Monday, May 16, 2011

Bingo Barge Murder by Jessie Chandler

Book:  Bingo Barge Murder
Author:  Jessie Chandler
Publisher:  Midnight Ink

I’ve come to the conclusion that the little known, über-secret League of Lesbian Super Heroes must have sprayed a little “somethin’ somethin’ special” onto the pasture lands grazed by all those Minnesota milk cows about twenty years ago, because there sure has been a surprising bevy of death-defying, north star dykes zooming about the literary airspace. And, make no mistake; Jessie Chandler is the newest Girl Wonder to buzz our bookshelves, righting wrongs, and making the Twin Cities safe for all.

Seriously, who knew that Minnesota was such a lightening rod for crime?!?

Bingo Barge Murder introduces us to Shay O’Hanlon, co-owner of a funky little coffee shop, best friend to a chain-smoking, environmentalist drama queen, and honorary daughter to a hip, 60-year old bat-welding, poker playing, knitting circle Ringmaster.  Life is good, if not a little stagnant, when Coop, her buddy hauls her into the grimy garage behind the coffee shop to tell her that his boss, a slime ball of a man named Kinky Anderson, has been killed by a bronze plated bingo dauber that Coop had been handling the night before when the Kinkster fired his butt.  The police are looking for Coop, and he convinces Shay to help protect him because everyone knows “what happens to vegetarians” in the Big House.  Shay and Eddy, her pseudo-mom rally, and hide Coop in the hidden loft above the garage.

Of course, the cops are looking for Coop, and in walks the ‘tough and chewy butch with a gun’, JT Bordeaux.  There seems to be a hint of chemistry between Shay and JT, but Shay is firmly into her “Tenacious Protector” mode with Coop, and evades JT’s questions while acting a bit like a squirrel on acid.  JT knows something’s up, but isn’t quite sure what.  Shay, Coop and Eddy embark on secret mission to find evidence to clear Coop, but instead find themselves firmly in the thick of a mystery that involves not only clearing Coop’s name, but finding a truckload of stolen nuts, outsmarting misanthrope mobsters, and besting bingo patrons that have gone over to the dark side.

Oh, and then there’s the jowly, misunderstood, Renaissance dog, Dawg . . .

Bingo Barge Murder was a fun little story that was surprisingly complex for it’s length.  Ms. Chandler created a long list of loonie, but loveable characters, and kept the pace moving without sacrificing the detail necessary to grab you by the collar and take you along for the ride.  I loved the absurdity that was deftly sprinkled into the story:  The Pig’s Eye Bingo Barge, Kinky’s badly bronzed, phallic dauber, murder and mayhem all for a truck load of almonds, neon-green tennis shoes, and a handy fungo bat.

Ooh!  Ooh! I also loved when Shay got tingles at all the wrong times in all the right places . . .

One of the best parts of the book, to me, was Rocky, the high functioning, developmentally disabled, savant with a photographic memory.  I thought the character was beautifully written, and kept true-to-form.  His special intellect was the hidden key to the mystery, but he was also vulnerable and child-like. 

And, anyone who can score that much free Popeye’s extra spicy chicken is officially ‘okey dokie’ in my book!

Try as I might, I can’t think of another book in this genre’ where we see a character like Rocky, and I loved that.  Most of us, at some point in our life, have met a Rocky, and it’s about time we see him (or her) showing up in our literature. 

So, extra props for originality!

Now, one thing I have to bring up is the whole Shay/JT thing.  So, we get the early impression that Shay thinks JT is hot.  And then we learn that JT is a wee bit flirtatious with Shay.  Then we discover that they suffer from mutual tinglies, and some sort of relationship is on the horizon.  Okay that works.  In fact I was rooting for it from the first chapter.  However, during all of this, Shay lies to JT about knowing where Coop is.  Then she lies to JT when Eddy gets pilfered by the bungling mobsters.  She finally needs JT’s help to get out of a big pickle, but then takes off without telling JT what was going down with the nuts. 

Whoa, help me out here, but if I were JT, I’d probably be really ticked off in spite of the warm tingles Shay evoked in my damp, happy places.

Still, I’ll give the author the benefit of the doubt, because we’re only in Book One of the series, and I’m sure Shay and JT will have a few more of these pesky little occurrences, and plenty of time to work things out on the whole trust and honesty front.

For a first effort, Bingo Barge Murder was a frisky little whodunit, chock full of loveable, whacky characters, and enough juice to drive a solid series.  I’m looking forward to hearing more from Shay O’Hanlon and the Rabbit Hole regulars, so be on the lookout for Book Two, which is currently scheduled for release in the May 2012 timeframe.  I know that’s a long time to wait, but I have a suspicion it will be well worth the effort.

On the Rainbow Scale, I’ll give Bingo Barge Murder a 4.9 out of 6.  Give Jessie Chandler and Shay O’Hanlon a read, it will put a goofy little smile on your face.

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