Saturday, August 26, 2023

Review: A Scenic Hills Summer by Shannon Yarbrough


Genre: Psychological Thriller/Mystery/LGBTQ


“When the bodies of three male sex workers show up on the banks of the Mississippi River, the St. Louis LGBTQIA community grows restless while searching for a missing bartender. The police have been slow to respond, and a local reporter suspects a serial killer might be stalking the city’s streets.

Unable to resist putting herself in front of a story as it unfolds, Colette Birzhan races to the Midwest to report on the case. She’s intelligent, provocative, and a proud trans woman. She’s also an award-winning investigative journalist for the New York City Tribune.

Having escaped the clutches of a small town years ago to become her true self, Colette yearns to tell the stories of minorities and under-represented people just like her. From seedy strip joints to private upscale men’s clubs, there’s no part of the city where Colette won’t go while tracking the killer.

Colette relies on the unheard, and often ignored, voices of the city to lead her one step closer to solving the case. When she teams up with a rookie hustler, the trail leads them to a quiet suburb outside of St. Louis called Scenic Hills.

Swimming pools, back yard barbecues, children riding bikes along neighborhood streets, Scenic Hills is a place where people go to escape the fast and dangerous pace of city life.

And it’s where a killer could be hiding.”


“Shannon Yarbrough knew he wanted to be a writer ever since his grade school passed out free black-and-white journals each year and made classrooms devote one hour a day to creative writing. His school even hosted a Young Author’s Day Festival. To attend, each student had to write and publish their very own book. Shannon wrote and created a pop-up book of poetry out of cardboard and contact paper. He’s been writing short stories and novels ever since.

Born in the South, Shannon fell in love with Southern literature in college and often pays homage to his Southern roots in his story settings and in the characters he creates. From an obsessive-compulsive coffee barista searching for love in a romantic comedy to a Christmas dinner gone awry in a family psychodrama, Shannon constantly challenges his storytelling ability by rarely sticking to one genre. He even wrote a mash-up of the life of poet Emily Dickinson with the story of Frankenstein.

Shannon has called St. Louis, Missouri home for the last two decades, where he lives with his partner of eighteen years, their two dogs, and two cats. Besides writing, Shannon enjoys gardening, cooking, and reading.”

For more, visit Shannon’s website.


Regular readers of my reviews know that one thing I like in fiction is when a story figuratively puts me in someone else’s shoes, helping me better understand and hopefully sympathize with the plight of those different than me. Here we’ve got a bunch of characters who are members of the LGBTQIA community. In some instances, they’re homeless or close to being so and making ends meet as sex workers. (Warning: If you’re homophobic, this book will probably trigger you repeatedly.) These characters make this story different from my typical read, but at its heart this book is a thriller. Wondering whether Collette, the police, or someone else was going to be able to figure out who the serial killer killing male sex workers in St Louis was and if they would be able to stop the killings kept me engaged to the end.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK


Some adult language and mild adult content. As mentioned in the review, if you’re homophobic, this might not be for you either.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words

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