The Codebook Murders: The Oakwood Mystery Series

The Codebook Murders: The Oakwood Mystery Series

by Leslie Nagel

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Amateur sleuth Charley Carpenter discovers a coded journal that could crack her small town’s most infamous cold case wide open in this charming cozy mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of The Book Club Murders.
As the owner of Old Hat Vintage Fashions, Charley Carpenter supplies retro apparel to the residents of Oakwood, Ohio, but she’s been known to set business aside to play detective when a mystery rears its head. And there’s no bigger mystery in Oakwood than the murder of Regan Fletcher—a case that’s haunted the town for decades.
Regan’s boyfriend, Carter, did time for the crime—until another man’s confession freed him. But did the “real killer” really do it? Or did Carter walk away with blood on his hands? When Charley stumbles on an old journal written in code, it only complicates the case by revealing a blackmail scheme that targeted dozens of Oakwood’s citizens, giving them all a motive for murder. 
Now, with a spate of new suspects to pursue, plus a fresh murder and the abduction of her sleuthing partner, Charley must dig deeper still into the past—even as she risks being buried by her shadowy prey. Joining forces with Detective Marcus Trenault and the newly formed Oakwood Mystery Book Club, Charley turns to a classic whodunit for clues on catching a killer—before more lives are lost, and the truth dies with them.
Leslie Nagel’s delightful Oakwood Mystery novels can be enjoyed together or separately:

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781984800268
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/21/2019
Series: Oakwood Book Club Mystery Series , #4
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 274
Sales rank: 957
File size: 7 MB

About the Author

Leslie Nagel is the USA Today bestselling author of The Book Club Murders, The Antique House Murders, The Advice Column Murders, and The Codebook Murders. She lives in the real city of Oakwood, Ohio, where she teaches writing at a local community college. After the written word, her passions include her husband, her son and daughter, hiking, tennis, and strong black coffee, not necessarily in that order.

Read an Excerpt

This crazy day just might witness the first recorded death by humidity.

Despite the cool air blasting from the dashboard vents, Charley Carpenter felt about as flat and lifeless as an overcooked pancake. Moist, breathless heat pressed down like a spatula. Her curly red hair was plastered to her face and neck. During the past hour clouds had rolled in, dark and ominous with a sinister green cast that made her nervous on a primitive, cavewoman level. It had been blowing strong when she’d run inside Arrow Wine, a fitful wind that flung handfuls of hard drops against her skin that stung, powerful gusts tossing the treetops and snapping the market’s awning on its metal frame. She’d been sure she’d walk outside into a torrential downpour. However, the wind had now died completely. The clouds were so low, she felt as if she could reach up and touch their scalloped undersides. It was a struggle to fill her lungs, and she’d ducked into the safety of the Mystery Machine, her custom-painted panel van, with a sigh of relief.

“I do not like this,” she muttered, peering up at the sky. “Time to get home.”

Charley drove as fast as she dared down the deserted residential streets, not wanting to get nailed by the ever-vigilant Oakwood Safety Department. A speeding ticket was not in the budget this month, thank you very much. Street lamps flickered on as the light dimmed even further, adding to the surreal feeling of the early afternoon landscape.

If the downpour turned out to be as heavy as that sky portended, she reflected, it might mean canceling that evening’s meeting of her brand-new book club. That would be a shame, as it was only their second gathering, and the first at which they would actually discuss a book.

The inaugural meeting had been more of a happy accident. Charley and her small staff had been conducting inventory at Charley’s vintage and “special occasion” fashion shop, Old Hat New Beginnings. Frankie Bright, Charley’s best and oldest friend, had stopped by to help, as she often did. As talk turned to what the four women were currently reading, two more friends had wandered in, joining in on the book chat with enthusiasm. Frankie had surveyed the lively group, clapped her hands for attention, and proposed the book club idea.

“It’s been eight months.” Frankie had been referring to the demise of the Agathas Book Club, of which she and Charley had both been members. In the wake of five murders and two arrests that had decimated the membership, the Agathas had necessarily disbanded. Charley wasn’t sure she wanted to tempt fate by forming another group, but Frankie had waved this away. Despite her diminutive stature, she was a force to be reckoned with. “It’s time,” she’d said firmly. “I miss the book talks, and I know you do, too.”

