Get ready to chuckle --- a lot --- as Rene Gutteridge spins her tongue-firmly-in-cheek, humorous tale of small town life in BOO HISS, her third book in an informal series.
In BOO, Gutteridge introduced us to the quirky town of Skary, Indiana. The small town's economic life revolves around famous bestselling horror novelist Wolfe Boone --- or "Boo" --- from the Haunted Mansion restaurant to Spooky's Bookstore. When Wolfe becomes a Christian and chooses to quit writing horror novels, his decision turns the town upside down. In BOO HOO, the little town of Skary is on the edge of bankruptcy, Wolfe has become a car salesman, and his fiancée, Ainsley Parker, is on track to become the next Martha Stewart.
If you haven't read Gutteridge's earlier works, put this book down and read them in order. Although it's not impossible to read this as a stand-alone novel, you'll enjoy it more with some background.
Now, the town has gone "from famous to obscure to a magnet for all things suburban." BOO HISS picks up the story as a two-headed rosy boa named Bob and Fred is on the loose in Skary. (Just for you skeptics, two-headed snakes are possible, though a rarity). The characters juggle other problems. Wolfe is struggling with writer's block. Ainsley longs to have a baby but nothing is happening, and her carefully ordered life is thrown out of kilter when Melb gets pregnant, and Melb and Oliver (improbably) take up temporary residence with Wolfe and Ainsley.
Just-arrived suburban soccer mom extraordinaire Katelyn Downey (mother of the devilish imp, five-year-old Willem) are determined to turn the little town of Skary into the Next Big Thing. A new cell phone tower, soccer field, coffeehouse complete with lattes and frou frou drinks, and some major changes at the church are only a few of the items on her agenda. The gentle Reverend Peck is spinning over all the changes Katelyn brings to his church, and wonders if the new cappuccino bar will be more of an attraction than his sermons. Will Skary lose its small-town values?
Romance is also in the air in the most unlikely places. Martin Blarty (short and contemplating hair implants) and Ainsley's dad, Sheriff Bart Parker (tall and clueless about women), are both attracted to Lois, The Queen of Menopause ("Eccentricity can be attractive, especially when it comes with hot flashes"). Lois has launched a town play and, in the process of casting, finds herself dating both men. As she ponders their flaws, she muses, "As a mature woman, your standards haven't slipped, they've just deepened to include Volvos instead of Covettes." Lois's sleepwalking leads to an unexpected engagement --- and more trouble --- and the play turns into a reality show.
When the strangely named Leonard Tarffeski, a charming snake hunter from New Zealand (where there are no snakes) appears to save the day --- or capture and sell the unusual snake for financial gain --- things quickly disintegrate.
Writers will enjoy some of the lines tossed at Wolfe (his father-in-law says in one aside, "It's not like you work or anything…"). Christian publishing industry folks will also snicker at the subplot involving Wolfe's editor/agent Alfred Tennison's discovery of the "Christian fiction" and his attempts to blend in --- and cash in.
If you're looking for a serious literary read to analyze for character development and plot treatment, look elsewhere. To enjoy this book, you'll have to suspend your disbelief from the earliest pages. However, if you want a book that's pure fun, BOO HISS is it. Relax and enjoy the pure whimsicalness of Gutteridge's imagination.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on September 20, 2005