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THE NUTTING GIRL
by Fred DeVecca
Coffeetown Press, August 2017
296 pages
$16.95
ISBN: 1603815759


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

When a movie crew arrives in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts on the Deerfield River, Frank Raven finds himself guarding the movie's star, Juliana Velvet Norcross, aka VelCro, a wild young flaming redhead. On the first day of filming, VelCro disappears over the falls, and soon, people are going over the falls in numbers that begin to concern the FBI.

Frank is a retired monk, cop, PI, though still a Morris Dancer (!) who has pretty much withdrawn from the larger world. He meets his match in Nick Mooney, the director of the film who has an obsession with tiny redheads whose names end in A. It becomes Frank's job to find VelCro, whose body has never surfaced.

Shelburne Falls, pop. 1700, and its fearsome falls, loom large in THE NUTTING GIRL, Frank thinks of VelCro as the nutting girl, the name of a Morris Dance he and his crew were performing for the movie when VelCro went over the falls. Many scenes take place on the rocks above the falls, others on the shores of the rocky river below the falls. When a second young redhead's body is found below the falls, the plot thickens.

Frank is a philosopher who has lost his faith, but is dogged by his disbelief. No wonder since he was blind and miraculously recovered his sight (or at least half of it) while in the monastery. Frank knows Shelburne Falls like the back of his hand, and is renowned for finding things, which he proceeds to do in the course of the novel.

On the other hand, Nick Mooney, described as bright-eyed, six feet seven and alarmingly skinny, begins to reveal himself as an evil demon. His bevy of redheads, his alcoholism and his nasty tongue are in danger of breaking Frank's refusal to engage in drinking and violence.

THE NUTTING GIRL is kind of small-town noir. The hero is a washed-out loser and the villain is evil. The town is lovely, like a temptress with a heart of stone, the perfect femme fatale.

The novel often tries our credibility, but then who says crime fiction must always be without flights of fancy? Morris Dancing, miracle cures in a monastery in New Orleans, dying and coming back to life? Really?

This is Fred DeVecca's first novel, but he should keep at it. He knows how to entertain, and he can build a plot so complicated that the reader will be left guessing right up to the end.

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

Reviewed by Susan Hoover, July 2017

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