June Bug (Murder-by-Month Series #2)

( 79 )


Mira James never imagined life after college would be a doublewide trailer outside Battle Lake, Minnesota. Then again, maybe the North Country has more to offer than mosquitoes and broasted chicken.

Local legend claims that a diamond necklace was lost nearly a century ago in Whiskey Lake, not far from the present day Shangri-La resort. Mira, a part-time reporter, goes fishing for the story behind the legend, but her dives turn up more than missing jewelry. Buoyed by frozen Nut ...

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June Bug (Murder-by-Month Series #2)

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Mira James never imagined life after college would be a doublewide trailer outside Battle Lake, Minnesota. Then again, maybe the North Country has more to offer than mosquitoes and broasted chicken.

Local legend claims that a diamond necklace was lost nearly a century ago in Whiskey Lake, not far from the present day Shangri-La resort. Mira, a part-time reporter, goes fishing for the story behind the legend, but her dives turn up more than missing jewelry. Buoyed by frozen Nut Goodies and a diminutive circus performer, the exhilarating search leads to a new mystery to unravel, and puts her face to face with the surfacing of a menacing foe from her past.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780738709123
  • Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
  • Publication date: 3/1/2007
  • Series: Murder-by-Month Series, #2
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 631,510
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Jess Lourey is the author of the Lefty-nominated Murder-by-Month mysteries set in Battle Lake, Minn. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, The Loft, and a founding faculty member of the Mystery Writers of America’s MWA University. Lourey resides in St. Cloud, Minn., where she is a professor of writing and sociology. For more information, visit her online at JessLourey.com.

Watch Jess on Showcase Minnesota (08/26/09).

Watch Jess on Twin Cities Live (09/02/09).

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Read an Excerpt

o n e

In my dream, I walked days and nights through the woods to reach the clear stream. A tower built to look like a silo loomed at the water's edge, and I knew I was home. The creek gurgled, the moon shone, and the frog sounds of night sang to me. I laid down to rest and was swept with serenity. There was warm breath on the back of my neck and a comforting hand on my shoulder. I felt protected, covered in the safety of night and cozy warmth. But when the hand crept purposefully lower and I smelled digesting Schlitz on the tepid breath, I knew I wasn't in paradise anymore. My body lurched awake, and I was standing before I even remembered I had been lying down. The vertigo caught up with me, and I clutched at a bedpost as I blinked rapidly.

"What!" I yelled.

"Sunny?" slurred the voice in my bed.

I shook my head and some REM-spun cobwebs fell out. I wasn't in my apartment in Minneapolis, where I had lived for nearly ten years–a little loft on the West Bank where I'd shared a bathroom with a sexy, blue-eyed horn player in his sixties and a compulsively clean law student. I had moved out of there in March, leaving my cheating boyfriend and my career as a waitress and grad student in the University of Minnesota English program, and had been house-sitting for my friend Sunny ever since. I was living in her little doublewide on the outskirts of Battle Lake, Minnesota, and there was a strange man in her bed. My bed.

I flicked on the cat-shaped lamp and angled the lit ears toward the intruder still sprawled on top of the handmade Amish quilt I had lucked on in the Fergus Falls Salvation Army. I yanked it from under him and covered up my body, clad in only my summer pajamas–an oversized, threadbare white tank top. I was usually comfortable with my five-foot-six, 140-pound frame, but I wasn't a flasher. I pulled my disheveled hair away from my face and stared down my pointy nose at the relaxed drunk.

"Sunny isn't here." I was hoping to conjure a verbal vanishing potion, but my heart was still pummeling my rib cage, and my voice shook. Sunny's dog, Luna, now my foster dog, barked from outside the open window."Who are you?"


I squinted. Happy Hands knew me, and his voice scratched an itch in the back of my memory. "Jason?"

"Yeah. You're not Sunny." He sounded bored.

Yup, it was Jason. I had met him through my moody friend C.C. ten years earlier, when my hair was dyed black, I smoked clove cigarettes, and dark, flowing clothes were my signature. Thank God for evolution.

Back then, C.C. and I were both awed freshman trying to act like we weren't scared by the vastness of the U of M and its forty-thousand-plus students. We had ended up as dorm mates through the luck of the draw, two small-town girls, and hit it off from the word go. She brought me to her hometown of Battle Lake on Thanksgiving break of our first year. A few months later, I introduced her to the guy who gave her genital warts, so I suppose, looking back, we're even.

During that first introduction to Battle Lake, I met Sunny, one of C.C.'s close friends. I also met Jason Blunt, a high school classmate of theirs. I knew him from the parties C.C. and I would road-trip to during college breaks, but he and I never really connected. He was the guy always trying to get in everyone's pants, the one who tried to marry anyone not dumb enough to sleep with him.

