cover image The Maggody Militia

The Maggody Militia

Joan Hess. Dutton Books, $21.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-525-94236-8

When a small town of eccentrics (Maggody, Ark., pop. 755) meets the right-wing militia, strange things are bound to happen. And in this offbeat adventure (the 10th in the series, following Miracles in Maggody), town sheriff Ariel (""Arly"") Hanks seems the only calm and rational creature afoot. Arly, divorced and returned home from New York City, has had a relatively calm month issuing speeding tickets, watching for teenage miscreants and keeping an eye on her mother Ruby Bee, the garrulous and relentlessly nosy bar and motel owner (who contributes four recipes to this adventure). But a recently arrived right-wing survivalist group, led by brusque ""General"" Sterling Pitts, has embarked on maneuvers on property recently purchased by newcomer Kayleen Smeltner. Arly is worried about stray bulletsDafter all, it is deer hunting season. She also worries about the local bootlegger and town hermitDboth easily excited. But she is not prepared for the murder of one of the militia men, and is further disturbed when it appears he might have been an FBI informant. And does the militia have any connection to a recent spate of burglaries? Everyone gets into the act, including a hugely pregnant teenager, a lecherous preacher and two irritable ostriches. Arly, a strong-willed and straightforward woman, turns this wacky chaos into an agreeable and engrossing lark. (Apr.) FYI: Joan Hess, who also writes the Claire Malloy mystery series, is current president of the American Crime Writers League.