In 1990, Deborah Madison and Rachel Cummings, both seventeen, are enjoying a bicycle ride on a beautiful September day in New Hampshire. They stop at a local barn that no longer houses cows but still displays a wooden cow’s head that peeks out from a window in the rafters. Sliding open the door, they find Rachel’s boyfriend, Joseph Wheeler, dead on the barn’s floor.

            The case lies as cold as Joseph for nearly thirty years until Rachel returns to New Hampshire to attend the funeral of Joseph’s mother. The girls, now women, reopen the cold case and uncover secrets that have festered, as they often do, in small towns. Against a backdrop of cold and snow and freezing rain, Deborah and Rachel rekindle their friendship and confess the guilt each of them has felt about things that happened in the past.

The Barn is a story of friendship lost and recovered, secrets buried and unburied, and the power of forgiveness.

Praise for The Barn

Sharon Dean’s The Barn is more than a cozy mystery. It is a beautiful, almost elegant piece of writing that draws in the reader right from the start. . . . I was so engaged in the beautiful descriptions and the emotions of the characters that I could not leave this story until I reached the end.

                                    B.J. Magnani, author of the Lily Robinson mysteries

Cold cases are notoriously difficult to solve, especially in the middle of a harsh New England winter when the snow piles up and the power goes out. This is the challenge that faces Deborah Strong, the main character of Sharon L. Dean’s latest mystery, The Barn, when her best friend, Rachel, returns to the New Hampshire town where they both grew up, determined to solve the thirty-year-old murder of a male classmate. . . .

Well-developed characters like Deborah and Rachel and other denizens of their small town, vivid scenes with carefully chosen details, and first-rate storytelling with often beautiful prose combine to make The Barn a compelling novel from start to finish. I’m looking forward to the next book in Sharon L. Dean’s Deborah Strong series.

Leslie Wheeler, author of the Living History and Berkshire Hilltown mysteries

Deborah Strong is a likable and resilient character, made strong by the harsh New Hampshire winters and losses in life. I enjoyed that she was a librarian and loves books. The author writes beautifully, something that can be missing in some mystery genres. I recommend this book to cozy mystery lovers.

Cheryl Colwell, author Astoria Rumors

Brilliant! Sharon L. Dean has penned a compelling first in her Deborah Strong Mystey series with my favorite element––a cold case! . . . Through descriptive language and dialogue, Dean fills one’s senses from the wind rattling the windows to the freezing temps that brought snow and ice . .. The characters and their personalities are painted from introspective to overzealout, from quiet to angry, from remorseful to “keep away from me.” I couldn’t put the book down! I finished it in two days including well into the early hours. Don’t miss this drama!

Kathleen Costa, Kings River Life

Starting a new series with a new protagonist is a difficult undertaking, but Sharon Dean brings this off with aplomb. 

Michael Niemann, Award winning international thriller writer

Behind the chintz curtains and quaint fences, suspicion and death buzz and burble. Friends with secrets, teens with angst, oldsters with dangerous dreams. Quiet, but quite deadly. This book . . . captures the New England vibe with an economy of words, wealth of detail and crisp characterizations. 

Carole Beers, author of the Pepper Kane mysteries

Two women meet again in a small New Hampshire town and set out to solve the murder of the town’s golden boy thirty years earlier. During the course of their investigation, they examine the lives of the townspeople they suspect, who they were then and who they are now, providing the reader a chance to sift motives and opportunities, and pick out the killer himself. The characters are nuanced and multi-dimensional, so it’s no easy task. The killer’s identity is a satisfying surprise.

Alan Thompson, author of The Peninsula

A fascinating yarn about past events coming to roost in the present. As always, Dean’s sense of place and vivid and compelling characters blend together to provide the reader with an intriguing look at life in her native New England. Highly recommended!

Clive Rosengren, author of Eddie Collins mysteries

Sharon Dean’s latest compelling mystery novel introduces a savvy and smart new sleuth whose name – Deborah Strong – suits her perfectly. The narrative moves along at a fast pace and keeps readers guessing in a highly satisfying way. The setting becomes one of the characters, and offers an ideal location not only for the story’s action, but also for significant memories to be explored and for the theme of love and loss to impact readers’ minds and hearts.

Judith Stanford, Ph.D.

Arizona, 70 degrees outside in December. Dean’s setting of New Hampshire in the winter, in the days preceding and after a crippling snow storm, complete with power outage, were so set in my consciousness that I almost believed I was there, living in a small New Hampshire town called ‘Shelby,’ having just welcomed my best childhood friend Rachel back home for the funeral of our friend’s mother, Mary. I already knew all the inhabitants of Shelby, almost intimately, and although the setting looked like a Normal Rockwell painting ‘After the Storm’ as Dean mused in the book, I also knew that beneath that peaceful and quaint veneer were secrets and wounds, with a 30 yr old murder, a ‘cold case,’ and all the townspeople as suspects.

