My guest blogger today is Dana Fredsti, who is reviewing Jess Lourey's new book, August Moon, the fourth in the Murder-By-Month series. Take it, Dana.
I read a lot of books. I read before going to sleep, in the bathroom (you all do it, come on, admit it!), on the Muni and while I'm walking. Seriously. I've perfected the art of reading while walking without a: tripping, b: bumping into fellow pedestrians or other obstacles, or c: getting hit by cars. I read quickly too, so I go through at least five books in a week. Very rarely, however, do I read books that make me laugh out loud, especially in public. AUGUST MOON, the fourth in Jess Lourey's Murder by the Month series, is one of those rare books that did just that. We're talking the kind of laugh accompanied by a snort. You know. The kind of involuntary snorting that increases in frequency with age. Luckily the embarrassment factor decreases with each passing birthday. Good thing 'cause I was snorting up a storm while reading AUGUST MOON on a recent plane trip. The people in my row no doubt thought they were sitting next to some strange hybrid of woman and warthog.
Seriously, though, AUGUST MOON is just plain funny. It's also a cracking good mystery with a well thought out plot, plenty of suspense and a bountiful selection of suspects and assorted eccentric characters adding to the mix. To shamelessly quote the back cover of AUGUST MOON here: Our sassy young heroine suffers more than just unrequited lust during a Minnesota scorcher of a summer in this fourth Murder-by-Month mystery. A dead cheerleader and various oddball fanatics are uncovered in the small town of Battle Lake, "where the women are churchgoers, the men like to hunt, and the body count is above average."
At the beginning of AUGUST MOON Mira James, sassy young heroine in question, is stood up by a Brad Pitt-esque gardening expert, thus motivating her to give notice at her job as Battle Lake's librarian and move back to Minneapolis. Before she can put her plan in effect, however, petty theft and the death of a cheerleader draws Mira into the investigation of newcomer Pastor Meales and his evangelical bible camp. To add to the confusion, Mira's replacement at the Battle Lake library is a member of Pastor Meales' congregation, a mysterious, cape-wearing wood tick expert arrives in town and another cheerleader goes missing. Mira's work is cut out for her as she juggles the logistics of solving the various mysteries, meeting deadlines for her other job as (reporter) writer for the local newspaper, and attending a Creationist science fair at Christ's Church of the Apocryphal Revelation (think Jesus Camp).
The science fair brought on the major snortfest. Such exhibits as "My Great Great Grandpa Was a Christian, Not a Monkey," "Biology Proves Women Designed for Housework," and (my favorite) "Thermodynamic Readouts Confirm Satan Is More Active Than Ever" had me laughing out loud. There really are religious groups who promote these nutso theories, which is both funny and kinda scary. To quote Homer (Simpson, not the Greek epic poet), "It's funny 'cause it's true!"
And that pretty much sums up what I love best about Jess Lourey's writing: her characters, even the over-the-top eccentrics, all have a core of believability that allow the reader to lose themselves in the story. The plot is woven together carefully, but never feels contrived or forced, and Mira is a flawed (and therefore believable) yet extremely likeable heroine. I'm looking forward to a full year's worth of murder, mayhem and Mira!
Dana Fredsti, today's guest blogger, will be touring the west coast with Jess Lourey beginning May 21. They met at Left Coast Crime in Denver in March and haven't looked back. To see their tour dates, visit their websites (www.danafredsti.com, www.jesslourey.com). To win a copy of AUGUST MOON, be the first person to email Jess through her website and tell her what the best winery on the west coast is (and it has to be between San Francisco and Seattle).