PAYBACK – Mar Preston

Mar-Preston-PaybackMurder in the mountains.  A small, fairly remote mountain town in California,  a place where you would think the biggest crime wave would be a couple of breakins  at summer cottages, is the scene for this really nifty mystery.

Ok, so let’s see.   We’ve got the Security Patrol for the village, we’ve got  a bunch of villagers, We’ve got a body.  Well, parts of a body.  We’ve got the hands and feet.  And the head.  What more do you want?   Don’t be so picky.  You can’t have everything.

So, it turns out the head belonged to the Mayor of the village, whom nobody liked, so most of them weren’t all that broken up over seeing the Mayor being head over heels, if you will pardon the expression.   Therefore, the list of possible suspects is seriously long, but the perps did a good job.  No clues.  The County Sheriff’s station in Bakersfield, an hour and a half away sends up a couple of detectives to do some detecting.  Fat lot of good THAT did.  Still no clues.

But of course, if you do the scut work, and have some patience, things start to turn up, little by little.  And so they do, even in little Sierra Mountain Village.

Lots of interesting characters, and the story is told from the point of view of the second in command of the Security Patrol, Holly Seabright, an ex-cop who left the Arizona force a number of years before after being shot in a take down, then spending a lot of time in rehab, and finally deciding she wanted a more peaceful life.  Couldn’t get much more peaceful than Sierra Mountain Village.  Well, up until the body parts turn up in the golf club lake —- during a major festival weekend.

The Town Manager is a weasley guy who seems to have married WAY above his station,  the new missus being a hot number who it was later found out was a pole dancer going by the name of Lil Bit.   We are told that his first wife had run off with the Amway rep.   That’s gotta tell you something about how low on the rankings poor Staley was.

Holly’s best friend was another gal on the Security Patrol, Christy,

Christy’s life was bob til you drop.  Way too much coffee, not enough money, schmooze and hustle, make do, improvise, hope you got gas money til the end of the month.

One of the Bakersfield detectives was a nice looking guy with an attitude, and that attitude didn’t think much of hick Security Patrol types, but as in all Utopias,  eventually, he and Holly see there might be possibilities there among the body parts.  (See what I did there?)

Lots of clever writing, such as

A waitress with a low-rent look and six inches of cleavage took their orders.

And

From him gusted the breath of a dog that has just eaten something nasty.

And one last taste:

De Laurier was gay as a bowl of fresh daisies.

And an exciting —- and unexpected ending that will just knock your socks off!   When I was done reading, I had to go searching around the room for my socks.   So I recommend you read this excellent mystery barefoot.

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