Arzani Burman, avid mystery reader

. . . [A] unique mix of a fantastic plot and unique characters. Murder mystery enthusiasts have a real gold mine in “The Barn.”

J.M. Lareen, In D’tale Magazine

Praise for Leaving Freedom

Freedom, Massachusetts. By 1973, thirty-year-old Connie Lewis sees only irony in the name. She’s ready to leave her hometown and move with her recently widowed mother to Florida, freed of financial worry to write the novel that’s been languishing in her imagination. The novel’s title–Secrets–turns out to be as ironic as the name of her hometown. Her mother, her sister, and the man she befriends in Florida all keep secrets. In a nine year journey that will take her from Massachusetts to Florida to Oregon, Connie tries to discover ways to make peace with what she has learned and to decide what place she should call home.

Praise for Leaving Freedom

“ . . . a very fascinating and emotional read.”

InD’tale Magazine, December/January 2018/2019

The protagonist of Leaving Freedom, Connie Lewis, has many adventures – love affairs, book tours, coast-to-coast travel with a buddy – but Sharon Dean’s fourth novel is really about family. Links between parent and (grown) child, siblings, even ghosts and their descendants, mixed with bittersweet memories of Connie’s New England childhood, infuse every line of the book. Though all our clans are different, readers will immediately recognize the dynamics in Leaving Freedom.

Alan Thompson, author of A Hollow Cup


A farmhouse in New Hampshire that had been on the Underground Railroad. An African-American scholar searching for his grandmother’s history. A body found on the grave of a man who had been the town’s minister during the Civil War. As retired English professor Susan Warner tracks down the motive, she discovers a secret that uncovers the sins of the past and that connects the victim and the murderer.

In Tour de Trace, the tenacious Susan confronted the fraught history of Mississippi’s Natchez Trace. In Death of the Keynote Speaker, set on New Hampshire’s Star Island, she unraveled how Celia Thaxter’s nineteenth-century literary salon and a brutal murder on Smuttynose Island led to a twenty-first century murder. In Cemetery Wine, Susan once again finds herself a reluctant sleuth as she tries to solve a murder in a town she calls home.

Praise for Cemetery Wine

“. . . cozy with an edge . . .”

Kathleen Costa, KRL News and Reviews

A visiting professor at the local college is found dead in the cemetery. Was it jealousy? A drunken accident. Or did a dark secret from the days of slavery and the underground railroad claim another victim? Susan Warner is facing her toughest case yet. Navigating the treacherous waters of academic envy, illicit affairs and ancient history, she has to dig deep to uncover the truth to exonerate the innocent. The best Susan Warner mystery yet.

Michael Niemann, author of Valentim Vermeulen thrillers

The body of a visiting African-American scholar is found lying on a sarcophagus in a New Hampshire cemetery, an empty wine glass nearby. Thus begins CEMETERY WINE, author Sharon Dean’s gripping third outing for retired English professor Susan Warner. The victim had been studying the small New England village’s part in the Underground Railroad. Was he killed because of lingering racial animosity? Had long-buried town secrets been unearthed? Plucky amateur sleuth Susan is bound and determined to find the answer. Dean’s mystery is chock full of historical references and instances of the past coming back to haunt the present. A great read!

Clive Rosengren, author of Eddie Collins mysteries


In Tour de Trace, the tenacious Susan confronted the fraught history of Mississippi’s Natchez Trace. In Death of the Keynote Speaker, set on New Hampshire’s Star Island, she unraveled how Celia Thaxter’s nineteenth-century literary salon and a brutal murder on Smuttynose Island led to a twenty-first century murder. In Cemetery Wine, Susan once again finds herself a reluctant sleuth as she tries to solve a murder in a town she calls home.

Death of the Keynote Speaker

When Susan Warner plans a conference on the writer Abigail Brewster, New England’s Isles of Shoals seem the perfect setting. Members of the Abigail Brewster Society will stay in Star Island’s historic Oceanic Hotel. They’ll visit Appledore Island, where Abigail summered at Celia Thaxter’s nineteenth-century salon for writers and artists, and Smuttynose Island, the scene of a notorious 1873 murder.

But Susan hasn’t counted on a twenty-first century killer or a killer storm.

Death of the Keynote Speaker blends a fictional Abigail Brewster with the actual histories of Star, Appledore, and Smuttynose islands. Susan needs to piece together the connections between the past and the present as she searches for a murderer while trapped with her group in a creaky hotel with no locks on the doors.

Praise for Death of the Keynote Speaker

If a violent storm outside the old hotel on this rugged, historic island aren’t enough to get your pulse pounding, the strange thoughts and actions of island denizens and conference goers will! Many have an axe to grind, so to speak. But only one applies the blade to a living person. Fast-paced and filled with New England island lore and literary references, “Death” would be a good read in any setting.

