Damsels in Distress

May 14, 2008 - Damsels in Distress (Joan Hess). The Renaissance Faire comes to Farberville, Arkansas and murder comes with it. Local bookseller Claire Malloy is on the case in this novel from the series.

The book begins with Claire's police lieutenant fiancé back east at a training seminar. Before heading home to Farberville, he's scheduled to meet with his ex-wife to tell her in person about his impending remarriage. Claire is not happy about the plan.

Preparations for a Renaissance Faire in town, however, provide some distraction. The Faire is organized by a group that goes by the acronym ARSE. Fittingly enough, everyone in the group is an arse in their own way and none of them is particularly likeable. Despite her distaste and reservations, Claire allows the organizers to stage small events outside her bookstore, which leads to deeper involvement with ARSE and its members.

These members include Edward, a young man who's come to confront his long-lost father. For a time, Claire believes Edward's father might be her dead husband. But, alas, that is not the case. Edward's father turns out to be a member of ARSE, who turns up dead about halfway through the book. Also among the dead are two women, including one who favored Goth makeup and called herself Serengeti. Why that name? We'll never know because she doesn't like it when people ask her that.

As with all of Hess's novels, this one moves along at a decent pace. Claire's quick and sarcastic wit is present, and a couple of characters from Hess's Maggody series put in a cameo appearance at the Renaissance Faire. I thought that was a nice touch.

My main issue is that, as mentioned above, none of the surrounding characters is particularly likeable. I didn't care about any of the three murder victims and I didn't particularly care who killed them. However, I am happy that Claire is going to marry her police lieutenant boyfriend and, in the next book, take a honeymoon in Egypt. My guess is that murder will go along as an uninvited guest.