Monday, April 04, 2011

The Fun of a Good "Caper" Mystery: OCTOBER FEST by Jess Lourey

Sure, I know, it seems half a year off season. But don't let it worry you -- the arrival of Jess Lourey's sixth "Murder-by-the-Month" mystery is timed perfectly for chuckles and groans of appreciation.

Mira James, fill-in librarian in the small Minnesota town where she's house-sitting, is also a very part-time reporter for the local paper, the Battle Lake Recall. And that's what takes her to check out political candidates at the local Octoberfest, where beer and polka music and the fragrance of sweaty bodies mingle in an inimitable statement of place and season. Conservative incumbent Sarah Glokkman, famous for her foot-in-mouth maneuvers, is on hand, along with her challenger, Arnold Swydecker (why isn't he wearing his wedding ring?). With Mira's fatal attraction for corpses, it's nearly inevitable that the air of slippery maneuvers around the campaign results in a body ... what a shame that it's on the floor in the hotel room next door to where Mira was supposed to be getting romanced.

Actually, Mira wouldn't get in nearly as much trouble if her local friends didn't keep pushing her into it. There's tiny and feisty Mrs. Berns, whose son is trying to commit her to a maximum-security nursing home; Kennie Rogers, with her new plan for speed dating combined with spray tanning; and of course a few unfortunate former boyfriends, including a statue that's been Mira's ideal companion, hunky and silent and without needs. That's a lot easier than the reality of Johnny Leeson, whose efforts to help Mira solve crimes always seem to end up melting her into a puddle of desire.

Here's a classic moment in Mira's life, moments after she's found a corpse (and ruined the betting pool on when she'll stumble over the next one -- this is, remember, the sixth book in the series):
The familiar voice at the door yanked me sharply from the frozen horror on Mr. Webber's chalk-white face. One edge of his forehead appeared darker than the rest and soft, like he'd hit the ground hard. He was still dressed in his sad, shabby coat. "Mrs. Berns?" I asked. She looked tiny in the doorway, tiny and crazy-sexy in thigh-high stockings and a black teddy under a translucent, feather-lined robe. "What are you doing here?"
For pure fun and snorts of "I knew it!," and corpses that arrive at the most inconvenient moments, Lourey's mysteries are at the top of the pile. I enjoyed number five, September Fair, and it was worth the wait for this one. For the full list, check out Lourey's website. She also is one of the authors at the InkSpot blog, another good spot to visit.

If you're piling up Janet Evanovich or Donald Westlake or Lawrence Block, Lourey's mysteries will feel right at home on your shelves. Just don't be too surprised if occasionally they give an almost inebriated giggle and fall off the shelf again.

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