Mystery fans probably already know all about the infamous Ozarks town of Maggody and its clever, sassy Chief of Police, Arly Hanks. And they probably know all about how much fun the Maggody stories by inventive and wildly imaginative author Joan Hess really are. But for those of us new to the quirky folks of this unusual Arkansas town, the Arly Hanks mystery series is like finding an amazing treasure you never knew existed.
This hilarious installment tells the tale of a murder that occurs in the woods surrounding Camp Pearly Gates. While accompanying local hormone-ridden teenagers to the Christian retreat, Chief of Police Arly Hanks must contend with the hellfire and brimstone of the self-appointed Queen of Righteousness, Mrs. Jim Bob Buchanan, and her holy soldier Brother Verber; a stranger named Jacko with his own story to hide; a group of bizarre and bald cultists called Daughters of the Moon; and her own unpredictable mother, Ruby Bee. Add to this a body found in the woods, a body that belonged to one of the elusive cult members, and you have all the ingredients of a roller-coaster ride of a mystery tinged with hilarity and downright delectable surprises.
I am new to the Maggody mysteries, having only now discovered Joan Hess and her work, and Maggody and the Moonbeams captured and enchanted me for life with the delightful characters, the madcap adventure, the spooky mystery, and of course, the wonderful lead heroine, Arly Hanks, who doesnít take crap from anyone yet has to take crap from everyone. As Arly unravels the murder mystery clue by clue, we get taken along on her wild and wacky trip through the backwoods of small-town America, complete with religious extremists, local politicians with a taste for philandering, crooked law enforcement personnel, drunken locals with shotguns, and all sorts of goofy hangers-on that make Maggody the kind of place you love reading about, but would go crazy living in.
As the story comes to its surprising close, we feel like we donít just know these characters, we actually want to see them in action again despite their blatant flaws and obvious misgivings. Maggody and the Moonbeams is a fast read that you wonít want to put down and will sorely regret having to finish. Until you happily realize that Agatha Award-winning novelist Joan Hess has written a whole slew of Maggody treasures just waiting to be discovered and savored.