The Mortal Groove (Jane Lawless Series #15)

The Mortal Groove (Jane Lawless Series #15)

by Ellen Hart

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Overview

Ellen Hart was named the 2017 MWA Grand Master, the most distinguished lifetime achievement award offered in the mystery community.

Ellen Hart's newest Lambda Award Finalist The Mortal Groove is a haunting and accomplished tale of dark secrets.

Minneapolis restaurateur and amateur sleuth Jane Lawless is in the middle of ringing in the New Year when the biggest financial backers in Minnesota politics break up the party with a backroom proposition for her father: How'd he like to be the state's next governor?

Flattered, Ray Lawless, a retired attorney, agrees to run, and the latecomer's sprint to the state capital is a huge success until reporters start digging. 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 in Hart's ominous addition to her widely acclaimed mystery series.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312377878
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 11/11/2008
Series: Jane Lawless Series , #15
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

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 fifteen mysteries featuring Jane Lawless, she lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Read an Excerpt


The Mortal Groove

By Hart, Ellen St. Martin's Minotaur
Copyright © 2007
Hart, Ellen
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780312349455

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 asemiautomatic 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.


Continues...



Excerpted from The Mortal Groove by Hart, Ellen Copyright © 2007 by Hart, Ellen. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

Minneapolis restaurateur Jane Lawless is ringing in the New Year when the biggest backers in Minnesota politics break up the party to ask her father if he would like to be governor.
Flattered, Ray Lawless decides to run, and the race is going great until reporters start digging up the dirt on him, his family, and the men running his campaign, whose secrets, involving the decades'-old death of a young woman, have been buried since Vietnam. Mortal Groove, the latest addition to Hart's multi-layered Jane Lawless series, is a haunting tale of dark secrets that is sure to satisfy.


1. In this mystery, Hart explores a theme of violence--how violent experience changes people. Discuss this theme in relation to both Peter Lawless and Randy Turk.

2. Early in the book, Randy talks about his loneliness as a boy and how the desire to connect with other guys his age set him on a path that he might have fled from if he'd understood where it would lead. How was loneliness complicit in Randy's demise?

3. Would you say that Larry Wilton was molded by his time in Vietnam, or do you think he would have been the same kind of man, regardless of his war-time experiences?

4. How do you think what happened to Peter in that travel trailer at the end of the book will change him?

5. Do you believe Peter was right to take Mia, or should he have left her in foster-care and tried another way to bring her home?

6. Was there redemption in this book? For any of the characters?

7. How do you think Peter's decision to take Mia will effect his future with his wife?

8. Jane is appalled by what Peter does to Larry Wilton. Do you think she should forgive him? Forget? Turn Peter into the police? How will this alter their relationship?

9. Peter is a damaged soul, looking for a way to be a hero. Larry Wilton is considered a hero by his friends because he saved their lives many times over. What is a true hero? Do we use that term too easily today?

10. In this story, some cracks begin to appear in Jane's relationship with Kenzie. Do you think they are a good match?

11. Many of the characters in this book are keeping secrets. Can you name some of them? Is not telling something you know the same as a lie?

12. In chapter sixteen Randy sweats his way through a difficult conversation with his daughter, