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A WELCOME MURDER
by Robin Yocum
Seventh Street Books, April 2017
265 pages
$15.95
ISBN: 1633882632


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

After Johnny Earl, high school baseball star, gets out of prison for dealing coke, he runs from his cellmate, a neo Nazi, and plans to get his hidden ill-gotten gains and disappear from dingy and dying Steubenville, Ohio, but a welcome murder is slowing him down.

A WELCOME MURDER is told by five Steubenville citizens: Johnny Earl, failed baseball player and cocaine dealer just out of prison and running from his neo-Nazi ex-cellmate; his crazy ex-girlfriend Dena Marie; the Sheriff, his old best buddy; the Sheriff's wife whose only desire is to escape this dingy gray city dying a slow death; and finally, Smoochie Xenakis, Dena Marie's husband who admits right up front that he is a coward.

The dead man is Rayce Daubner, the mean s.o.b. who set Johnny up for the cocaine bust. He has bullied Smoochie since childhood, and is sexually involved with both Dena Marie and Allison, the sheriff's wife. To thicken the plot, Dena Marie has been involved with all three men at one time or another.

There is nothing particularly righteous about any of these characters. Their charm comes from their honesty with the reader while they are fooling those around them. Their antics are laugh-out-loud funny, often totally improbable. Take for example General Himmler, Johnny's cellmate, who is planning to create New Germania somewhere out west. In a refreshing twist, he takes the fall for the murder while our five protagonists get away with their nefarious doings and come out on top.

A WELCOME MURDER is comedy at its best, not something one often finds in crime fiction. Morals are out the window, scheming is in, but it's a comedy, so the good guys win. Smoochie, Dena Marie's good guy husband, an admitted coward, begins to enjoy the town's suspicion that he murdered Daubner. He gets right into the role, gets a mobster suit, practices a new walk, sticks a toothpick into the corner of his mouth and begins to hang out at the local bookie's. Of course, Dena Marie falls in love with her husband as a result. She likes her sex "dirty, hot and fun."

Very little of the story is taken up with finding the murderer. He was the kind of bad boy who pulled wings off flies. And he has hardly matured beyond this stage since he became an FBI informant. Blackmail is his middle name.

I really enjoyed reading A WELCOME MURDER. Its light-heartedness, the delightful characters, the madcap plot kept me reading late into the night. And the final coup: the reader finds out who the murderer is, but it remains a secret between the killer and the reader. Robin Yocum has hit the ball out of the park.

Susan Hoover is a playwright, independent producer and retired college English teacher. She lives in Nova Scotia.

Reviewed by Susan Hoover, February 2017

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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