Review

Maggody and the Moonbeams: An Arly Hanks Mystery

by Joan Hess



Arly Hanks is the quintessential sheriff in the little town of
Maggody, Arkansas. From perfecting speed traps to tracking down
moonshiners to dealing with town ruffians, she's a formidable force
--- with one notable exception. Arly's mother, Ruby Bee, is the one
person that can cut her down to size, and Arly wages a continuing
battle between a fondness for the comfort of hometown life and a
recurring need to escape it. It might be hard to imagine that much
could happen in this metropolis of less than 800, but after 13
previous Arly Hanks mysteries, readers know that Maggody is just
brimming with felonious folks.

In MAGGODY AND THE MOONBEAMS Arly is railroaded by the Mayor's wife
to help chaperone a group of teenagers to Camp Pearly Gates in
Dunkicker. The town's most sanctimonious do-gooder, Mrs. Jim Bob,
has volunteered their services to help restore the rundown camp as
a summer project. The kids are less than enthusiastic, their
preacher is full of more "spirits" than spiritual fervor, and Arly
senses disaster from the moment they hit the camp grounds. An
unfriendly encounter with the local deputy sheriff, who just
happens to be the son of Dunkicker's wealthy matriarch and
benefactor, adds another component to her growing misery. Then one
of her troublesome charges wanders off during a storm, discovers a
body in the woods, and Arly's dire prediction becomes a
reality.

The murder victim is soon identified as a recent new recruit to a
local cult-like group of women and, ironically, is also the missing
wife of Maggody's infamous town drunk, Duluth Buchanon. In sharp
contrast to Dunkicker's traditional inhabitants, the cult's
appearance and demeanor are shocking, yet these outsiders seem to
have become an integral part of the community. The mystery of where
they came from and why they are living in Dunkicker becomes an
exasperating stumbling block to Arly's ongoing murder
investigation. As suspicion settles on Duluth, Arly finds herself
trying to resolve her doubts about the case, control the unhappy
campers and cope with her mother's sudden intrusion. And just when
she thinks it couldn't possibly get worse, she becomes the target
of the matchmaking efforts of the deputy sheriff''s mother.

MAGGODY AND THE MOONBEAMS contains a rich cast of characters, both
comical and colorful, that have formed the backbone of Joan Hess's
writing and provide a number of entertaining stories that underlie
the classic murder mystery. The adulterous Mayor Jim Bob, the
less-than-pious Brother Verber, and the frighteningly prolific
branches of the Buchanon family tree are among the "upstanding"
residents that keep Maggody constantly humming with mini intrigues
and Arly frequently questioning her choice of careers. A long time
resident of the Ozark area herself, Hess's tongue-in-cheek dialogue
and punchy storyline, strongly flavored with the ambiance of
small-town America, make MAGGODY AND THE MOONBEAMS another savory
addition for any mystery-lover's bookshelf.

Reviewed by Ann Bruns (BkPageWC@aol.com) on January 22, 2011

Maggody and the Moonbeams: An Arly Hanks Mystery
by Joan Hess

  • Publication Date: July 31, 2001
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 0743202295
  • ISBN-13: 9780743202299