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    Review of MULETRAIN TO MAGGODY by Joan Hess (see her website)


    Simon & Schuster, February 2004

    Maggody Police chief Arly Hanks's job gets complicated when historians discover that a minor civil war skirmish took place near Maggody--and that the confederate soldiers had hidden their payroll gold somewhere. All of a sudden, missing people reports start to show up as half of Maggody heads for the nearby caves in hopes of discovering treasure and becoming rich. Rumors of treasure and the filming of a documentary about the skirmish (based on a confederate soldier's recently discovered journal) bring out-of-town visitors as well--actors, underemployed professors, and socialites looking for a chance to be seen. But when one of them turns up dead, Arly has to wonder whether it could really be the accident it appears to be--or could it be murder.

    Author Joan Hess (see more reviews of novels by Hess) turns the town of Maggody into her story's main character. From the venial mayor Jim Bob to his wife Mrs. Jim Bob with her fixation on the local minister to the moonshiners and the good-ole-boys of the small Arkansas town, Maggody feels real. Arly has a bit of a love-hate relationship with the town she serves as police chief but she uses the threat of Jim Bob not being able to buy a beer in her mother's bar to make sure she keeps her job long enough to decide where she wants to go next. The escapees from the retirement community, the pig-loving moonshiner, and her mother's friends with their mad plan to break into this historical society all add charm to this nice mystery.

    The plot line to MULETRAIN TO MAGGODY slowed down from time to time, but Hess's strong writing kept me involved in the characters even when the story wasn't doing much. Hess's insights into the civil war recreation mentality creates some additional humor to this fine light novel.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 5/30/04

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