When the other women had seconded the proposal with enthusiasm, Charley had acquiesced. It was true; she had missed those discussions—if not all of the book club’s members.

For their first order of business, the new club voted unanimously to retain the Agathas’ original themed reading list. They would select and dissect murder mysteries, by female authors only.

“Those are always the best.” Vanessa St. James was one of Charley’s part-time clerks at Old Hat and, at eighteen, the youngest member of the new club. “Besides,” she’d added slyly, “we’ll probably need the practice.”

“Practice?” Charley had stared, confused, as the others exchanged meaningful glances. “Practice for what?”

“Why, for the next time you find a dead person, Charlotte, dear.” Heddy Jones was Charley’s head salesclerk and the most senior member of the club. The lively septuagenarian had patted Charley’s hand. “It’s all right. We know it’s not your fault.”

Afiya Vickerson had nodded in solemn agreement. Fee owned Slash, the hair salon across the alley. She was a frequent visitor to Old Hat, and she and Charley had discovered common ground in the challenges of small-business ownership and forged a strong friendship. “I found the experience of helping you solve your last case to be very rewarding,” she’d confessed, her low voice tinted with the rich accent of her native Somalia. “The opportunity to solve another such puzzle, even if it occurs within the pages of a book, will be most welcome.”

“Well, you can count me in.” Dr. Sharon Krugh, assistant Montgomery County coroner, had flipped her straight honey blond hair behind cashmere-clad shoulders, pulled out her cellphone, and begun scrolling. “Real homicide cases are rarely resolved as neatly as fictional ones. It’ll be a nice reprieve, not to mention an actual social event that doesn’t include making conversation with a bunch of old stiffs. Pun definitely intended. How do Tuesday evenings work for everyone?”

And with that, the Oakwood Mystery Club had come into being, with its first meeting set to occur at the Carpenter home just a few hours from now. Unless, of course, the weather dictated otherwise.

Charley smiled to herself as she recalled everyone’s eager certainty that dead bodies galore were just over the next horizon. It was true that she’d stumbled across more than her share of crime scenes recently. But surely that was just coincidence, right? And while it was also true that she’d been instrumental in solving each case and bringing the killers to justice, it wasn’t like she went looking for murder victims. They just seemed to . . . find her. A lot.

As she idled at the corner of Schantz and Spirea, she noticed a teenage girl jogging down the sidewalk, book bag slung over one shoulder. Charley would know that spiky purple hair anywhere. She rolled down her window.

“Katie!” she called. “Want a lift? It looks like it’s about to pour.”

Katie O’Malley smiled with gratitude. “You bet!” She hurried across the street. “Thanks, Charley. I’m taking Ms. Magellan’s summer drama workshop at the high school. It just let out, and—”

As Katie opened the passenger door, three things happened.

First, the emergency siren abruptly began its mournful howl. The Safety Building was only four blocks away, and the noise was so deafening Charley couldn’t hear what Katie said next. Second, her ears popped. Third, as if a bomb had exploded, the wind was suddenly all around them, and with it came the rain. Violent and savage, it shook the van as sheets of water dumped from the heavens in massive torrents. Katie scrambled inside and slammed the door, but she was already soaking wet. Charley hastened to raise the window.

Then the rain turned to hail. Stones the size of golf balls began pelting the van and bouncing off the pavement, the roar of ten thousand impacts even louder than the siren.

“Tornado!” Katie cried.

