by Cynthia Chow
Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Haunted Hayride with Murder along with a link to purchase the book from Amazon, and an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL.
Just in time for Halloween, this sixth Otter Lake mystery begins and ends with a questionable retelling of the Apple Witch ghost story to eye-rolling, snarky girl scouts. Why it is Freddie Ng telling the tale is as much a mystery as the murder that follows, since Freddie hates corn mazes, witches, ghosts, ghost witches, and especially Halloween. As one of the partners of Otter Lake Security, though, he and our narrator Erica Bloom have been hired to watch over the Honeycutt Apple Orchard’s multitude of Halloween activities, which is a step up from following cheating spouses, insurance scammers, and peeping Tom moose. It also unfortunately places them in the middle of Apple Witch territory, although it’s not a witch but a very dead foot they discover when tracking down partying teenagers.
Along with their one legitimately licensed private investigative partner Rhonda Cooke, Erica and Freddie make the democratic decision to avoid horror movie tropes and stay completely out of the murder investigation. Which is immediately overturned when the youngest Honeycutt sibling, Mandy, comes to them for help. Mandy’s former boyfriend had been intent on capturing the legendary Apple Witch on tape, and now that she is in a delicate condition she absolutely needs answers. Freddie implements baby rules that make them pregnancy genies, forced to grant Mandy’s wish, but it is actually a bet with Erica’s maybe-sorta-something friend/rival Sheriff Grady Forrester that puts them on the case. Now all they have to do is solve a murder, capture a witch, and hopefully not be killed in a haunted maze. All while not breaking the law. Easy peasy.
I lost count how many times I laughed, snickered, or snorted out loud during this novel, which ceaselessly entertains with the absurdities inflicted upon and by Erica Bloom. She pretends to be the normal sole normal resident of Otter Lake, but she has left a considerable trail of chaos and accidental traumas in her wake. Her earth-mother mother is determined to hand out homemade vegan treats to millennials on Halloween, and encourages Erica’s relationship with Grady as long as he doesn’t crush her dreams and identity. Even if that identity is that to solve murders.
The humor is never over-the-top or outlandish, and derives from the long-established friendships and relationships between characters. Even when fighting, Erica and Grady wordlessly unite and eventually fist-bump after running into their exes. Freddie continues to be an absolute treasure and the all-star of this series, never the more so than when his attempts to taunt Erica into paintball result in the entire OLS team donning Wizard of Oz costumes in the middle of a zombie paintball apocalypse. Only true best friends could declare, “If we die…I want you to know that you are my best friend, and I love you, and this is all your fault.” A hilarious ending worthy of Scooby-Doo is sure to please fans of this extraordinarily entertaining series, and I can’t encourage readers enough to join in on the rollicking adventures of Erica and the rest of Otter Lake.
To enter to win a copy of Haunted Hayride with Murder, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “hayride,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 20, 2018. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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