Plain Jane

Lesbian fiction author Ellen Hart loses her way with latest Jane Lawless mystery, ‘Lost Women’

The Lost Women of Lost Lake, by Ellen Hart. Minotaur Press (2011), $26, 320 pp.

Cordelia Thorn figured she would just lend a quick hand. Tessa Cornell, Cornelia’s old friend in the northern Minnesota ’burg of Lost Lake, had taken a tumble and hurt her leg. Tessa was directing the community play, so somebody needed to finish the job while she was healing; Cornelia volunteered, and invited her best friend, Jane Lawless, along. Jane, a restaurateur and part-time private investigator, was still mourning the death of her long-time partner; a trip would do her good.

Tessa was happy to have help with the play, but she didn’t need any company — definitely not some P.I. wannabe.

Jonah Ivorsen hated moving, so when he decided to hitchhike from St. Louis to Lost Lake, he was sure his aunt Jill and Jill’s wife, Tessa, would let him stay with them. But then a body was discovered and another one followed it fast. The authorities were zeroing in on a mysterious fire, and Tessa was obviously lying to everybody. Can Jane Lawless sort things out before someone else dies?

Oh, how I love books with Jane Lawless in them! Jane is an unlikely heroine and reluctant private eye who doesn’t seem to want her hobby to turn into work, yet there’s a will-she-make-it-permanent thread in this book that’s satisfactorily solved. There’s also a possible romance angle that slyly teases readers.

But as much as I love Ellen Hart’s main character, the supporting cast in The Lost Women of Lost Lake almost all need to take a dive. I had to work to keep my eyes from rolling, not only because of the cliché peripheral characters but also for the cliché things they say. Triteness definitely taints this otherwise fine mystery.

Fans of the Jane Lawless series should be able to overlook these faults, but if you’re not already a fan, start with another book. For you, The Lost Women of Lost Lake will not be looked upon swimmingly.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

The search continues

Police acknowledge foul play likely in disappearance of Lisa Stone; friends fighting to keep investigation alive

WATCH VIDEO OF LISA STONE’S FRIENDS TALKING ABOUT THE CASE

John Wright  |  Online Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

GARLAND — Dallas police for the first time this week publicly acknowledged that they believe foul play is likely in the disappearance of Lisa Stone, a 52-year-old lesbian who’s been missing for more than three months.

However, Sgt. Eugene Reyes of DPD’s special investigations unit said detectives won’t formally reclassify the case as a homicide until Stone’s remains are found, and he stopped short of identifying her longtime partner, Sherry Henry, as a suspect.

“Every time there’s a body found, we’re hoping it’s Lisa,” Reyes told Dallas Voice in an exclusive interview on Tuesday, Sept. 14. “Not that we’re hoping she’s dead, but at least that will bring closure and get us closer to a suspect. It’s not like her to be out of touch this long. I think foul play is very likely, yes, because it’s out of her characteristics.”

Stone’s friends, who’ve long said they suspect foul play in her June disappearance, expressed frustration with DPD’s handling of the case and said they recently hired a private investigator. But Reyes insisted that investigators have tracked down every lead, including sending 70 officers to search a wooded area of Hunt County in July. Police also searched the home Stone shared with Henry and are awaiting results from forensic tests, Reyes said.

“I am just as frustrated as they are, but we’re bound by the Constitution, and there’s only certain things you can do without violating that, and if we violate them then what good is it if we go to court and everything gets thrown out?” Reyes said. “Whoever did this told someone. All we need is that someone to step up.”

Stone’s friends, many of whom have known her since they attended Mesquite High School together in the 1970s, have held several vigils outside her home on Truxillo Drive in Northeast Dallas. Their Facebook page, “Looking for Lisa Stone… help us find her!,” has almost 2,000 fans. They’ve also set up another website, www.ForTheLoveofLisa.webs.com, and rented a billboard in Garland.

Standing beneath the billboard at LBJ Freeway and Northwest Highway this week, two of Stone’s friends said that while they may be growing increasingly desperate, they’re not about to give up until they obtain both closure and justice.

“It’s very frustrating at this point to have brought all this evidence to the police, and now feel like we don’t know what’s going on,” said Lyndi Robinson, one of Stone’s gay friends. “That’s probably the most frustrating part of the whole thing, is we feel like nothing’s happening, so we’re to the point where we want to scream. I don’t know what we need to do. We need to raise a ruckus, because we want to know the answers.”

Tina Wiley, one of Stone’s straight friends, noted that a $10,000 reward is being offered through Crime Stoppers, and that another vigil is planned for Sunday evening, Sept. 19 at the site of the billboard.

“I know without a doubt she’d be doing the same thing for me, and I basically have no choice,” Wiley said. “I cannot go to sleep at night if I don’t feel like I’ve done everything I can, and I don’t feel like I will ever rest until I feel like I’ve done everything I can.”

Henry, Stone’s partner, isn’t cooperating with police or communicating with her friends. According to both Reyes and Stone’s friends, Henry has left the state and may be staying with relatives in Missouri.

Shortly after her disappearance, one of Stone’s friends witnessed Henry discarding some of Stone’s personal items in a Dumpster, including her birth certificate and the last effects of her late gay brother, Dennis. Henry has also filed a stalking complaint against Stone’s friends and threatened to sue them for harassment, they said.

Stone’s friends questioned why given that they were together for 17 years, Henry isn’t actively assisting in the search for Stone.

Police questioned Henry when they searched the home in July but released her later the same day. Henry couldn’t be reached for comment.

Robinson, who was close friends with Stone’s brother Dennis who died from AIDS in 1997, said she promised him before he passed away that she would look out for Lisa.

“Any one of us, especially in the gay community, could be the last of their family, and your friends are your family, and we’re here to say we’re not going away until we find you, Lisa, and we bring you home,” Robinson said.

Anyone with information about Stone’s disappearance should call Crime Stoppers at 877-373-8477.  Sunday’s vigil will be at 7 p.m. at the site of the billboard, 2010 Eastgate Drive in Garland. For more info, e-mail fortheloveoflisa@aol.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens