May Day (Murder-by-Month Series #1)

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Overview

Minneapolitan Mira James has been taking it easy since college graduation--too easy. Due to a dead-end job and a cheating boyfriend, the Twin Cities have lost their charm, and Mira decides to begin a new life in rural Battle Lake. Right away she is offered jobs as an assistant librarian and part-time reporter, and falls into an unexpected romance with a guy who seems to be the perfect man until he turns up dead between the reference stacks her tenth day on the job.

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May Day (Murder-by-Month Series #1)

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Overview

Minneapolitan Mira James has been taking it easy since college graduation--too easy. Due to a dead-end job and a cheating boyfriend, the Twin Cities have lost their charm, and Mira decides to begin a new life in rural Battle Lake. Right away she is offered jobs as an assistant librarian and part-time reporter, and falls into an unexpected romance with a guy who seems to be the perfect man until he turns up dead between the reference stacks her tenth day on the job.

Anxious to learn more about the man who had briefly stolen her heart, Mira delves into the hidden mysteries of Battle Lake, including a old land deed with ancient Ojibwe secrets, an obscure octogenarian crowd with freaky social lives, and a handful of thirtysomething high school buddies who hold bitter, decades-old grudges. Mira soon discovers that unknown dangers are concealed under the polite exterior of this quirky small town, and revenge is a tator-tot hotdish best served cold.

A hip, humorous, and gripping account of small-town murder, this novel is the first in a series of cozies featuring Mira James, an urban woman with rural Minnesota roots.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Jess Lourey's so-so debut, May Day: A Murder by Month Mystery, Mira James of tiny Battle Lake, Minn., quickly falls for winsome Jeff Wilson, then almost falls over his corpse. All the ingredients for a successful smalltown cozy series are here, but a local who speaks with an unconvincing Southern accent and a surfeit of crude sexual throwaway lines may be off-putting to some readers. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A small-town librarian and reporter adds sleuthing to her resume after finding a corpse amid the stacks. Thirty-ish and unlucky in love, Mira James has moved from the Twin Cities to the small Minnesota town of Battle Lake. She snags two decent part-time jobs at the public library and the weekly newspaper, and a new lover to boot. The sex with archaeologist Jeff Wilson is terrific, and the relationship is blossoming when his murder brings it to a screeching halt. Worse, it's Mira who finds the body on the floor of the library. She can't resist probing, especially since her editor at the Recall wants a story about the crime. At first, Mira thinks Jeff's death was related to his archaeological work. The designation of a historical site could derail a local land-development plan. That theory hits a dead end, but Mira finds a clutch of likely suspects in Jeff's past. A pivotal figure in a murky romantic pentagon, he was the high school's star quarterback, involved with homecoming queen Kennie (now Battle Lake's mayor), teammate Gary (chief of police), classmate Karl (prominent banker) and coach Lartel (Mira's boss at the library). Mira digs up a closetful of dirty secrets, including sex parties, cross-dressing and blackmail, on her way to exposing the killer. Lourey's debut has a likable heroine and a surfeit of sass, but the projected series needs to find its mystery footing.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780738708386
  • Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
  • Publication date: 3/1/2006
  • Series: Murder-by-Month Series , #1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 378,107
  • Product dimensions: 5.28 (w) x 7.72 (h) x 0.59 (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

Chapter One 


Tuesday marked my tenth official day alone at the library, but the heady draw of being my own boss had worn off. I didn't even like the smell of the lilac bushes outside the open windows anymore. The old black circle-dial phone was taunting me. I wrestled the urge to call the number to the Battle Lake Motel, where Jeff was staying. He knew we were supposed to meet last night, and he hadn't come. I needed to find a good space with my emotions where I could be cool, not shrill, inviting but not needy, before I called him.

I tried not to dwell on the fact that the only decent man in town had stood me up. Actually, he may have been the only literate, single man in a seventy-mile radius who was attracted to me and attractive. The warm buzz that was still between my legs tried to convince the dull murmur in my head that it was just a misunderstanding. To distract myself from thoughts of Jeff 's laugh, mouth, and hands, I downed a couple aspirin for my potato chip hangover and began the one job I truly enjoyed at the library: putting away the books.

I glanced at the spines of the hardcovers in my hands and strolled over to the Pl-Sca aisle, thinking the only thing I really didn't like so far about the job was picking magazine inserts off the floor. Certainly the reader saw them fall, but without fail, gravity was too intense to allow retrieval except by a trained library staff member. I bet I found three a day. But as I teetered down the carpeted aisle in my friend Sunny's flowered prom heels, I discovered a new thing not to like: there was a guy lying on the tight-weave Berber with his legs lockstep straight, his arms crossed over his chest, and areference book opened on his face. He was wearing a familiar blue-checked shirt, and if he was who I thought he was, I knew him intimately. A sour citrus taste rose at the back of my throat. Alone, the library aisle wasn't strange; alone, the man wasn't strange. Together, they made my heart slam through my knees. I prodded his crossed legs with my ridiculously shod foot and felt no warmth and no give.

My eyes scoured the library in a calm panic, and I was aware of my neck creaking on its hinges. I could smell only books and stillness, tinged with a faint coppery odor. Everything was in order except the probably dead man laid out neatly on the carpeting, wearing the same flannel I had seen him in two days earlier. I wondered chaotically if dead people could lie, if they still got to use verbs after they were gone, and if maybe this was the best excuse ever for missing a date. Then I had a full-body ice wash, five years old all over again, a nightmare pinning me to my bed as I silently mouthed the word "Mom."

Had proximity to me killed him? My mind flashed grainy, film-reel clips of my father pushing me on the swings before his brutal death. I veered to thoughts of another dead body, one I'd stumbled across twenty years ago. It was a newborn kitten squashed on a gravel road, so little that its eyes never had a chance to open. I wanted to bury the kitten in a shoebox, but my seven-year-old brain was too easily distracted to dig a hole that big. I settled for wrapping it in a pink sock, hiding it in the woods, and saying a solemn, loving goodbye. I was never again able to find the spot where I had deposited it. Now it was kitty bones in the dirt, and Jeff was going to be man bones in the dirt, and some waxy part of me realized that I was losing my grip.

I shook my head once, like a dog, and pinched my ear, yanking myself back from crazy. The horror let up a little, and I found myself bizarrely wondering what Jeff 's face looked like now. His body was neatly laid to rest in a grotesque homage to those of us who fall asleep while reading, and the open encyclopedia shielded his face. I noticed it was the twelfth volume, containing all of the noteworthy L words, and then I was surprised to observe my hand pulling the reference book off him.

His face didn't have that slack-mouthed look of the processed dead. Rather, he appeared to be in an irritated sleep, his lips unyeilding, his beautiful straight nose still, and his eyes tightly shut. Except for the clean circle of a hole in the center of his forehead, I would have thought he was napping. I knelt down, careful not to touch his body, and leaned in. The symmetry of the hole surprised me, as did the complete lack of blood around him. It was like someone took a hole punch to a mannequin's head, except for the angry, reddish black contents I could see inside. I was perched inches from his body and could smell his cedarwood bath soap mixed with something sweet-rotten. Solid coldness radiated from him.

I wanted to touch him. I needed to gather him in my arms and shake him awake and kiss the soft spot under his earlobe until he tingled. Then a buzzing fly landed on his body and danced over the cold earth of his face toward the hole in his forehead. My stomach churned, and I turned away. It was from that precise angle that I spotted the small, darker shape in the shadow of the newest Anne Rice book butting out from the bottom shelf a few feet away. At first I thought it was a...(Continues)
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2006

    There's a new mystery author in town!!

    May Day: A Murder by Month Mystery is the first in what appears to be a refreshing new mystery series. It's written by an author who seems to have a way with words, and the ability to tap into a reader's curiosity. A great read!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted November 19, 2005

    Love this new author

    I read an advance copy of this new mystery writer from Minnesota and loved it. She's a blend of Evanovich and Hillerman.Her characters are quirky, the local color is fun, the mystery is engrossing--an all-around good read. I understand she has another mystery in the pipeline--I can't wait.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2005

    Sassy Fun!

    Lourey's debut novel is zany and nonstop hilarity without being silly or unbelievable. The protagonist, Mira James, a disenchanted English graduate student, moves to Battle Lake to housesit for a friend and infiltrates small-town life through her job as an erstwhile columnist for the local paper and a part-time librarian. High jinks ensue after a romantic tryst turned relationship ends tragically. James turns her considerable research and social skills toward solving the crime to achieve both justice and pesronal closure. Lourey's strenght is her trenchant wit, cleverness, and hilarious turns of phrase. She clearly knows the small town life and can turn a witty, cynical, and at time poignant eye to the ins and outs of rural mores, local politics, and small-town gossip to paint a lurid picture of the whimsy of the midwestern burg. Readers will revel in the hard-nosed heroine's cynical take on life and delight in Lourey's way with language. If you're looking for a smarter, more capable, and funnier (on purpose) Stephanie Plum, then this is your book. Fabulous!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2006

    Excellent first book! Read this!

    If the rest of her 'Murder by Month' books are at all like the first, I'll be first in line at the bookstore! Her sharp, witty, cleverly-drawn characters smack of vitality and are a refreshing breeze in a veritable ocean of flaccid literature. Read this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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