He was tall, over six feet, with dark hair and dark eyes, cute in a way that would be hot if he were an actor but that ended up just average since he was a perpetually horny fiber-optic-cable layer. In small-town tradition, Sunny and Jason had slept together in high school, as had most of their friends. Musical beds. I suppose the process evolved out of long winters and bad TV reception.

I hadn't seen Jason in over five years. Word was he had to relocate to Texas to find a woman to marry him since every woman in Minnesota had turned him down. Apparently he hadn't gotten the news that Sunny had moved to Alaska for the summer, and he was making his area horn call.

"What're you doing back in Battle Lake?" I asked. I felt light-headed and ill. It occurred to me that maybe Otter Tail County had some sort of magnetic pull on people who entered it. That's the only way to explain why I was still here, running the library and writing for the local newspaper, after the last month I had lived through. It's a long story, but the short version is that I had just started falling for a guy when I found him shot through the head in my library a couple days later.

When I had first met Jeff, I was impressed with his maturity and character. After he was shot and left there for me to find, I learned again the harsh truth that how I feel about someone has no effect on whether they get to live or die. I thought I had learned that one well enough when my dad died in a car accident the summer of my junior year in high school, but in my experience, life keeps dragging you back to the same table until you pick the right food. Anyhow, the whole Jeff Wilson ordeal taught me the mental benefits of tying up loose ends. I also turned twenty-nine last month, but that milestone got lost in the shuffle.

Jason sat up and rubbed a red scrape on his shoulder, his back to me. He had put on about forty pounds since I last saw him, and I couldn't help but notice that he had stripped down to his faded black boxers. Confident guy. "I'm in town to visit the 'rents. Got anything to eat?"

My mouth opened in a yell, but he was out of bed and in the kitchen before I could answer. Apparently, if he wasn't getting laid, he was getting fed. I squelched the urge to hand him a mirror. I had just seen a show on chimpanzee behavior on the Nature Channel and was pretty sure the shiny glass would keep him busy for hours. No, better to get rid of him. As I grabbed for my robe, I hissed at the part of me that was thinking like a schoolgirl, worried that he would get mad at me if I was rude to him when I knew I should be kicking the trespassing bastard out on his ass. Media conditioning is a bitch.

I looked around my bedroom for a pair of shorts to pull on under the robe. The wrought-iron bed was stripped down to its sheets, and I grabbed the quilt off the floor and tossed it on top. I discovered the cutoffs I had been wearing earlier today underneath and tugged them on.

Now that I was no longer terrified by an intruder in my bed, I could not ignore a black memory that was squirming its way into my consciousness. I didn't want to be overwhelmed by the remembering, but I couldn't sit on it any longer, not now that we were bathed in light and I could hear him making himself comfortable in my kitchen.

It was born several years ago, that black memory, the summer before C.C. and I graduated from college. The night had opened with promise–a bonfire by the lake, a keg of Leinenkugel's, and a CD player hooked up to someone's car lighter. I remember feeling pretty that night, and excited to be with friends.

Jason was there, and it wasn't long before he hit on me. His hair was longer then, shiny black and curling around his shoulders. He leaned in to tell me a joke, and his wide grin was flirtatious. He really was cute. I was flattered by the male attention but not drunk enough to latch on to the token male slut so early in the evening. When I didn't bite, he moved on to the next chick, and I forgot about him. He hadn't forgotten about me.

When I walked into the woods to pee, he followed me quietly. He waited until my pants were down to push me back, onto the ground, and cover my mouth with his fist. His hand smelled musty, like composting leaves.

I heard Sunny call my name at the same moment the zip of Jason's pants cut through his fumbled grunting. He jumped off me when Sunny appeared and then staggered back to the party. She was weaving and giggling like we were playing hide-and-go-seek and didn't stop him when he shoved past her. Though she helped clean me off, she didn't have much sympathy for my situation. She wanted to keep the good times rolling and said he was just drunk and had misinterpreted my interest. She seemed mildly offended that I would even consider that a good friend of hers could be a potential rapist. I started to wonder if maybe I had overreacted.

I saw Sunny laughing with Jason later that night as I sat on the fringes of the party and tried to act normal, chain-smoking so I'd have an excuse to keep my hand in front of my swollen mouth. I still don't know what was more of a betrayal–Jason's aggression or Sunny's lack of support for me.

In the way of small-town German descendants, however, we never talked about that bad night again. Life went on, and when I ran into Jason, he was distant and vaguely unpleasant. Everyone else treated him like a lovable goofball, though I did notice that some people made a point to steer clear of him. Myself, I got to a place where I either wondered whether I had imagined the whole thing or thought that maybe he had been too drunk to remember his attack on me.

Despite the passage of time and my own self-doubt, it was still impossible to feel comfortable with him in my house, but I didn't want to work myself into a panic attack, either. I rationalized that there were plenty of people who liked Jason, and he did have a good sense of humor. I stopped just sort of making excuses for his past behavior and strode purposefully into the kitchen.