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The Codebook Murders: The Oakwood Mystery Series 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous 14 days ago
I love a good cozy murder mystery, unfortunately I was disappointed by the quality of this one and struggled to finish it. The story opens with a storm – clearly used as a mean to kick off the mystery. Even though it comes back throughout the story, the storm really doesn't serve any other purpose, which, in my opinion, felt like a missed opportunity to add spookiness to the action. The mystery was interesting at first, I was really excited to decipher the code alongside the main character. However, it dragged on and the more I read, the more indifferent I felt to figuring out the mystery. The ending was okay, I guess, but not really satisfactory. I really did not like Regan’s character arc (the murder victim) nor the janitor’s - I thought their storyline was quite problematic to say the least. Charley (main character) was kind of irritating to me; her thoughts were a bit all over the place and often nonsensical. Moreover, I found it highly irresponsible of her to give dangerous tasks to teenagers (that she could do with them) and then to barely worry when they don’t answer their phones… that’s weird… oh well… like, what?! No, GO investigate why they don’t answer for Pete’s sake! They have an important piece of the puzzle and have been very careless with that, shouting it to the world. Oh and there’s a MURDERER on the loose!!! Unbelievable. Also, there were just too many unnecessary characters. I understand having a mystery solving club sounds exciting and all, but it was poorly executed here. A lot of the characters were not written with much depth to them, very one-dimensional... I didn’t see the point for all their side stories – it was more boring than entertaining to me. I think the biggest thing that hindered my enjoyment of this book was that I didn’t connect with the writing style at all. It felt very blunt; everything was explained as if we could not figure it out on our own… although, we did have unfinished thoughts a couple of times, but were more annoying than intriguing. THINGS I LIKED: • Although this is the 4th book in the Oakwood Mystery series, you don't need to have read the previous ones before thanks to the background info given, which was great. • I really liked the promise of a rainy, stormy mystery that embodies the perfect cozy mystery atmosphere to me. • There was a good amount of red herrings.
Anonymous 15 days ago
A very good good cozy mystery that kept me hooked till the last page. A book that I couldn't put down, a likeable cast of well written characters, and a well written and engaging plot. It was a fast and fun read. I look forward to reading other books in this series. It's strongly recommended! I received this arc from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange of a honest review.
MackenzieH 19 days ago
A murder from Oakwood’s history resurfaces during a terrifying storm, and brings new clues and dead bodies in it’s wake! This is the third book from the Oakwood mystery series that I’ve read and it is the fourth in the series. It is a bit different than the others, but just as fun. I love seeing Charley back on my kindle—she is a delight to read about! And this one has that great mix of cold case and current case that was so intriguing. I definitely recommend The Codebook Murders by Leslie Nagel to all cozy mystery lovers! Charley Carpenter is forced underground—literally—when a tornado hits the town of Oakwood and she finds herself in the tunnels under the local high school. While down there, she discovers a backpack with a strange journal in it—covered in sunflowers and filled with coded entries. The journal is linked to a local cold case, the murder of Regan Fletcher has haunted Oakwood for decades and this journal is quite clearly Regan’s, hidden the night she was murdered. Though Regan’s boyfriend Carter was originally convicted of the crime, another man’s confession freed him. Only it becomes clear that man didn’t kill Regan either… But who did? Was it really Carter after all? Or did a murder walk free all of those decades? Charley takes on the case with the members of the Oakwood Mystery Book Club and a few local teens. But the more they uncode of Regan’s diary, the more troubling the young woman’s story becomes… What was Regan up to that led to her death? As the dead bodies begin to pile up, Charley and her friends feel even more urgency to solve the case and prevent the murderer from taking any more lives. But what if the truth is already lost forever? These Leslie Nagel books are so much fun! I think she is one of the better cozy mystery authors at not letting the mystery get lost in the cozy town and character development as so many authors do. We learn a bit more about Charley and her friends’ lives, but it truly all is backseat to the mystery at hand. She’s also great about not spoiling the other books, so you can truly jump in at any point! Charley is so SPUNKY and fun, just as I remember her from the other books. She pulls some pretty gutsy moves in this one, including finding a way to trick herself entrance into a suspects’ house (I won’t spoil the how but I got a great laugh out of her hijinks) and setting a social media trap for a thief! I really adore Charley and her friends and family. We saw a bit less of her father, vintage shop, and boyfriend in this book, but more of the high school sleuths and her book club friends. Leslie Nagel always provides that nice balance where we learn more about the town in each book. This one focuses heavily on the high school and the students, past and present. We also got to know a few of Charley’s former teachers! A fun mystery with a historical throwback and a coded journal that will delight readers! Thank you to Random House for my copy. Opinions are my own.
