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The Staggerford Murders and Nancy Clancy's Nephew

The Staggerford Murders and Nancy Clancy's Nephew

3.5 2
by Jon Hassler

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Filled with his trademark humor and warmth, Jon Hassler’s The Staggerford Murders and The Life and Death of Nancy Clancy’s Nephew offer a welcome return to the town that has captivated readers for years.

In The Staggerford Murders, residents of the Ransford Hotel "solve" the nine- year-old murder of esteemed


Filled with his trademark humor and warmth, Jon Hassler’s The Staggerford Murders and The Life and Death of Nancy Clancy’s Nephew offer a welcome return to the town that has captivated readers for years.

In The Staggerford Murders, residents of the Ransford Hotel "solve" the nine- year-old murder of esteemed Staggerford citizen Neddy Nichols and the disappearance of his widow, Blanche. Hassler’s wry humor is in full force as this wonderful tale unfolds. In the more poignant and bittersweetThe Life and Death of Nancy Clancy’s Nephew, elderly W.D. Nestor finds his loneliness dispelled by his friendship with a young Staggerford boy, but it is a sudden visit to his one hundred-year-old Aunt Nancy that provides the peace he has always been looking for.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hassler, best known as the bard of the northern Minnesota town of Staggerford and its endearingly wacky inhabitants, returns to his home turf in the first of these two novellas. Nine years ago, someone killed Edward "Neddy" Nichols, and his wife, Blanche, disappeared. Now their daughter, Penny Jean Nichols, has written a letter to the local paper asking for help getting to the bottom of the unsolved mystery. Three of Staggerford's citizens-Grover, the desk clerk at the decrepit Ransford Hotel; Dusty, a retired garbageman who lives at the Ransford; and Dusty's nephew Ollie, an itinerant preacher who also resides in the hotel-discuss Neddy's murder at length. Most of the action consists of frantic back-and-forth storytelling, which is amusing but will be appreciated more by longtime readers of the series than newcomers. In the second, unrelated novella, Hassler slows down, telling the story of W.D. Nestor, an elderly, lonely turkey farmer who has endured a long life filled with love for his wife, some small pleasures and much grief and pain. The spare, uncompromising tale will remind readers that Hassler isn't solely defined by smalltown romps, quirky characters and cornball humor. (Dec.) Forecast: Booksellers could recommend Hassler to readers who remember J.F. Powers with fondness, and the Staggerford novels in particular to those who enjoy Garrison Keillor's stories of Lake Wobegon. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Hassler returns to his old stamping grounds of rural Minnesota in two novellas. The first is set in Staggerford, more than familiar to Hassler fans, and concerns two long unsolved cases: a murder and a disappearance. It also features five different narrators, of whom the most significant is Grover, 81-year-old desk clerk at the town's fleabag hotel. Much of the action unfolds in the hotel lobby, so Grover makes a good witness. Nine years before, Neddy Nicholls, a Chamber of Commerce functionary, had been shot dead in front of the movie theater; soon after, his wife Blanche had mysteriously disappeared. Now Blanche's daughter Penny Jean is on her way home from California to unravel the mystery, and Blanche's ex-husband George is looking for Penny Jean. The two come together in the lobby, where long-time resident Dusty, a simple-minded retired garbageman, has just claimed he killed Blanche. The facts of the two murders are established quite fast, in a vaudeville atmosphere that climaxes in the hospital where Dusty, stricken by a heart attack, is first baptized with motor oil by his preacher nephew Ollie, then smothered by George (the heavy). The romp is a bit too frantic, and the folksiness is overdone. The second novella is much more dour, unusual for the upbeat Hassler. It's the story of W.D. Nestor, the title's nephew, at age 72 looking back at his life. Raised on a prairie farm and frequently whipped by his mean-spirited father, W.D. became an angry man, never laughing or crying, and loving only his wife Lucille (though the love remained unspoken). The couple's snowbound wedding night is the one bright spot in W.D.'s memories. Late in life, the turkey farmer becomes friendly with asmall boy; there's pathos here, but then, jarringly, the story skips ahead ten years, to W.D.'s fatal visit to his ancient aunt Nancy. Minor work from Hassler (The Staggerford Flood, 2002, etc.).

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
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Penguin Group
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File size:
371 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Jon Hassler is the author of twelve novels, two short story collections, a volume of novellas, and two works of nonfiction. He is Regent’s Professor Emeritus at St. John’s University in Minnesota.

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Staggerford Murders and Nancy Clancy's Nephew 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
harstan More than 1 year ago
The Staggerford Murders. Almost a decade has passed since someone killed Staggerford, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce employee Neddy Nicholls and his wife Blanche vanished. Neither mystery was resolved. Now their daughter Penny Jean comes from California to uncover what happened to her mother. Her former husband George follows her home. At the Ransford Hotel, several townsfolk discuss her ad in the Staggerford Weekly asking for help into the disappearance of her mom. The upbeat frenetic pace feels like it belongs in A Mad Mad Mad Mad World as not much is taken seriously but at times the tale is difficult to follow. Still, this is a good entry in the Staggerford folklore. --- Nancy Clancy's Nephew. Septuagenarian W.D. Nestor grew up on a prairie farm raised by an abusive father. As an adult W.D. hid his feelings with the only persons he cared about being his spouse Lucille and his two children. As he talks to a psychiatrist giving him the third degree, he reflects back over his miserable life to the one shining star the night he and Lucille wed during a snowstorm. He actually makes friend with a young boy, but finds no peace until a decade later when he visits his century old Aunt Nancy Clancy. Though well written this is not an upbeat tale as typically provided by Jon Hassler; instead the protagonist is a grim soul with little that is positive in his life.--- Both tales are well written, but seem totally opposites in outlook. Ironically, the murder-disappearance mystery is cheerful while the biographical fiction piece is depressing. Although fans of Mr. Hassler will enjoy the two novellas, readers will realize neither is quite on a par with THE STAGGERFORD FLOOD.--- Harriet Klausner