Carole T. Beers, author Saddle Tramps

In her second Susan Warner mystery, Sharon Dean challenges the reader to solve an intriguing puzzle involving the biography of fictional nineteenth century author Abigail Brewster in addition to the murder of one of the scholars attending a conference devoted to Abigail Brewster studies. A retired literature professor, Dean is at her best here parsing academic riddles, romances and rival interpretations of Ms. Brewster’s life and work—especially that part touching on her stay at an island resort off the New Hampshire coast called the Isles of Shoals where a lurid ax murder took the lives of three of Abigail’s friends shortly after her last stay there. A modern murder that eerily evokes the famous triple homicide of Abigail’s day takes place as those same islands, site of an academic conference, are gripped by a fierce storm and help from the mainland is impossible. Susan is there to sleuth out the solution to the crime while trying not to get killed herself. Very entertaining read!

M.J. Daspit, author Lucy Lied


 Tour  de Trace, A-Argus Books, 2014.

The younger cyclists who signed up for camping and biking along Mississippi’s Natchez Trace may think of Susan Warner as old. But she is no Miss Marple or Jessica Fletcher. Retired from teaching, she sports a lavender streak in her silver hair and though she has the slowest mph, she can cover the distance. But when she steps out of her tent the first morning, only ten of her fellow cyclists appear. The eleventh has left a note saying that she will return later.

Later never happens. Instead, the riders discover the cyclist’s body stretched crucifixion-style on an ancient Indian mound.

With each turn of her bicycle wheel, Susan searches for the killer. Is it an ex-husband? The owner of a decrepit bed and breakfast? A snake handler? Or is it one of the cyclists? Her ride along the Natchez Trace pits New Englander Susan against an unfamiliar landscape and a murderer.

Praise for Tour de Trace

Sharon Dean has brought a new amateur sleuth to the crime genre. And she’s a delight. . . Susan Warner is a feisty newcomer to the ranks of amateur sleuthing, and I look forward to further adventures.

Clive Rosengren, author Red Desert

Sharon Dean deftly brings to life a group of diverse, lively, and sometimes sinister characters. . . . Susan Warner’s energy and strength, both cerebral and physical, make her a heroine I hope to see more of in future adventures.

Judith Stanford, ed. Responding to Literature

Tour de Trace includes lots of interesting history, and dozens of literary allusions from the author, a former Professor of Literature. Add to that wonderful descriptions of Mississippi flora and fauna, and the nitty-gritty details of long-range cycling, and you have a fine debut novel from Sharon Dean.

Alan Thompson, author Lucifer’s Promise


Editor, The Complete Letters of Constance Fenimore Woolson. University Press of Florida, 2012.

Sharon Dean has recompiled, dated, and, in many cases, physically reassembled all of Woolson’s extant correspondence from nearly forty sources. Dean’s painstaking work presents the fullest picture we have of Woolson and functions as an important corrective to the fictional portrayals. In these letters one finds rich personal detail alongside ruminations on contemporary political and social conditions. A trenchant critic of the customs and mores of her age, Woolson, in her letters, offers a nuanced perspective on life as a woman and as a writer in the nineteenth century.

Praise for The Complete Letters

Dean . . . , a seasoned scholar of Woolson’s life and works, brings to this ambitious project her wealth of knowledge about the author. . . . Editing a collection of letters is not easy task, but Dean has done a meticulous job, producing a volume that is user-friendly and offers an abundance of social and historic context. . . . This rich volume also features an eloquent introduction and a chronology that documents notable events in Woolson’s life. A superb resource.

D. D. Knight, SUNY College at Cortland

Choice, January 2013

 Scholars of Constance Fenimore Woolson owe Sharon Dean a great debt, as do scholars of Henry James, considering that Woolson was one of his closest friends. Dean has single-handedly advanced immeasurably the study of this remarkable author, whose works are exposed to ever sharper, more complex modes of analysis, but whose life has remained shadowy at best.

. . .

Dean has performed the difficult feat of making the letters accessible to students and lay readers as well as useful to scholars. It is an immense achievement that will spark new readings of Woolson’s life and works as well as her relationship with James. Dean, now Professor Emerita from Rivier College, has left a lasting legacy that will enrich Woolson scholarship for many years to come.

Anne Boyd Rioux, University of New Orleans

Henry James Review, 2014 

            Meticulously edited and contextualized, Dean’s edition of Woolson’s complete letters opens the door to an extraordinarily gifted writer’s works. It offers depth to Woolson studies, but it also connects Woolson to the nineteenth-century literary marketplace in new and fascinating ways.

