September Fair: A Murder-by-Month Mystery
Librarian and small-town reporter Mira James discovers the dead body of the latest Milkfed Mary, Queen of the Dairy, while covering the Minnesota State Fair for the local newspaper. Milkfed Mary is teenaged Ashley Pederson. Mira is covering a carving of Ashley’s head in butter as part of the Queen of the Dairy ceremony when the lights go out in the Dairy building. A few moments later Mira finds Ashley on the floor of a refrigerated booth, her skin a strange shade of red.
Ashley’s body is the fifth Mira has discovered in the last few months. Consequently, Mira has no desire to get involved in another murder investigation. The newspaper editor wants Mira to find out more information regarding Ashley’s murder, but she wants to keep her distance. Mira is more interested in seeking closure to her own drunken and emotionally deficient past. Mira is finally convinced to seek out the cause of the teenager’s death when Ashley’s mother begs her to find the killer.
In her quest to find Ashley's murderer, Mira is joined by Mrs. Berns, her elderly sidekick, and Kennie Rogers, Battle Lake’s mayor. While investigating the murder and covering the fair for Battle Lake’s newspaper, the trio engages in a variety of activities such as rodeo sheep riding, attending a Neil Diamond concert, and setting up a kissing booth to raise money for the town liquor store. The suspects begin to pile up as well. Is the murderer the bankrupt fair organizer? Did the anti-cattle industry activist kill Ashley? Or did a jealous Milkfed Mary contestant bump off Ashley so that she could become the new Queen of the Dairy?
In September Fair, Jess Lourey uses humor to raise questions about the food production industry and beauty pageants. Lourey uses aspects of the mystery to make readers think about the origins of their last meal and its impact on the environment. Lourey is rather scathing in her assessment of the beauty pageant industry and how young women are made to conform to outdated notions of femininity to win a contest. The mystery is fast-paced and kept me guessing about the killer until the very end. Jess Lourey’s previous murder-by-month mysteries feature Mira and the other residents of Battle Lake. I enjoyed reading about the wacky characters from Battle Lake, Minnesota so much that I have put the previous book in the series, August Moon, on hold at the library.