See Also Deception
A Marjorie Trumaine Mystery
Larry D. Sweazy
(Seventh Street Books)
I almost didn't finish See Also Deception. I mean I picked it up with all the good will that a ready reviewer can give to a relatively short murder mystery (237 pages) . . . but the setting, my god, the setting. Because Marjorie Trumaine lives in Dickinson, North Dakota. Would you or anyone in their right mind ever go to Dickinson much less North Dakota except maybe as a psychological investigator to find out why in god's name anyone would stay in a town there in the far north of the plains, pop. 20,826?
Oh, yes. Fracking. You could go there and get a job fracking which, we are told, is all the rage now and which may have goosed the local population by 15,000 or so, bringing along with it "an increase in crime and homelessness within the city limits." Frigging fracking.
The weather? Marjorie Trumaline, who narrates Deception, takes us through noisy rainstorms, hail storms, and several punishing winter wind storms sent down from Canada. Marjorie also tells us what it's like to watch a tornado hopping about like a grasshopper over there on the horizon while you decide whether to pop down into the storm cellar to huddle with the canned peaches and peas or stay up above watching as the twister gets closer and closer.
And don't forget the annual mean temperature: as high as 109° F (July 7, 1981), as low as -35° F (January 29, 1966). And because they are fracking the hell out of the land, we can now add earthquakes to join all the bluster (and the twisters). Wouldn't you rather be in Kokomo? Or Jersey City? Care to join me here in Mukilteo, Wash?
It wasn't just fracking and twisters that made us lay Deception aside after page fifty or so. Marjorie Trumaine is rather frosty too, there in Dickinson, in 1964, when this all takes place. Plus we find that she is living with Hank, her loving, hard-working, sweet-tempered husband . . . who fell in a gopher hole (only in North Dakota) and the gun he was carrying went off in his face, blinding him. (One has to admit that author Sweazy doesn't do anything half-assed with his plot-lines and characters: as Hank went blind, he also managed to crack his spine which has left him in bed, moveless from the neck down. Might this be overkill?)
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However . . . however, when my editor failed, for three weeks, to send me something to review, I put on my gloomiest nightshirt and settled down with a bottle of dark claret and resumed Deception, to find that author Sweazy, not content with reducing Marjorie's husband to a blind basket-case, also knocks off two of her best friends - - - neighbors a mile or so down the country road (they never found out who murdered them) - - - and, this being a book that might better have been titled See Also Hyperbolic, we find that the author doubles down by hanging Marjorie's new friend Nina Tutweiler by the neck in her stylish living room just outside of town.
Oh, yes, and Marjorie's best old friend Calla is found slumped over her desk, bullet wedged in her left temple (even though she was right-handed). All this happened while she was innocently working there in the library, in part guarding several books hidden away in her file cabinet: Tropic of Cancer, Lady Chatterley's Lover, and The Price of Salt. (My god, I've missed that one! Excuse me if I set aside Deception for a moment, spend an afternoon with my claret and something a little racier - - - spiced up with a dash of Salt - - - to while away this dreary, rainy afternoon. It rains in Washington, too.)
While Calla isn't tending to the books, she's looking up questions that Marjorie has brought up to help her in her job as an indexer. Is the musk thistle - - - Carduus nutans - - - a perennial or an annual?
You think that just living in Dickinson is a bore? How would you like to be responsible for indexing - - - sorting out all the essential words - - - in the likes of Five Hundred Years of Chinese War Strategy and Common Plants of the Western Plains: North Dakota - - - these being two of Marjorie's most recent jobs?
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Having laid all that opprobrium on author Sweazy, now I am going to tell you that after page seventy-five or so I couldn't lay this one down. No stuff. Don't ask me why. Is it possible that indexing, as a job, is far more sexy than you would think? Certainly so, if we were charged with indexing The Price of Salt. Which it turns out, may have something to do with poor old Calla having been offed.
And the weather? If your friends are dropping like flies (and there are almost no suspects about to hang these calamities on), hail and cyclones and frigid blasts may get you into the mood to find out who is committing all this mayhem in our once peaceful albeit godforsaken town. Even poor old Hank: when the murderer goes after him, there's something barbaric in the air, and we - - - you and me and Marjorie - - - have to damn well ferret all this out.
Trust me: See Also Deception will creep up on you, despite North Dakota's dratted clinging plants, musk thistle: Carduus nutans (which can be, Calla tells us, without even looking it up - - - no wonder Nina loves her - - - both a perennial and an annual, depending on where it is).
We're damn well going to stick around with Marjorie. Until she finally nails her man. Or in this case . . .