c.2016, Tyrus Books $24.99 / $30.99 Canada 207 pages
There’s always the one that got away.
Ask any fisherman and you’ll hear how the one that escaped was a monster fish, a record-breaker, an awesome specimen with foot-wide jaws. Go ahead, ask; every fisherman has a story … except, perhaps, Lewellyn Ferris. In the new mystery, “Dead Loudmouth” by Victoria Houston, Police Chief Ferris never lets ‘em get away.
It had to have been a gruesome way to die.
Chet Wright, the owner of Buddy’s Place, a gentlemen’s club, had been enjoying a dalliance with one of his dancers that night. The piano they’d lain on was fitted with a switch that raised and lowered it for the enjoyment of customers, but something went horribly wrong and the piano had risen to its highest point, crushing the couple against the ceiling.
The official cause of death, according to the “Wausau boys” at the regional crime lab, was asphyxiation, but because a piano doesn’t just raise itself, Police Chief Lew Ferris figured the deaths were homicides. When Paul Osborne, retired dentist and Lew’s deputized lover, saw a sandy footprint next to an open window, her suspicions were heightened; the appearance of the local private hunting club’s manager only sealed her belief.
The manager told Lew that Wright had purchased Buddy’s Place with a scheme in mind: he and his dancers scammed three wealthy club members out of hundreds of thousands of dollars – scams that the men didn’t want their wives to know about. Wright had been in deep financial trouble and rumor was that there was a huge life insurance policy on his life. The club’s maintenance worker confirmed that the dead dancer wasn’t the most popular girl in the world, either.
Plenty of people, it seemed, had reason to want Wright and his paramour dead. But who actually made it happen? Was it Wright’s wife, who stood to be a rich woman? Or his employees, some of whom hated him? The bigger question was, in the thick forests and trout streams of Northern Wisconsin, would someone try killing again?
Of course they will because there has to be another Loon Lake Mystery, right? Fans who love Lew Ferris and “Dead Loudmouth” will be disappointed if there wasn’t.
And yet – there could be head-scratchers for some readers …
This is the sixteenth Loon Lake book, and author Victoria Houston tends to make all her mysteries as authentic as possible, which means they’re ripe with local slang and fishing terms that out-of-towners and non-fishermen may not understand. Readers may not completely understand where (or how) Lew got her ragtag staff, either, or why otherwise important procedurals seem to be lax sometimes.
Yes, you might squint at those conundrums, but they don’t ruin the story, the filling-out of charmingly realistic characters, or the keeps-you-guessing whodunit that’s revealed in the end with a nice flourish. What you love in a mystery is still inside this book, exactly where you want it, so just go with the flow. No worries.
Once you’ve started “Dead Loudmouth,” you’ll be hooked anyway.