Sharon M. Harris, University of Connecticut

            Peopled by the famous, the infamous, and the unknown, the letters sparkle with intelligence and energy, providing insight into contemporary attitudes that Woolson sometimes shared, sometimes satirized, and sometimes defied, while they reveal an ample sensibility that anticipates today’s concerns for the environment, regional and national identity, and global citizenship.

Karen Kilcup, author of Robert Frost and Feminine Literary Tradition

            Ultimately, these letters reveal the broad scope of a well-traveled life and the depth of an intensely observant artist. Every reader interested in the lives of nineteenth-century authors or women should savor every one of this extraordinary writer’s letters.

Anne Boyd Rioux, president, Constance Fenimore Woolson Society

            Scholars interested in Constance Fenimore Woolson and nineteenth-century American women’s writing more broadly owe a debt of gratitude to Sharon L. Dean for her meticulous edition of Woolson’s letters.

. . .

The University Press of Florida deserves praise for undertaking the publication of Dean’s edition . . . . The letters fill a single volume, but an unusually long one for a university press.

Melissa J. Homestead, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Legacy (30:2): 2013


Editor with Victoria Brehm, Constance Fenimore Woolson: Selected Stories and Travel Narratives. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2004.

This volume, as the first anthology to collect representative samples of [Woolson’s] stories, travel sketches, poems, and correspondence, represents a major advance toward re-establishing her place in nineteenth-century literature and letters. As these pieces demonstrate, Woolson offered keen observations of the issues she card most deeply about, namely the cultural and political transformation of the United States in the wake of the Civil War, the status of women writers and artists in the nineteenth century, and the growing implications of nationalism and imperialism.

. . .

This collection features selections fro each of the three distinct periods of Woolson’s career and includes a chronology of her life and travels. Focusing primarily on Woolson’s short stories, editors Victoria Brehm and Sharon L. Dean also include a representative letter, poem, and travel sketch for each section.

Praise for Selected Stories and Travel Narratives

            Thanks to the movement to revise and expand the American literary canon, a number of minority and women writers have been rescued from obscurity in the last three decades. Woolson is one of the latest whose literature and legacy have been revived as a result of the revolution in the canon. In this handsome volume, Brehm (Grand Valley State Univ.) and Dean (Rivier College), both seasoned Woolson scholars, make available for the first time some of Woolson’s finest writing, offering selections that range from short stories and travel narratives to poems and correspondence. Woolson’s oeuvre is extensive, which makes selecting works for a volume such as this a challenge. The editors succeed well in including material that is both illuminating and well balanced., July 2005

Choice, July 2005


Constance Fenimore Woolson and Edith Wharton: Perspectives on Landscape and Art. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2002.

The first study to draw connections between Constance Fenimore Woolson and Edith Wharton, this book explores the contrasting ways in which these two important writers responded to the rapidly changing landscapes of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Sharon L. Dean considers the travel essays of Woolson and Wharton, as well as their fiction, and contextualizes their work with the rise in tourism and with evolving theories and techniques of landscape design. She argues that for both writers, the manner in which they saw and transcribed landscape informed their ways of seeing themselves as artists.

From the dust jacket

Full of fresh insights into the literary achievements of both Woolson and Wharton, Dean’s book will also prompt readers to reconsider their own responses and obligations to landscape and how these responses are shaped by their experience and by larger cultural forces.


Constance Fenimore Woolson: Homeward Bound. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1995.

Using a thematic approach, Sharon L. Dean examines Woolson’s novels and short stories in terms of how they illuminate her era’s attitudes about a variety of cultural issues: artistic endeavor, the struggle for women’s rights, demographic change and the rise of industrialism, and the nexus of social class, race relations, and ethnicity. . . .

This study demonstrates how Woolson journeyed in her writing from a vision of homogenous regional communities to a vision of the diversity and tension embedded in the national community and, finally, to a vision of herself as an outsider in relation to all communities.

Praise for Constance Fenimore Woolson: Homeward Bound

The strength of Constance Fenimore Woolson: Homeward Bound is Sharon Dean’s ability to interweave biographical details of Woolson’s life with discussions of her fiction. This interweaving, in conjunction with Dean’s engaging prose style, makes Woolson’s life and works come alive.

 Deborah Barker

American Literature, 69:2 (June 1997): 420-21

            Dean offers valuable critical appraisals of Woolson’s work, especially the treatment of race and of gender expectations in her fiction.

 Melissa M. Pennell, University of Massachusetts, Lowell

By contextualizing Woolson’s entire corpus within the ethnic, regional, artistic, and sexual conflicts of the late nineteenth century, Dean contributes powerfully to the resurgence of interest in this long-neglected author.

Dennis Berthold, Texas A & M University

Dean . . . has written an illuminating book about Woolson’s importance to cultural studies of the American post-bellum period.

Katherine Swett

South Central Review (1998): 64-65