Sunday, September 25, 2016
Review: Wedding Bell Blues by Ruth Moose
Wedding Bell Blues. Ruth Moose. Minotaur Books, St. Martin’s Press. Released August 23, 2016. Hard cover $25.99. ISBN: 9781250067418.
If you like zany characters (several degrees beyond interesting), a story line that verges on farce, and a heroine who doesn’t very often stop to think but has guts and somehow lands on her feet, you’ll enjoy Ruth Moose’s second novel Wedding Bell Blues in her Dixie Dew B&B mystery series. The narrative drive is constantly side-swiped by humor and the down home language of the Old South.
The setting feels like the 1950s, but then there’s the courthouse fire, which happened in Pittsboro, North Carolina, only a few years ago. Since other Pittsboro landmarks like the S&T Soda Shop are mentioned by their real names, I sense that it’s both 2015 and 1955–some fictional blend of reality and imagination, but then that’s what novels do.
Beth McKenzie moved back to Littleboro in Doing It At the Dixie Dew and opened her B&B, finding help from Ida Plum Duckett in the kitchen, and Scott, the handyman, in restoring the old house enough to go on with. We still have the New Jersey police chief, Ossie Delgardo, and Verna’s rabbit named Robert Redford. The focus is on Reba, the woman who lives hand to mouth and feels free to come and go through people’s houses. She isn’t quite right in the head. This time Reba has announced she’s getting married. When Beth rides to her rescue to find her sobbing over a body on a picnic bench whom she insists she has killed, we wonder: is it her fiancé, whom she calls God? His truck, parked nearby, has the logo GOD, General Overnight Delivery.
Beth gives the man artificial respiration, which she’ll regret several times later, but the MedAlert folks take him to the hospital, siren howling. The law (Ossie) won’t talk to Beth and doesn’t get coherent answers from Reba except that she keeps saying she killed him, which Ossie gets on tape. Then he takes Reba to jail.
The main event in the book is Littleboro’s first Green Bean Festival, supported financially by a rich newcomer, and now Mayor, Honorable Calista Moss. To raise more money she throws a trashion show. Participants are to dress up in trash bags, clothes that have been thrown away, recyclables, etc.
When Beth investigates the motel room where Reba had spent the previous night with the man she believes wants to marry her, she finds Reba’s make-shift wedding dress, but not Butch Rigsbee, the theoretical groom, whose wallet and photo were left behind. He has vanished, but the nearly dead man on the roadside picnic table is not Butch but Reba’s “better man,” and now he’s in ICU at the local hospital.
When you enter the pages of Wedding Bell Blues, you’re in a different universe, i.e., a new fictional world. The plot moseys along. Humor lies in wait in nearly every sentence.
Here’s a snippet:
“Festival. I was so involved with Reba and her God thing and the missing Butch Rigsbee that I’d pushed the whole shindig out of my mind. Not only did the Green Bean Festival have Scott gainfully employed for odds and ends, but all of Littleboro was buzzing both pros and cons. Who would come to our little town to celebrate the green bean? Who cared? Who even liked the stuff? We might as well salute something that had more guts and glory, like the black-eyed pea, for gosh sakes. Or as Ida Plum had said “Creasy greens. Now they are something special. Or collards.”
Ruth Moose is the 2013 winner of the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. She has published three collections of short stories and six collections of poetry. She was on the Creative Writing faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for fifteen years and received the Chapman Award for teaching. She lives in Pittsboro, N.C.