by Cynthia Chow
Information on how to enter to win a copy of Foul Play at the end of this review, along with a link to purchase the book and help KRL at the same time. You can find a guest post by Shelley about her character’s sidekick Whiskey, a West Highland White Terrier, in this same issue.
Foul Play at the Fair is the first installment in author Shelley Freydont’s Celebration Bay Mystery series and introduces readers to Liv Montgomery, a former Manhattan event planner burnt out on demanding brides and sweet sixteeners who has been hired by the small Upstate New York town of Celebration Bay to organize promotional tourist events. Celebration Bay is the epitome of a village that circles the wagons against outsiders and protects their own. Poor Liv faces opposition from the volunteer event planner Liv replaced, but she’s supported by her neighbors, two retired teachers and sisters, as well as Whiskey, her adorable and trustworthy Westie companion. (see Shelley’s guest post about Whiskey in this issue)
While Liv has the organizational skills to tackle nearly every problem that jumps in front of her, she doesn’t expect the intimidating and somewhat menacing juggling family who literally tumble in front of her. Unfortunately, her encounter is a sign of what will come, as Liv is soon called by her assistant to the scene of a murder, that of one of the disguised performers from juggler’s campsite. The town council pressures Liv with a deadline for cancellation of the Harvest on the Bay Festival if the murder remains unsolved, so Liv is forced to uncover the many secrets of Celebration Bay if she wants to keep her job in the town she is starting to love.
The series is aptly named, as Celebration Bay is the star. The residents know everything about everyone, and if your family hasn’t lived there for generations you are therefore defined as an outsider. The village protects their own, and like a family they have their crazy members but they are their crazies, and outsiders had better not mess with them. Liv grows frustrated with the police chief Bill Gunnison, who is distracted by his back problems, his unwillingness to arrest a resident, and who seems to be completely bulldozed over when the State Police are called in by the City Council. The local newspaper publisher is charming but maddeningly lackadaisical to the point of being nearly comatose, and a teenager related to the victim and the main suspect wheedles Liv into keeping secrets and investigating her own.
The victim was disliked by virtually the entire town, as he was blamed for the bullying death of a shy young boy years ago. No one is entirely interested in solving the crime, especially if it means arresting any of the more likable residents. Unfortunately, that’s not an option if Liv wants to prevent the inept police from arresting the wrong man, make the Harvest Festival a success, and keep her job.
I’m a huge fan of Freydont’s previous mysteries series, one featuring dancer Linda Haggerty and the other a Sudoku mystery series. In this mystery she eases the reader into the town of Celebration Bay without overwhelming with the many residents and characters. What the author succeeds at so well is creating and then developing the characters into very realistic individuals who defy their initial clichés and stereotypes. What seem at first to be two-dimensional characters are eventually revealed to have very elaborate histories with layers to their personalities. The humor is very subtle but definitely present, and readers will be just as charmed as Liv by Celebration Bay. A final twist will both surprise and satisfy readers and have them looking forward to the next Christmas festival planned by Liv and the always present Whiskey.
To enter to win an e-book copy of Foul Play At The Fiar, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Fair”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 13, 2012. U.S. residents only.
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