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The Mortal Groove
     

The Mortal Groove

4.5 4
by Ellen Hart
 

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Minneapolis restaurateur and amateur sleuth Jane Lawless is in the middle of ringing in the New Year the best way she knows how—with her family, friends, and some excellent champagne—when the biggest financial backers in Minnesota politics break up the party with a little backroom proposition for her father: How'd he like to be the state's next governor

Overview

Minneapolis restaurateur and amateur sleuth Jane Lawless is in the middle of ringing in the New Year the best way she knows how—with her family, friends, and some excellent champagne—when the biggest financial backers in Minnesota politics break up the party with a little backroom proposition for her father: How'd he like to be the state's next governor?

Flattered, Ray Lawless, a retired defense attorney, agrees to run, and the latecomer's sprint to the state capital is going great until reporters and opponents start digging up the kind of dirt that is more valuable than gold out on the campaign trail. He and his family are fair game, but worse than that, so are the men running his campaign. Their secrets, involving the mysterious death of a young woman, have been buried since the summer they all came home from Vietnam. Unfortunately for Jane and her father, those secrets won't stay that way for long.

The Mortal Groove, the newest addition to Lambda and Minnesota Book Award--winning author Ellen Hart's multilayered Jane Lawless series, is a haunting tale of dark secrets that is sure to satisfy.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429950831
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
12/10/2007
Series:
Jane Lawless Series , #15
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
265,774
File size:
955 KB

Read an Excerpt


Prologue
Three young men in a northern Iowa field. They could be college kids home for the summer or farmhands taking a break on a hot August afternoon, but they aren’t. All three are outwardly good boys. They love their mothers. They don’t swear in front of children. They know how to behave appropriately. But one, though he still has the face of sweet youth, is a time bomb—a bomb that has gone off once already, and threatens to do so again.
Within the last four months, all of these boys, now men, have come home from a tour in Vietnam. One is standing, smoking a joint; the other two sit with their backs against the trunk of an oak. All are wearing battered boots, army field pants, and T-shirts. The one standing, Larry Wilton, is watching a crow perched at the top of the tree. The two men on the ground pass a fifth of rum between them.
“I am so totally stoked,” says the one called Larry. “The jury acquitted him. We’re all in the clear.”
Randy, the blond curly haired kid, the one who invited his two best buddies up to visit him on the vast, flat, Iowa prairie because he doesn’t feel comfortable around his old high school friends anymore, shakes his head. “We’ll never be in the clear.”
“Don’t be such a pessimist,” says Larry. “Your brother’s a free man and so are we. I think that calls for some fireworks.” He leans over, reaches into his duffel bag, and comes out with a semiautomatic pistol, a new purchase. He tells anyone who’s interested that he needs it because he just don’t feel right if he ain’t got no firepower. After a year in hell, a gun is as much a part of his body as his lungs. He fires several rounds into the air, then begins to dance his rendition of an Irish jig. He looks ridiculous and stoned, which he is.
Randy stares at him, takes another hit off the bottle, then hands it to Delavon. Delavon is a black man from Detroit. The biggest human being Randy had ever seen—before Vietnam. Randy believes that his life will forever be defined by two acronyms—B.N. and A.N. Before Nam and After Nam.
Larry lands on his knees in the dirt in front of Randy, grinning like a gargoyle. “Man, I love this life,” he says, taking a deep breath. “I purely do.”
“Nothin’ pure about us,” says Delavon.
“You guys fry me. We took care of business, right?”
With his eyes half lowered, Randy considers Larry’s hair. Each man’s hair is still short, not quite army issue, but Larry has been out the longest, so his has grown the most. Randy tries to decide what color it is. He comes to the conclusion that it has no color. It’s anticolor. Like dust.
“That cunt deserved to die,” says Larry.
Randy erupts at him, arm cocked, hand balled into a fist. He wants to annihilate him for saying that.
Delavon just watches from his position by the tree. He wishes he had a cigarette. When Larry and Randy have both rolled on their backs, grunting and sweating like hogs in a pen, Delavon, who fancies himself a preacher of sorts, offers his take on the matter.
“We gotta stop fighting like little kids, you understand me? We gotta become the brothers we always say we are. Like, maybe we do some serious voodoo shit. Cut our fingers and blend the blood in a cup. Or butcher ourselves a snake and swear an oath over it in a graveyard. ’Cause brothers, hear me well. If one of us ever talks, we be dead men.” 
Copyright © 2007 by Ellen Hart. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

ELLEN HART, "a top novelist in the cultishly popular gay mystery genre" (Entertainment Weekly), is the author of fourteen previous mysteries featuring Jane Lawless. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


