Sunday, February 8, 2009

Book Review - HOCUS CROAKUS by Mary Daheim

Hocus Croakus by Mary Daheim
2004, 384pgs

Growing up, my family used to take a lot of Road Trips. We weren't well off, and it was the closest thing we had to a real vacation, so every once in a while, we'd take off, car loaded, and explore the mountains of southeastern Idaho. There would be rolling hills and dangerous crags, deer, elk, moose, chipmunks and Sasquatches, hairpin turns and dangerous descents.... I assume. I always had my nose buried in a book. Road trips were a time for me to block the world out, crack a library book and read to my hearts content, stopping for potty breaks (A Marley family tradition) and grub. Since I've gotten married, most of that has stopped. My wife hates to drive, and will only drive my element when forced, so all of the driving on our trips has fallen to me. I've learned to find a special enjoyment from these trips too, daydreaming about the landscape and watching the fellow vehicles, but I still miss reading in the back seat of a car as it rumbles along the road. That was why this recent trip to Bozeman was kind of exciting for me. My father in law, realizing that I owned the only safe and reliable four wheel drive vehicle for the still snowy stretches of Montana between the two of us, asked if he could drive it to the wedding, allowing me to ride in the back. I agreed, naturally. Not only would this let me relax and read, but it would give us my car while we were in Bozeman (Which turned out to be a real boon) and it would also be the first time I'd actually ridden in the back seat of my car! Honda Elements are kind of unusual beasts to that end, I discovered. Their back seats, which I usually have removed to accommodate my dogs, are kind of stadium style seats. Which was pretty cool for watching the road, as we could look right over the tops of the front seats (when my mother in law didn't have the visor down, one of my inexplicable pet peeves...) and while immobile, offered a pretty ample amount of leg and head room. I did notice pretty quickly though, that the space between the seat and the floor was smaller than usual, causing my knees to get kind of sore after a while...

Anyway, this gave me a great chance to read a few books on the 5 hour drive there and back.

The first book I chose was one I picked up at the used book store here in town, Circle C Books, while I was waiting for my wife to get her hair cut across the street the day before. I decided to buy it for a couple of reasons; there was a frog and witty title on the cover, implying magic, something I love reading about, it was labeled "A bed-and-breakfast mystery" and being interested in the career that I am, made it appealing, and I couldn't really find much of anything else, and I always feel bad wandering around in a used book store for a while without doing anything but petting the dog that lives there.

The idea of a bed and breakfast mystery series of books sounded like a GREAT hook, and I was excited to see what it was like. Unfortunately, I happened to pick one from the series that took place while the B&B was closed, and the main characters were on vacation in an Indian Reservation casino. The main character, the ridiculously named JUDITH MCMONIGLE FLYNN, is the sixty year old owner of a B&B and apparently has a knack for finding dead bodies. Essentially Jessica Fletcher of the hospitality industry. Along with her are her husband, a former detective, his annoying cousin and her OCD hubby, and their even more obnoxious mothers. Soon enough, a member of the magic act dies, and they're all trying to solve the mystery, prevent further deaths, deal with B&B repairs, and winning unrealistically often at the casino games. Honestly, I had a hard time finishing this book. I read 2 others, skimmed a non fiction book and a couple of magazines after this one in less time. While I think I'll check out some other books in the series, I found the characters really hard to enjoy, and some of the twists so contrived that at one point I found myself groaning and saying "Oh brother" loud enough to make my wife think something was wrong. Maybe it was the age of the characters, or the completely unnecessary addition of the mothers, but every time I started getting into the story, something silly would happen, and I'd get distracted and watch the scenery outside of the car instead of reading.

In my defense, the view outside the window really was quite stunning.....

At any rate, it was an okay read, but probably something I'll resell nonetheless.


Next: The Wood Nymph & The Cranky Saint by C. Dale Brittain

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