The doublewide was set up so that I had to walk past the front door and through the living room to get to the open kitchen, a Formica-topped counter creating the only separation between the two rooms. The living room was decorated in Early Cabin, including a secondhand rust-colored couch, cinder-block and wood-plank bookshelves, mismatched lamps, and a 1984 RCA color TV sporting tinfoil-hugged rabbit ears. The floor was carpeted in forest green, except for the pale green spots where the sun hit it regularly.

The kitchen was nicer. It had come with all new appliances, including a dishwasher, when Sunny purchased it. A U-shaped countertop housing the stove and the sinks took up one half of the room. The other half was dominated by a glass-topped dinner table with four wicker chairs around it and also held some freestanding cupboards and a ficus plant. I had kept the kitchen pretty much as Sunny had left it, other than scrubbing it top to bottom, putting my pictures up on the fridge, and alphabetizing the spice rack.

"So, I bet your parents are happy to see you." With my thumbs, I was inscribing infinity symbols on the nails of my middle fingers. I shoved my hands into the pockets of my robe to hide the nervous habit.

"Haven't been there yet." He grabbed a pot from the particle-board cupboards and stuck his hand in the food cabinet all in one smooth move. "You're gonna need more Potato Buds."

I sucked in a deep mouthful of air in a trapped sort of way and sat down on a stool next to the island, girding myself for a confrontation. I knew from experience that it would be easier to get rid of him full than kick him out hungry, so I promised myself I would show him the door as soon as he was done eating. This was my house, and I wasn't going to let him intimidate me in it. At least not for longer than half an hour. I slowed my heartbeat, made a mental note of the objects within reaching distance that I could use as weapons if need be–the knife rack was inches away in the crook of the counter, and I could've touched the nearest lamp with my hand right then if I'd wanted to–and turned to look into the night.

The June evening was unusually warm, following the precedent set by May, and was soaked in the smell of fresh-cut grass and rich, black dirt. If I listened below the sounds of boiling water and clat¬tering pans, I could hear mosquitoes whining. Whiskey Lake's waves lapped against the rim of its sheltered arm six hundred yards from my front door, and the oaks and elms stood still as stone, their fresh leaves hanging motionless and a little too green from the exhilaration of spring. I cocked my head. If there was no wind, there should be no waves. I stood and walked to the open door and peered through the screen. Sure enough, I caught the low hum of a motorboat on the far side of this offshoot of the lake. I looked at the clock hung by the door. It was 2:34 a.m.

"What's a boat doing out at this time of night, and with no lights on?" I whispered, my fingertips on the cool screen.

I jumped as Jason answered from directly behind my left shoulder. "Probably looking for the diamond. This lake'll be crawling by tomorrow."

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 79 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 79 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2014

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2013

    good book

    Enjoyed this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2012

    Good book

    The main character is so easy to relate to and the book is well written and a fun read.

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  • Posted March 17, 2012

    LOTS of lusty remarks, which I think we could have done without,

    LOTS of lusty remarks, which I think we could have done without, but no actual explicit sex. Mira is house-sitting for a friend, in the backwoods of MN. She stumbles upon a decades-old mystery, which as part-time newspaper reporter, she just HAS to figure out. Back in the 20's a lot a jewelry disappeared from the, then, Shangri-la resort. As Mira stumbles around, getting banged up, by June Bugs and abusive acquaintances, she gets closer & closer to the "treasure". As an aside, she has the "hots" for one of the garden center men, which causes her to be a blubbering, bumbling idiot.

    This is a fun book, but as I said, it could do without a lot of the sexual references.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2011

    Too much "filler" :(

    The author rambles on giving too much detail to the point of making it hard to finish the book. A long 180 pages of TMI on everything, dragging out the story. Would have been just as good, actually even better, without all the descriptive filler. If her books ramble on like this one, I will put the next one down and not suffer through the "fluff" to finish. Glad it was free.

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  • Posted August 7, 2011


    I loved it. Cant wan to get started on the next one!!

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  • Posted July 14, 2011

    Fun and funny

    Just a fun and funny book. I'll be looking for more by this author for fun and light reading.

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  • Posted July 9, 2011

    Loved it.......

    I caught myself laughing out loud at this book.....

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  • Posted July 8, 2011

    Read it

    Good plot with enertaining end.

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  • Posted July 6, 2011

    Didn't like the main character much

    I'm sure it is just me but I was really disturbed by the beginning of the book and Mira's completely unrealistic response to finding a man with her in her bed in the middle of the night. A man who wasn't there when she went to bed in the first place. I just didn't find the character's response credible. After that I just couldn't find much to like about the main character. She seemed very one-dimensional to me.

