Tag Archives: small towns

Hammer to Fall

Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder: A Mystery by Catriona McPherson (Minotaur, $24.99, 304 pages)

Dandy Gilver is a proper lady living in Scotland during the 1930s.   She is also a detective married to a respectable nobleman and the mother of two sons.   Dandy is the narrator for this series of remarkably detailed and charming period pieces.   Unsuitable Day is the latest in the series written by Catriona McPherson, who was born in Scotland and now resides in Davis, California.

Readers who delight in location details, period pieces and wicked humor are the audience for this book.   There are red herrings, plot twists, gruesome murders and a bit of class warfare that make each page an experience in itself.   Author McPherson’s writing is dedicated to immersing the reader in all things Scottish and particularly those of a small nature.

Perfect escapism is rarely presented in a murder mystery.   There are usually jumps in the story line that create ambiguities to throw the reader off the trail of the killer.   Being thrown off in that way has a tendency to break the spell.   Unsuitable Day goes in the other direction.   There are so many specifics and events that the reader is transported straightaway to the other side of the ocean and into the past.   This reviewer lost track of time during the reading of the book.   Perhaps that’s due to the lack of technology in the story, or maybe it’s the fascinating details related to running a department store in post-World War I.   Regardless, the escape happens and not only will future episodes be welcome, maybe a bit of catching up with Dandy’s past escapades is in order.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Moonlight Mile

Moonlight Falls by Vincent Zandri (R. J. Buckley Publishing, $19.00)

Our hero-protagonist, Richard Moonlight, has a bullet fragment lodged in his brain.   This is no ordinary bullet fragment either, it found its way there via a gunshot delivered by Moonlight!   As the story unfolds, there is a sense of urgency that builds.   The quirky premise is somewhat similar to the movie from 2000 named “Momento.”   There has been a crime and it must be solved.   The police chief’s wife, Scarlet, has been murdered, or did she commit suicide?   To make matters worse our hero may have been one of her last visitors.

Moonlight is a human time bomb who has had more than one serious failing of common sense.   Clearly, his filter for right and wrong was damaged by the bullet fragment.   Considering he placed the fragment in its present location during a botched suicide attempt serves to validate the notion that he’s not all there.

The relationships in the story are tightly intermingled.   The charm and peril of living in a small town are well portrayed as Moonlight relies on family and friends to solve the mystery.   The names of the characters serve as double entendres; the adulteress is “Scarlet,” the former cop partner who steals Moonlight’s wife is “Cain” and the painfully simple young cop is “Joy.”   Added to this group are two government agents whose interrogation forms the premise for Moonlight’s recounting of his escapades.   Several more deaths pile up along the way.   All of them tie neatly back to our hero.   It’s up to him to use his faulty brain to clear himself of the charges.

What’s not obvious is when the testimony ends and Moonlight’s thoughts about his situation are being shared with the reader.   Author Zandri has spun a super shaggy dog story that begins a bit haltingly and shifts gears into a powerful pace that holds the reader’s interest.   This book is filled with plenty of action and excellent character development.

Highly recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was provided by Baker Public Relations.

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The Superhero

The Side-Yard Superhero by Rick D. Niece (Synergy Books, $17.95)

“Used to dream in that small town/ Another born romantic that’s me…”   John Mellencamp, “Small Town”

Automythography – A work of nonfiction that looks reflectively at what we think we remember and how we think we remember it; an iridescent memory based upon truth and fact.   Rick D. Niece

Rick D. Niece made a promise to a childhood friend, and while the central premise of his book The Side-Yard Superhero revolves around his visit later in life to his ailing former companion in which he fulfills that promise, the book is more about the simplicity and human decency found in the everyday experiences of small-town America.

Niece, president of College of the Ozarks, constructs his tale almost as if he pulled the old John Irving trick and started with the ending of the story and then moved backward to the first sentence.   In between is the story of Niece’s childhood in DeGraff, Ohio.

As a boy, Niece secures a paper route and, in so doing, interacts with virtually everyone in his hometown.   This includes the unforgettable Bernie Jones, who – stricken with cerebral palsy – eagerly awaits Niece’s arrival on his bicycle each day from his wheelchair in the yard along the side of the house.

The reader encounters church socials, trick or treating, and Boy Scout award ceremonies.   Even the carnival comes to town and, you guessed it, Rickie takes Bernie.

Think Mitch Albom, and you have the idea of the type of storytelling you will experience in Side-Yard.   The book occasionally slips into sentimentality, but it is largely free of it, because the book has a more comprehensive story to tell than just the relationship between its two characters.   The verse which is interspersed between chapters is usually effective and works better than anticipated.

Without giving away too much of the story, this reviewer is left to wonder if hope really can keep a person alive; if history will ultimately judge America on how it treats its old, sick, and weak; and what in the world this country would be like if we were ever to lose our small towns.

Some stories need to be told, and some writers have a story they just have to tell.   This is the case with Rick D. Niece’s The Side-Yard Superhero.

Recommended.

This review was written by Dave Moyer, educator and author of the novel Life and Life Only.   He is currently working on his follow-up book, Younger Than That Now.   Mr. Moyer also writes reviews for the New York Journal of Books.   (A review copy was provided by Smith Publicity.)

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