Rural Florida town harbors a nutcase killer and a nosy sleuth

Mud Bog Murder, by Lesley A. Diehl. Camel Press. 268 pages. Trade paperback $15.95.

Cozy mysteries have established themselves as a thriving mystery subgenre. While there’s plenty of suspense and plenty of investigatory action, the cozies have a warm feeling. Often humorous and usually uplifting, they are on the other side of noir. While the queen of this category is Nancy J. Cohen (who even wrote a how-to book about this subgenre), Lesley A. Diehl is a contender. Mud_Bog_Murder_300

Mud Bog Murder, the fourth Eve Appel Mystery, is set in a place called Sabal Bay, Florida – which I take to be a fictional stand-in for Ms. Diehl’s rural residence of Okeechobee. Here, on the ranching property owned by Jenny McCleary, disaster strikes during the mud bog race, a favorite local entertainment that can bring the person whose property is rented a nice piece of change.

In fact, the disaster strikes Jenny, whose severed head is found flying through the air, spun up by the churning wheels of a participating monster truck. Pieces of her alligator-torn body are found near the Miccosukee tribe’s airboat business.

Jenny had recently begun shopping at the quality second-hand clothing business owned and run by Eve Appel and her pregnant friend Madeleine. Theirs is a mobile business about to be transformed into a fixed address store in town.

They might have become friends with Jenny, who was about the only property owner around who didn’t resent seeing Eve and Madeleine among the environmental protesters. Why should these two be telling the ranchers how to use their land and trying to take away the pleasures of monster truck fans?

Diehl

Diehl

Resentment toward the protesters threatens the business. They can’t even get local tradespeople to do repairs on the store, which the previous owner had left in terrible condition.

When Eve’s friend Grandfather Egret (his grandson Sammy is cautiously attracted to Eve) is arrested for the murder, Eve just knows this is a mistake and has to prove it. Her PI boyfriend Alex resents her snooping ways, as does Frida, a local police officer. Yet Eve pushes on, and Alex becomes enlisted in the investigation. All want to help bring justice for Jenny’s teenage daughter, Shelley, who in her disorienting grief has begun leaning on Darrel, an exploitative, abusive lowlife she calls her boyfriend.

Who would have had it in for Jenny? Where do the clues point? . . .

To read the full review and the accompanying author interview, as they appear in the August 31, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the September 1 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, Palm Beach Gardens / Jupiter, and Palm Beach / West Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Diehl 1 and here: Florida Weekly – Diehl 2

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