THE STAGGERFORD MURDERS and THE LIFE AND DEATH OF NANCY CLANCY'S NEPHEW
Hassler, best known as the bard of the northern Minnesota town of Staggerford and its endearingly wacky inhabitants, returns to his home turf in the first of these two novellas. Nine years ago, someone killed Edward "Neddy" Nichols, and his wife, Blanche, disappeared. Now their daughter, Penny Jean Nichols, has written a letter to the local paper asking for help getting to the bottom of the unsolved mystery. Three of Staggerford's citizens—Grover, the desk clerk at the decrepit Ransford Hotel; Dusty, a retired garbageman who lives at the Ransford; and Dusty's nephew Ollie, an itinerant preacher who also resides in the hotel—discuss Neddy's murder at length. Most of the action consists of frantic back-and-forth storytelling, which is amusing but will be appreciated more by longtime readers of the series than newcomers. In the second, unrelated novella, Hassler slows down, telling the story of W.D. Nestor, an elderly, lonely turkey farmer who has endured a long life filled with love for his wife, some small pleasures and much grief and pain. The spare, uncompromising tale will remind readers that Hassler isn't solely defined by smalltown romps, quirky characters and cornball humor. (Dec.)
Forecast: Booksellers could recommend Hassler to readers who remember J.F. Powers with fondness, and the Staggerford novels in particular to those who enjoy Garrison Keillor's stories of Lake Wobegon.
Release date: 11/01/2004