ELLEN HART, “a top novelist in the cultishly popular gay mystery genre” (Entertainment Weekly), is also a Lambda and Minnesota Book Award winner. The author of more than twenty mysteries featuring Jane Lawless, she lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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Mortal Groove (Jane Lawless Series #15) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dandy, just dandy. I know this author quite well and I am fond of her. Some of you who read this will be aware that she and I tour together frequently as part of the Minnesota Crime Wave. This is a terrific novel which may disturb some of Hart¿s long-standing fans. It¿s a darker, more disturbing novel than she¿s penned before, reacting, I suspect, to the state of the world today. But this novel is no polemic . Mortal Groove, with roots in the Viet Nam conflict, examines once again some of the enduring aspects of all her novels, the complexity of family relations. More than thirty years ago a terrible murder occurred in a small Iowa town. That crime, never solved, may have involved three recently returned veterans, from Viet Nam. Fast forward to the present time and a surprise visit to Jane Lawless¿s father, Ray Lawless by political operatives. Although it¿s late in the political season, a medical emergency has sent an urgent call to the liberal attorney to run for governor of Minnesota, replacing an experienced politician. On this platform rests the continuation of the novel, because some of the veterans are now becoming involved in the Lawless campaign. And thus is prickly and sometimes thoughtless Jane Lawless drawn ever deeper into murky family matters. At the same time, her beloved brother, Peter, abruptly sets out on a personal quest which he believes will solve his marital difficulties. This sub-plot, a true domestic, plays well against the grittier political campaign and war background. But doomed individuals and doomed relationships coil around Jane and her companions. As always, the irrepressible and somewhat insane acting Cordelia Thorn is present to lighten the mood whenever it get too dark. The novel demonstrates Hart¿s mastery of her genre and brings important social issues into bright focus. Unlike some novels which veer into the polemic, Hart is careful to subsume the political potential of these issues in order to maintain the forward drive and develops in the reader an almost irresistible compulsion to turn the next page. This is an excellent and thoughtful novel that deserves a wide audience.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Minnesota, Ray Lawless is considering a run for governor. His family, especially his daughter lesbian restaurateur Jane Lawless encourages him. As she and the rest of the relatives actively get involved, Ray realizes his chances of winning are good.------------ However, the media begins sniffing into the past of the Lawless brood and his key staffers. Reporter Melanie Gunderson especially looks at a cold case homicide that has ties to Ray¿s prime workers. Shockingly someone viciously assaults Melanie. Knowing the journalist and concerned for the victim and that the incident and the decades old murder will derail her dad¿s chances, Jane investigates. Her efforts lead to Iowa and serving in Vietnam.------------ THE MORTAL GROOVE is an interesting political whodunit that asks the question can someone who never served in the military claim the mantle of patriotism as so many chicken hawks do. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that an unknown thug batters Melanie and never slows down until the final confrontation. Although having Jane¿s significant other and her appear more often together especially on the campaign trail would have been the perfect sweetener, Ellen Hart provides a strong mystery with a deep message that no one asks about one¿s sexual preference in the foxholes.---------------- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
In Ellen Hart¿s latest Jane Lawless mystery secrets from the Vietnam War combine with family secrets in the present to create a suspenseful novel that skillfully weaves several storylines into one entertaining novel. On New Year¿s Eve, restaurateur Jane Lawless is busy managing her long distance relationship with her girlfriend while comforting her best friend Cordelia Thorn after her flighty and narcissistic sister (who is even more self-centered than Cordelia) reclaimed her daughter Hattie and left a hole in Cordelia¿s life. The small family party is interrupted by a group of Jane¿s father¿s friends, all wanting a meeting with the former defense attorney. Their goal to convince Ray Lawless to run for governor of Minnesota. His surprise is soon overwhelmed by their belief in his ability to do good, but none of them are prepared for the digging into the past that commences with the campaign. Nothing is sacred, from Jane¿s sexuality to, more disconcerting, a secret that Ray¿s backers have hidden and brought back with them from the violent and often immoral Vietnam War. Meanwhile, Cordelia continues to hunt for her niece through a private investigator and Jane¿s brother discovers that his own wife has had her own shameful secret that could either destroy their marriage or be the key to keeping them together. An attack on Cordelia¿s ex - and current - girlfriend, a journalist who was meeting a source, brings Jane and Cordelia into the dark world of politics and the tragedies that did not end with the end of the war. For all of the numerous plots that wind through The Mortal Groove, Hart skillfully keeps the reader engaged without losing focus or interrupting the pace of the novel. The shady secrets behind the election are definitely timely considering that this is an election year, but Hart avoids the usual clichés and brings a brutal violence that leaves Jane¿s family damaged but hopeful. Cordelia and Jane are less central to the novel than previous entries in this series, but when they are present Cordelia¿s flamboyant humor and Jane¿s wit make the wait worthwhile. This is a series that continues to stay surprisingly strong and fresh while allowing the characters to grow and evolve. This is another successful outing by Hart.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dandy, just dandy. I know this author quite well and I am fond of her. Some of you who read this will be aware that she and I tour together frequently as part of the Minnesota Crime Wave. This is a terrific novel which may disturb some of Hart¿s long-standing fans. It¿s a darker, more disturbing novel than she¿s penned before, reacting, I suspect, to the state of the world today. But this novel is no polemic . Mortal Groove, with roots in the Viet Nam conflict, examines once again some of the enduring aspects of all her novels, the complexity of family relations. More than thirty years ago a terrible murder occurred in a small Iowa town. That crime, never solved, may have involved three recently returned veterans, from Viet Nam. Fast forward to the present time and a surprise visit to Jane Lawless¿s father, Ray Lawless by political operatives. Although it¿s late in the political season, a medical emergency has sent an urgent call to the liberal attorney to run for governor of Minnesota, replacing an experienced politician. On this platform rests the continuation of the novel, because some of the veterans are now becoming involved in the Lawless campaign. And thus is prickly and sometimes thoughtless Jane Lawless drawn ever deeper into murky family matters. At the same time, her beloved brother, Peter, abruptly sets out on a personal quest which he believes will solve his marital difficulties. This sub-plot, a true domestic, plays well against the grittier political campaign and war background. But doomed individuals and doomed relationships coil around Jane and her companions. As always, the irrepressible and somewhat insane acting Cordelia Thorn is present to lighten the mood whenever it get too dark. The novel demonstrates Hart¿s mastery of her genre and brings important social issues into bright focus. Unlike some novels which veer into the polemic, Hart is careful to subsume the political potential of these issues in order to maintain the forward drive and develops in the reader an almost irresistible compulsion to turn the next page. This is an excellent and thoughtful novel that deserves a wide audience.