Bonita Faye, by Margaret Moseley****

bonitafayeBrash Books has a new release, and it’s exactly the kind of novel you’d want to take to a warm sandy beach, or perhaps just to curl up with while the snow falls. I was permitted an advance glimpse, courtesy of Brash Books Priority Reviewers Circle. It was originally published in 1997, but due to be released again February 23, 2016. You’re in for a good time with this one.

Bonita Faye is our protagonist, of course, and although her story has been compared to Fannie Farmer’s work, I found her to be more of a female, less extreme version of Forrest Gump. The narrative begins in a dialect that is semi-literate; the setting is partly in Poteau, Oklahoma and partly elsewhere. Bonita Faye is born poor and without any real source of support, but rises above it through means that are both ingenious and at times, very funny. Although the story is ostensibly a mystery, we don’t need to know who-dunnit, because Bonita Faye did it. All of it.

Because some of us don’t need a knight to ride to our rescue. Some of us can take care of ourselves.

Although I found the protagonist to be engaging, I think the novel would actually be strengthened by pulling back a bit on the cornpone dialect. There is also a point at which her education is improved and her English becomes more eloquent, but then for no discernible reason, she falls back into the same aw-shucks dialect she had initially.

There are multiple characters that are developed besides Bonita Faye. I liked Claude (“Oink oink!”) and also Simone. I had trouble buying into the second half of the thread involving Michel. I also found the thread with Elly to be problematic, although I loved the final resolution of the problem that develops toward the end.

When push comes to shove, Margaret Moseley is a force to be reckoned with, and I look forward to seeing more of her work in the future. Those looking for a fun, accessible vacation read should order this book.

The Missing and the Dead, by Jack Lynch *****

themissingandthedeadJerry Lind is missing, which is especially strange, given that he knows he is about to inherit a small fortune. It seems unlikely that he would take off for a long time without letting someone know about it. He ought to be back by now. Moreover, the next people in line to inherit his share are also wondering if he is okay. Not that they hope he isn’t. Of course not! And at this point I have to break my narrative to let you know that I was fortunate enough to get this DRC free, courtesy of Net Galley and Brash Books. It was previously published in the 1980’s and is just now being released digitally.

Back to Jerry. No, never mind, forget him for a minute. Let’s talk about our assassin.

Our assassin is not getting any younger, and his wife is exhausted from all the moves. Every time he carries out a contract, they have to either abandon their stuff or get a truck, and over years and years of professional killing, it wears a woman down. She wants a garden. From now on, he needs to either make do with the significant amount he’s squirreled away from his successful if messy business, or he’s going to have to goddamn hide the bodies.

It’s the least he can do for her.

Peter Bragg is our man. Jerry’s sister hires him to go to Barracks Cove, where Jerry was supposed to be running a professional errand, and see if he can’t track him down. And Bragg goes in prepared. If you are sick of reading wussy narratives that give flimsy reasons for the intrepid sleuth not to carry a gun and make sure he has bullets, this is your guy, and this is your story. Has he ever fired that thing? Oh yes. But not just for practice…in the line of duty? Again, oh hell yes.

And it’s a good thing, as it turns out.

By the time the thing is over, a great deal of action has taken place, and though I am a six-to-eight book-at-a-time reader, the urgent, taut narrative (reminiscent somewhat of the Richard Stark detective novels from about the same period) grabbed me by the front of my shirt and held me there until the last page was turned.

It was nominated for an Edgar, and the clever juggling of setting and character development, along with a plot line that is unbelievably lean and compelling, will probably leave you wondering, as it did me, why he was denied and just who exactly did get it.

The consolation? If you have a kindle, you can read this book right now. Change the window on your screen and order it up. You’ll have an excellent weekend…if you can wait that long!