- Post by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana
Johnny Earl was once a great high school athlete—perhaps the greatest in the storied history of Steubenville High School, home of the Big Red. But in 8 short years his star has risen and spectacularly fallen—after a brief stint as a Pittsburgh Pirate (the highlight of which was a triple hit off Nolan Ryan and which ended when he blew out his knee), his second career as a cocaine dealer ended with a spell in the federal penitentiary.
As A Welcome Murder begins, Johnny has been released from prison and has returned to his hometown of Steubenville. He plans to stay just long enough to retrieve the drug money he hid before his incarceration, then head out for parts unknown– but just moments before he’s ready to hit the road he’s picked up for questioning in the murder of Rayce Daubner, the FBI informant who set him up on drug charges in the first place. While he’s spending the night in jail, his former cellmate shows up—the white supremacist who wants Johnny’s drug money to help fund the Aryan nation he’s founded somewhere in the wilds of Idaho or Nevada (he’s not quite sure of the location). He already has a pair of wives waiting for Johnny so he can do his part to further the cause.
It’ falls to Sheriff Francis Roberson to determine who killed Rayce Daubner, but the investigation becomes complicated when Daubner’s house is torched and potential clues to his killer may have been incinerated. Local lady-about-town Dena Marie Concheck Androski Xenakis—who has been married to two of the local male residents and bedded many more (including her high school sweetheart Johnny Earl, murder victim Rayce Daubner, AND Sheriff Roberson)—claims her husband Matthew Vincent “Smoochie” Xenakis is the killer, but Fran has a hard time believing the well-known coward has ever handled a gun (much less pulled the trigger). Still, suspicion briefly falls on Smoochie and the resulting elevation of his reputation sets off a transformation that is stunning for the reader to witness. (Anyone who’s ever dreamed of adopting a new, more exciting persona will really enjoy this part of the story.)
A Welcome Murder is told in the alternating viewpoints of Johhny, Sheriff Fran, the Sheriff’s wife Alison, Dena Marie, and Smoochie, and what a cast of characters! Both the pacing and the dialogue are razor-sharp—the pages almost seemed to turn themselves, and I’m glad I started this on a weekend so I didn’t have to call in sick to work to finish. The novel has that rare mix of dark depravity and utter hilarity; there’s sex and violence, but plenty of dry humor to lighten the tale. The plot is well-crafted and brought to a supremely satisfying conclusion with plenty of delightful twists. The reader will alternately gasp and laugh out loud—this one is not to be missed!
A Welcome Murder comes out Tuesday, April 4th – that’s tomorrow! Pre-order now, or look for it on our shelves starting tomorrow and via bookpeople.com.