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  • Posted July 3, 2011

    fun mystery

    Its a mystery that starts out she is dreaming and realizes someone is in bed with her.Mira is house sitting for her friend Sunny who Jason thought would welcome him.
    Mira works part time for small town newspaper. She is also the librain. She does not trust Jason.
    Thier is a big city newspaper that is sponsering a hunt in the lake for fake diamond in a black box and winner gets 5,000 dollars. Thier is also brought up how in the 1920 a women went into the lake with diamond on and came out of the water without it. It was never found also other jewerly from resort was stolen.
    Mira decides she could use the money so she rents some diving equipment and check out the lake before the contests starts. Diving by herself she freaks out when she tangles with robe on dead body.
    It has some twists and turns. its a good escape easy read. Keeps your interests, has some laughs along the way.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2011

    Good Read

    This book is set in the North Country in Minnesota. I Love the North Country in Minnesota. My husband go fishing there often. I could see the lakes and the bugs, and the cabins so very clearly as I was reading this book. It is a murder mystery, and an adventure. I enjoyed this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2011

    Loved it

    Very nice story line. I can't wait to read more by this author

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  • Posted June 24, 2011

    Excellent! I have found a new author to follow!

    Well wriiten. Strong, entertaining characters. Good storyline. Now I must go back and start at the beginning with May.

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  • Posted June 20, 2011

    Well done!

    Not the way I thought the book would go but holy moley I liked it! I will look forward to more titles by this author

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  • Posted June 10, 2011



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  • Posted June 8, 2011

    Okay, this is a cute and fun book

    But I just cringe at the singular use of "y'all", even if the character using the term isn't really from the South.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    JUNE BUG will take you into the life and mystery of small town living. It is very cleverly written and will make you laugh outloud.

    This is the second murder-by-month mystery in a series -- I read it first and found it so funny with a good storyline too. Characters come alive with their creative conversations and you will never look at a Nut Goodie bar again, if you can find one, without thinking of this book. I found the setting in MN to be just like any small town in the USA but you need the lakes and small library to make this story ring true. I am looking forward to continuing this series and following along with the characters I've already met as they unravel more mysteries in MN.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2007

    A Good One for Your TBR Pile

    Jess Lourey populates June Bug with sharply etched characters so vivid you¿d recognize them on the street. Her protagonist Mira James is a gem of a heroine: she¿s a magnet for stray flying objects, she¿s addicted to Nut Goodies, and her wry observations on life abound with atypical honesty. When Mira learns there¿s a big diamond at the bottom of a local lake¿and a fake diamond offered as a contest prize¿she straps on diving gear and gamely goes forth to explore. But the clear lake water hides murky intents. She tangles with an unusual underwater hazard¿and nearly loses her life. It¿s no surprise that Mira¿s not the only person interested in the loot. Larceny and licentiousness abound, and Mira¿s put herself squarely in harm¿s way. Lourey¿s Mira is a clever girl, down on her luck, but plucky and resourceful. She goes through life fully engaged. Her observations both tickle and resonate. For example, ¿Actually I always wondered who had the energy to write on bathroom walls. Now I knew. It was people on bad dates.¿ Say ¿Amen,¿ Sister. The Minnesota Department of Tourism either has a bounty on Lourey¿s head or added her to their payroll. She writes, ¿Minnesota is an incredible place to live, but we natives learn at a very young age that for this privilege we must pay a tithe, usually in blood¿A summer day spent in the shallow, still part of the lake results in a chocolate-chip-shaped leech nesting between our peas-in-a-pod toes.¿ Yuck! Lourey¿s clever pen captures such local gastronomic specialties as field-drinking, five-meat hotdishes, Tiger Pops, tuna surprise, Hamm¿s sky-blue waters, and barbecued spiced bananas. Mira moans that even the desserts feature cream of mushroom soup. Clearly, this book shouldn¿t be shelved with a Zagat¿s Guide. But June Bug does deserve a spot on your ¿to be read¿ pile. Lourey delights and dazzles, making us eager to see what¿s on tap for July.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2007

    A reviewer

    Thank you, Jess Lourey! All of you ladies starved for another great chick-lit series, get out your pocketbooks! One has arrived and how! Jess Lourey, author of the new Murder-by-Month Series starring Mira James is a juicy, light-hearted, smart, witty and a bit saucy set of books that will leave you begging for more! Stephanie Plum is off in a closet somewhere 'hopefully with Ranger' and Kinsey Milhone is in absentia. But never fear, Mira will take you where you want to go! These books are terrific. I simply cannot say enough. The writing is better than either of the aforementioned, the setting ¿ mostly ¿ is Battle Lake, a rural lake town in Minnesota and the characters are just wacky and sinister enough to drive the plots. This series is the next smash hit, so get in on it now and don't miss May Day, Knee High by the 4h of July, which hits the bookshelves in September and in March, August Moon will be available.

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