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The Staggerford Murders
by Jon Hassler

Category: Fiction / General
198 pages; ISBN: 0452285402

Rating: 8/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner


The Staggerford Murders
Jon Hassler
Plume, Dec 2004, $14.00, 198 pp.
ISBN: 0452285402

The Staggerford Murders. Almost a decade has passed since someone killed Staggerford, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce employee Neddy Nicholls and his wife Blanche vanished. Neither mystery was resolved. Now their daughter Penny Jean comes from California to uncover what happened to her mother. Her former husband George follows her home. At the Ransford Hotel, several townsfolk discuss her ad in the Staggerford Weekly asking for help into the disappearance of her mom. The upbeat frenetic pace feels like it belongs in A Mad Mad Mad Mad World as not much is taken seriously but at times the tale is difficult to follow. Still, this is a good entry in the Staggerford folklore.

Nancy Clancy's Nephew. Septuagenarian W.D. Nestor grew up on a prairie farm raised by an abusive father. As an adult W.D. hid his feelings with the only persons he cared about being his spouse Lucille and his two children. As he talks to a psychiatrist giving him the third degree, he reflects back over his miserable life to the one shining star the night he and Lucille wed during a snowstorm. He actually makes friend with a young boy, but finds no peace until a decade later when he visits his century old Aunt Nancy Clancy. Though well written this is not an upbeat tale as typically provided by Jon Hassler; instead the protagonist is a grim soul with little that is positive in his life.

Both tales are well written, but seem totally opposites in outlook. Ironically, the murder-disappearance mystery is cheerful while the biographical fiction piece is depressing. Although fans of Mr. Hassler will enjoy the two novellas, readers will realize neither is quite on a par with THE STAGGERFORD FLOOD.

Harriet Klausner


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