Downstream is a murder mystery set in a fictive town of 4,000 called Witherston on land once occupied by the Cherokee Indians in north Georgia. The novel is funny, but its message about the effect of pharmaceutical pollutants on the environment is serious.
Francis Hearty Withers, local billionaire in the north Georgia town of Witherston, whose great-great grandfather Hearty Francis Withers made his fortune in the Dahlonega Gold Rush of 1828, has his 100th birthday party in front of the Witherston Baptist Church on May 23, 2015. He credits his longevity to the anti-aging drug Senextra developed by the pharmaceutical company BioSenecta of which he is majority shareholder. He and the residents of Withers Village, all men above the age of 90, have taken Senextra for four years as part of a pilot study conducted by BioSenecta.
Withers announces that he has just signed and filed his only will. In it he provides $1 billion to be divided up equally among the 4,000 residents of Witherston a year from his death, $1 billion to be given to the municipality of Witherston at the same time, and the remainder of his estate to be given to BioSenecta on condition that BioSenecta build a Senextra factory in Witherston. Withers also tells of his plans to log an old-growth forest to make way for the Senextra factory on his property. When protesters against BioSenecta Pharmaceuticals insult him, Withers declares he will change his will. He dies on that Memorial Day weekend before he gets to his lawyer. Who killed him and why?
One of the characters says, “Senextra symbolizes Western society’s ambition to control the forces of nature.” Witherston becomes divided between those who support this mission, who embrace Senextra, and those who do not, who protest the use and manufacture of Senextra for its effects on both the human body and the entire ecosystem. The environmentalists also vehemently protest the clear-cutting of Withers’s land.
Senextra, which gets into Founding Father’s Creek upstream from Witherston, has some unanticipated side effects. One of them is fertility in menopausal women. Another is sterility and feminization in men and males of other species exposed to the drug. A quick summary of the novel’s theme is “Don’t mess with Mother Nature!” The protagonist is Mev Arroyo, who is a detective in Witherston’s Police Department. But since she must undergo a lumpectomy in the course of the story, her lively and smart fourteen-year-old twin boys, Jaime and Jorge, do much of the investigating.
Dr. George Folsom, a proponent of Senextra and conductor of the pilot study, is the killer. Dr. Neel Kingfisher, a Cherokee relative of Withers and director of Withers Village, is Folsom’s antagonist. His actions save young Jorge from Folsom and expose Senextra’s toxicity to humans and other animals in the environment.
Downstream is available in both print and ebook format.
A Witherston Murder Mystery
By Betty Jean Craige
Publisher: Black Opal Books
Published: November 2014
Genre: Murder Mystery
About The Authors:
Dr. Betty Jean Craige is University Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature and Director Emerita of the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts at the University of Georgia. She has lived in Athens, Georgia, since 1973. Betty Jean is a teacher, scholar, translator, humorist, and writer. She has published seventeen books in the fields of literature, politics, art, and history of ideas. The most recent is Conversations with Cosmo: At Home with an African Grey Parrot. For two years she wrote a Sunday column about animals, “Cosmo Talks,” in the Athens Banner-Herald.
For review copies, author interviews, or more information please contact:
Betty Jean Craige