4 stars – Strongly Recommended
Publisher: Kenmore Books
Released: September 2015
Reviewed by Kate Vane
What happens when you’ve followed your passion but never quite made it? Wade Lovett, former jazz musician, is in his sixties and living in a trailer park. He has unexpectedly found, at this late stage in his life, that a number of women find him attractive, though he is self-deprecating enough to acknowledge that this is largely due to outliving the competition.
Now Carol, one of the three women he is seeing, wants to marry him and another, Peggy, is dead. Peggy named him beneficiary of her life insurance (and her pedigree cat) before she died. The police suspect him of her murder. Wade has seen enough cable TV to know that being innocent is no bar to being convicted and so he sets out to find out who really did murder Peggy. And he needs to find a home for that cat.
Wade plays down his ill health and financial worries with dry humour. He and his fellow residents at Happy Acres (where the streets are named after the fifty states, in no particular order) form an ill-assorted community. There’s a sense for all of them that life hasn’t quite worked out as they’d hoped but there’s also a dogged determination to wring what pleasure they can from it.
The fact that Wade juggles three women and can’t even be bothered to lie might seem shabby in a different character but here it says something about his disengagement. He appears genuinely surprised to learn they’re not as cool about it as he is. Wade keeps everyone at a distance. No one is allowed in his home – for reasons that become clear.
This book makes deft use of all the classic mystery devices but more than that, it’s the story of Wade’s realisation that his life at Happy Acres isn’t over. There’s a whole world in there, albeit one where Rhode Island is next to Nebraska.
Kate Vane writes crime and literary fiction. Her latest novel is Not the End.