LisaKsBooksReviews 19 days ago
This was my first book in the Oakwood Mysteries. While I’m sure many would say they can be read as standalones, and I’m sure they can be, I found myself feeling like the last person joining a conversation. I could keep up with what was going on, but still felt like I was missing information. With that being said, THE CODEBOOK MURDERS was an intriguing mystery. There were many twisty little turns to lead readers down wrong paths. Just when I was sure of the who in the dunit, the reveal shot me down. I think author Leslie Nagel would have had the great Holmes himself perplexed. I do have to say, I didn’t care for series lead, Charley Carpenter. I found she could be a little annoying. This may be due to my late entry into the series. I do intend to read the first book in the series because I would like to see just how Charley and the rest of the characters start out. If you’re a returning fan, I feel it safe to say you will enjoy THE CODEBOOK MURDERS. If you’re new to the series, I personally would suggest you start with the first book, THE BOOK CLUB MURDERS.
Tangen 20 days ago
whodunit, amateur-sleuth, law-enforcement, murder, Ohio, suspense ***** Some books start out slow but this one starts out in a tornado! While hiding in a tunnel, she finds a young girl's backpack with a journal written in code. Turns out that it is linked to a cold case murder from forty years ago but it's reappearance sparks new serious troubles. Let the sleuthing begin! Lots of plot twists and red herrings along with plenty of suspense make for an excellent read. I requested and received a free ebook copy from Random House Publishing Group-Alibi via NetGalley. Thank you!
KrisAnderson_TAR 22 days ago
The Codebook Murders is the fourth novel in The Oakwood Mystery series. It can be read as a standalone if you have not read the previous books in this series. Charley loves a good mystery and is looking forward to the first book club meeting of the Oakwood Mystery Club that evening. Then a twister leaves devastation in its path and Charley finds herself with a real mystery on her hands. She found the journal of Reagan Fletcher who was murdered forty years ago after the high school homecoming game. The group is excited to solve the crime and are fortunate to get extensive records from reporter, Berkeley Dye. The mystery was multifaceted with plenty of suspects and good clues. New information keeps popping up during Charley’s investigation enhancing this complex conundrum. The police do not mind that Charley and the gang dig into the case as long as they pass along any pertinent information. I like the Nancy Drew references throughout the book including the mention of the old TV series (there was Hardy Boys show too). There is a large cast of characters that include Charley, her boyfriend, her father, the father’s caretaker and his girlfriend, the book club plus their significant others, teachers, a janitor, neighbors, shopkeepers, police, and a couple of eager teens (whew). I would have preferred a faster pace plus less duplication of case details and a smaller amount of speculation (these little tweaks would have elevated this cozy mystery). The Codebook Murders has a special ending that will please readers. My favorite phrase from the story is “. . . house isn’t a home unless there is love at its heart” (that is so sweet). Cozy mystery readers will rejoice at the perplexing puzzle in The Codebook Murders.
GratefulGrandma 24 days ago
I read the first book in this series and now the fourth. A lot has happened in between and even though I had no problem following this story, I will go back and read #2 and #3 to see what has happened in Oakwood and how Charley's and Marc's relationship has grown and changed. The story started off with a bang. A twister has touched down in Oakwood, Ohio and Charley, our protagonist finds herself in a tunnel between the high school sports field and the school itself. With the school janitor. Merritt Vance, and a young neighbour Katie, they head down the tunnel to the school. Along the way, Charley finds a backpack in a drain containing a journal that just happens to be written in code. When young Katie posts an instagram post about the journal and the fact that they think it might have belonged to a young lady who was murdered many years ago, the book is stolen and Charley's father's home is burgled. The characters are well-developed. There is Charley's family and loved ones who are a huge part of her life. She would do whatever she needs to in order to protect them, then there are her co-workers and fellow book club members who add some humour and quirkiness. I love the small town feel where everyone helps each other out and knows what is happening in town. This was a fun mystery that was actually trying to solve a cold case. The murdered girl's boyfriend was imprisoned for killing her, but it seems he might just be innocent. It is no surprise when Charley, her boyfriend and ex-detective Marc, and the Oakwood Mystery Book Club gang start looking into things and interviewing people. What they find are longtime hostilities between families and love triangles along with theft, murder, blackmail and kidnapping. This one will have you flipping the pages to find out who was behind the murder of Regan and who is trying to shut them down. I always like a mystery that I can not solve and this one measured up nicely. My only issue was that Charley seems to be given free rein from the police to investigate and solve this case, with very little concern or interference from the police. With that being my only problem, I give this cozy mystery 4.5 stars. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book upon request. The rating, ideas and opinions shared are my own.
