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Cozy Mystery Challenge: Book Number Five

Like a Hole in the Head by Jen Banbury was the fifth book I read for the Cozy Mystery Challenge. Some reviewers likened the author's work to that of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. I think Banbury's style is her own, with comparison to no one in the mystery genre. She caught my attention immediately when I randomly picked her book at the library.

"I woke up with a hangover and roof tar on my feet and a vague recollection of pacing around up there half the night. . . ." 

That's her first line. Uh-huh.

Jill is the name of the main character. She lives in Los Angeles and works at a used bookstore. For the past few years, she has been running away from the memories of her mother's death. Every so often the author cleverly lets some of those memories enter Jill's mind, and we, the readers, learn that her mom was painfully dying from a terminal disease. Her mom may have asked Jill to help put an end to the misery. With that bit of background, it is understandable why Jill doesn't give straight or truthful answers to questions. It's a good thing when she has to deal with the despicable bad guys, who most people would never have pegged as the bad guys. Isn't that often the case.

What's the plot already? you ask.

One morning, a dwarf comes into the bookstore to sell a pristine copy of a signed Jack London book. Jill buys it for herself. At the end of the day, the guy, now looking all beat up, returns and asks for the book back, willing to give Jill more money. No dice.  Jill has already sold the book. Enter, the dwarf's partner, a huge brute of a bully, who threatens Jill by beating up his partner in front of her. Gulp.  Jill's adventure begins. We, readers, are taken on a treacherous and onerous ride through Los Angeles, to and from Las Vegas, and back to Los Angeles. Most of the ruthless characters turn out to be well-known (fictional, of course) actors. Who are these actors? Why is the book so important? Will Jill ever stop beating herself up emotionally and mentally? You'll need to read the story to find out for yourself.

After reading several pages of the novel, I didn't think it qualified as a cozy mystery. It is definitely edgier than most cozy mysteries, even Sara Paretsky's. But, I wasn't going to stop reading Like a Hole in the Head. I had to know what paces the author would put Jill through and how it would end. I've read so many mysteries, I can usually guess the endings. Banbury's was unguessable.

Is Like a Hole in the Head a cozy mystery? It is, according to Library Thing.  That's good enough for me. 


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