Local Novelist Adds to Crime Series with ‘Lost Little Sister’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Small-town newspaper reporter Tim Abernathy is back to uncover a hot story – and solve a crime – in “Lost Little Sister,” the latest novel by Michael Prelee of Hubbard.

It’s the second in Prelee’s crime-fiction series centered around the character, coming on the heels of 2017’s “Murder in the Heart of It All.” The series is set in the fictitious Youngstown-area town of Hogan – a stand-in for Hubbard.

“Lost Little Sister” picks up not long after the events in the first novel. Abernathy, the senior reporter at a weekly newspaper with high ambitions, is covering a double murder at a convenience store near a small lake.

As he investigates, he crosses paths with a private investigator and a police detective. Together, they unearth several shocking truths about some townsfolk and solve the crime.

“Lost Little Sister” (North Star Press, 288 pages) was released in print in September and as an e-book in October. It can be purchased on many online retailers, including Amazon, and also at select book stores.

A crime-mystery series attracts a following of readers, largely because the characters become familiar. Prelee says that is happening with Abernathy; his girlfriend, Amy; his editor, Charlie; and police chief Coogan.

“People have said ‘I remember the older book and I have been looking forward to this one,” Prelee said.

Like any good crime procedural, Prelee’s books have realistic characters and snappy dialog. They also have an airtight plot in which all of the loose ends are tied up. The author said he does that by starting with a thorough plot outline, and then double and triple checking it for continuity before submitting it to the publisher.

“I can’t tell you how many times I read through the book,” he said.

The author – a Youngstown State University graduate who is an analyst at Autosoft Inc., a software company in West Middlesex, Pa. – draws on his familiarity with local people and places in “Lost Little Sister.” The teens in the fictional town gather in a remote area in the woods, along a ravine, that Prelee still can see in his memories.

“That whole bit, in the woods with the dirt bikes, I grew up with that,” said Prelee, who spent most of his childhood in Brookfield. “That ravine exists in Brookfield, and I remember going out there.”

The author used social media to keep his readers in the loop as the publication of the new novel approached. But now that it’s here, promoting the book has been a challenge because of the pandemic.

Book signings and other appearances are not happening, so Prelee had to find a way to get his novel before potential readers. “I looked at all of the independent book stores in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan, and wrote emails to each one,” he said.

As a result, “Lost Little Sister” can be found in bookstores in all of those states.

In addition to the Tim Abernathy crime books, Prelee also has a sci-fi series about an interstellar repossession company. The first book, “Milky Way Repo,” came out in 2014; the second, “Bad Rock Beatdown,” in 2017. He plans to continue both series.

“I might like to do one more sci-fi book,” he said. “I left off the last one on a note where there could be a third one.”

Prelee is already halfway through that third sci-fi novel. But he’s also started work on his third Tim Abernathy book. He’s ironing out the outline and already has the first chapter written.

“I’m trying to do them both at the same time,” he said.

Pictured at top: “Lost Little Sister” is the latest novel by Michael Prelee of Hubbard.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.