, Gladys flew even lower, hovering directly above the body of a toad, belly up. And not just any toad. Otto Sumpf.


Otto was a longtime resident of the Shady Hollow pond. He had a reputation for being grumpy and surly, though some residents insisted that underneath the facade, he was quite kind. He would never thank you to point it out, though.


Now, it appeared, he was also quite dead. His pale legs were stiff; if not for the position of the body and its terrible stillness, he might have been midleap.


Stunned, Gladys registered these incidental facts while staring at the poor toad from a vantage point only birds enjoy. From the shore, Gladys’s actions would be unclear, should anyone be watching. She didn’t consider that, however, because the horrible truth of Otto’s demise was still coalescing in her frantic mind.


Dead! Poor Otto was dead! And she, Gladys Honeysuckle, was the first to know! At last Gladys glanced nervously around to see if anyone else was present. She had discovered a body, and she had to tell someone. Her tiny hummingbird heart thrummed with palpitations so rapid she thought she might faint. She had vital news of interest to the whole of Shady Hollow. She had to tell someone. No, she had to tell everyone!


A small voice in her head reminded her that the police should be informed first and foremost. That’s right. She nodded importantly to herself. The authorities had to be notified. She would call the police after she got to her office and calmed down a little. Though she was not terribly fond of Otto, he was—had been—a neighbor, and it was most off-­putting to find one’s neighbor dead on one’s way to work.


Somehow, the shocked and sickened Gladys finished her flight, landing at the newspaper office. She hurried inside, hoping no one else had made it in just yet. But as soon as she entered the front door of the building, Gladys smelled the harsh notes of newsroom coffee. She knew exactly who it had to be—the fox.


Chapter 2



era Vixen was one of the Herald’s news reporters. She was also one of the few staff members who seemed to actually live in the newspaper office, and she had long followed the journalistic tradition of drinking her java strong, black, and scalding hot. It was brewed for effect, not for enjoyment. The quick red fox seemed to thrive on the stuff. Almost everyone else just got their coffee from Joe. To be sure, Vera often did as well, but her personality demanded a constant supply.


Vera was always hoping for a big scoop, and today was no exception. Her pointed ears twitched when she heard Gladys buzz in, and she braced herself for a chattering account of the latest gossip. Instead, Gladys hurried to her desk without ­saying a word, which was so unusual that the fox got up and trotted over to the little hummingbird.


“Good morning,” Vera said with a smile.


Gladys nodded curtly and kept her eyes averted. Vera was not a top investigative reporter for nothing, and she noticed the smaller creature’s gulping breaths.


“What’s wrong, Gladys?” she asked. “You look upset. Did something happen?”


Gladys burst into tears. Concealing anything was against her nature. With only that small prompt, she completely forgot her resolve and spilled everything.


Listening to the hysterical hummingbird, Vera’s ruddy ears perked up and her black nose twitched. A death? In Shady Hollow? Vera was naturally curious. This made her an excellent reporter. Though some townsfolk called her nosy, Vera paid them no mind. A good reporter, she believed, had to take an interest in things and ask the questions others were afraid to ask.


After wheedling the main facts out of Gladys, Vera settled the still-­weeping hummingbird in her office with a glass of the bird’s favorite sugar water and a stack of clean tissues. Vera’s mind was working furiously. If Gladys had just discovered the body, maybe no one else had seen it. If she hurried, Vera could get to the scene and record all the details. The death of Otto would be big news, if only because everyone in town had been on the receiving end of the toad’s rants at one time or another.


Unlike the hummingbird, Vera did not feel the slightest compunction about not going to the police immediately. The police chief of Shady Hollow was Theodore Meade, a slow-­moving and slow-­thinking black bear. He had no problem with things like shoplifting and noise ordinances, but that was about his limit. Vera would be happy to report the passing of Otto Sumpf to the authorities, but not before she had a look at the scene herself. She strapped her camera over her shoulder, ready to go.

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