4GranJan 24 days ago
This Cozy is Action Packed! This is an action-packed and suspenseful cozy mystery. While it is tense, it will not cause me to have nightmares. This is the fourth in the series and the first that I have read. Now I want to go back and read the previous 3 books! The plot is tight, detailed and well planned. Having lived in towns of 10 thousand people and having lived through a tornado, I can say with some authority that this author is very authentic in her depiction. I plan on watching out for more books by this author. Applause all around! I received this ARC book for free from Net Galley and this is my honest review.
BookloverUT 24 days ago
In Oakwood, Ohio, Regan Fletcher’s murder has been a case that has scarred the citizens for decades. Regan’s boyfriend, Carter, was sent to prison for it, until another man confessed and then later recanted his confession. After Carter was released, people never stopped believing he had something to do with it. As a tornado struck the town, Charley Carpenter, owner of Old Hat Vintage Fashions, wound up in the tunnels under the high school. She found an old backpack containing a coded journal with information about Regan’s murder. Can she find the key to unraveling this cold case before another tornado of death sweeps the town? I really loved this novel. It had all of the aspects of a great cozy mystery: intriguing characters, a plot full of twists and turns, a small town setting, and a likeable female amateur detective who doesn’t take the easy way out when confronted with a crime that affects the ones she loves. I was surprised about the identity of the culprit and the motive. I really can’t wait for Ms. Nagel’s next book. I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from NetGalley and am voluntarily reviewing it.
BeagleGirl123 24 days ago
Charley Carpenter, Oakwood, Ohio's vintage shop owner/amateur sleuth, stumbles across a journal in a tunnel while escaping a tornado. When her discovery is linked to the decades old murder of a high school cheerleader, Charley and her friends work together to determine if the wrong man was convicted of the crime, and as they decipher the clues hidden in the journal secrets are revealed that some residents of Oakwood would prefer stay hidden. Leslie Nagel's The Codebook Murders was fun to read, very cozy, and I really enjoyed it. A+++
Karen Hollins 25 days ago
This was my first time reading a book by Leslie Nigel and I plan on catching up on the other 3 books. I found it to be a well written and paced mystery and I was engrossed from the very beginning. As the owner of Old Hat Vintage Fashions, Charley Carpenter supplies retro apparel to the residents of Oakwood, Ohio, but she’s been known to set business aside to play detective when a mystery rears its head. And there’s no bigger mystery in Oakwood than the murder of Regan Fletcher—a case that’s haunted the town for decades. Regan’s boyfriend, Carter, did time for the crime—until another man’s confession freed him. But did the “real killer” really do it? Or did Carter walk away with blood on his hands? When Charley stumbles on an old journal written in code, it only complicates the case by revealing a blackmail scheme that targeted dozens of Oakwood’s citizens, giving them all a motive for murder. Now, with a spate of new suspects to pursue, plus a fresh murder and the abduction of her sleuthing partner, Charley must dig deeper still into the past—even as she risks being buried by her shadowy prey. Joining forces with Detective Marcus Trenault and the newly formed Oakwood Mystery Book Club, Charley turns to a classic whodunit for clues on catching a killer—before more lives are lost, and the truth dies with them. There were intriguing characters, a small town setting, lots of plot twists, red herrings and plenty of suspense. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it. I requested and received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group - Alibi. All thoughts and opinions are my OWN.
CozyOnUp 25 days ago
I really enjoy this series and by golly right from page one you are in the thick of things with a tornado getting ready to hit. Luckily Charley and Katie are spared as they are at the local high school and the resident janitor takes them into the tunnels that run under the property as the storm passes over. While down there, Charley comes across an old backpack and finds a journal written in code. This ends up being tied to a cold case from forty years ago and sets off a whole new look at things. But first the code has to be cracked and that means lot of red herrings, twists and turns along the way along with a current murder that ties in as well. I was quite surprised and pleased with the outcome of this cold case. It was well written and kept me engaged the entire time. An enjoyable book to add to your summer reading list!
MKF 26 days ago
Who would expect a backpack with a coded notebook would contain the answer to a 40 year old murder? A tornado in Oakwood stirred up a lot, including the notebook, which Charley found and then, with the help of her friend, decoded. Carter went to prison for murdering Reagan, another man later confessed, but now all that appears to be off the table. The charm of this series is in the characters, including Charley, of course, but also her boyfriend Marc, a former detective, her dad, his caregiver, and Charley's friends. Charley becomes a target when she publicizes what she found (there's lot of secrets others don't want out) so she, along with her crew, have to find the truth. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. Some twists, some turns, and a nice read.