About as cozy as cozy can get, THE STAGGERFORD MURDERS has the feel
of "Murder, She Wrote" crossed with Jan Karon's Mitford series.
Written from the viewpoint of Grover, an ancient geezer; Dusty, an
even more ancient geezer; and Ollie, Dusty's nephew --- plus a
couple of others --- the first of the two novellas has a
distinctive down-home flavor. The three main characters live in the
Ransford Hotel in Staggerford, Minnesota. Grover manages the old
hotel, a somewhat decrepit place on its way out. The other two live
there and sit around, jawing with Grover to pass the time.
One day, a letter is published in the Weekly, the local news
source, asking for any clues leading to the whereabouts of Blanche
Nichols, a woman who disappeared nine years before, and is signed
by her daughter. Since the little town of Staggerford doesn't see a
lot of mystery, the letter's intriguing request causes quite a stir
--- at least among the hotel's residents. Through ruminations and
revelations, the old guys stumble upon what happened, who murdered
who, and what to do about it now.
Author Jon Hassler writes with an easy style, making THE
STAGGERFORD MURDERS a pleasant escape.
In THE LIFE AND DEATH OF NANCY CLANCY'S NEPHEW, the book's second
novella, the reader is treated to a glimpse into W.D. Nestor's
rather unhappy existence. The saying goes that you reap what you
sow, but W.D. doesn't seem to deserve what comes his way. True, he
is surrounded by family and friends, but they could be more
understanding and less indifferent. His daughter and son both have
a huge gap where their hearts should be.
Once upon a time W.D. had a great love, the mother of his children.
Their lives together numbered too few, as she was taken from him
long before he was ready to wind down. The days pass with W.D.
becoming more and more curmudgeonly. Finally, he finds a friend in
Kevin, a young lad he meets at the local library. For eight years,
W.D. and Kevin fill a need in each other's lives. Unfortunately,
Kevin grows up and enters the army. By the time they see each other
again, W.D. has grown older --- at an alarmingly accelerated rate
--- and his days are definitely numbered. Just as W.D.'s life had
few genuine thrills, his death could have gone almost unnoticed
were it not for Aunt Nancy Clancy.
As in THE STAGGERFORD MURDERS, the characters make the story come
alive. Their personalities and quirks give them human dimension.
There are no pretensions here --- just wholesome prose and a
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 23, 2011