Marshall native pens compelling mystery
WORTHINGTON -- Recently I finished reading the best mystery of any I've discovered in many years, "Everybody Knew Pete" by Marian Mathews Hersrud, a Marshall native.
Early in the book, the reader knows who was murdered but not the reason for the killing or "who done it." Hersrud is a real storyteller and keeps us all guessing while her intriguing plot unfolds.
As the first chapter opens, the murder of Pete Clampton, a lobsterman in Sowatna, a coastal town in Maine, has gone unsolved for 10 years. A brief prologue, set 10 years earlier in 1998, explains what heroine Jenny, a high school girl and psychic, had seen on a rainy evening: a man carrying something that appeared from a distance to be the body of a man, his feet dragging on the sidewalk. The next day, Pete's body was discovered on his boat.
Jenny has never forgotten that night and suffers from nightmares. Now a teacher, she returns to Sowatna for summer vacation to stay with her aunt and to dispel her fears by finding Pete's murderer.
Hero and newspaper reporter, Charlie, moves to Sowatna, and he, too, has a keen interest in Clapton's unsolved murder because he wants to complete his play, "Tangled Trap Lines," based upon the murder. He and Jenny, after early misunderstandings and clashes of opinion, join forces to investigate the murder, but the situation becomes more dangerous for Jenny than anticipated. Both he and Jenny question the town's inhabitants for different reasons. "Did you know Pete Clampton?" "Oh, everybody knew Pete" was the usual answer.
Much of the novel centers on the play's production in the newly renovated American Legion building. Diane, the president of the arts council says, "The town's a natural for summer theater with its many visitors."
A professional director is hired, and he chooses Charlie's play to be presented in September. Many of the book's characters become involved in the production as it moves from tryouts to opening night, murder suspects included. Although the murderer is a logical and appropriate choice, I never guessed the right person.
The author's characters are so real and well-defined that it's easy to differentiate one from another. Often I find the many murder suspects almost impossible to keep straight, but there's no problem here. Conversations are especially well-written and sound natural without being aimless and meandering.
After attending summer theater at Iowa's Lake Okoboji for many seasons, the rehearsing and staging of Charlie's play was particularly fascinating to me. As represented here, theater business is suspenseful, including a serious accident on stage that relates to the murder, and the action moves along briskly to hold the reader's attention.
Marian Hersrud also lived in Minneapolis and in Sturgis, S.D., before she and her husband became Naples, Fla., residents. She cannot remember a time when she wasn't writing articles and short stories even as a child. Her first two novels were inspired by the popular motorcycle rally each summer in Sturgis, and this current novel by a vacation trip to Maine. Her settings in all three books ring true.
"Everybody Knew Pete" is available through Amazon.com, the Naples Barnes & Noble and Authorhouse.com. The book has been reviewed in the book section of the Naples Daily News. I am attending a Naples book club that is discussing this mystery novel for its March meeting.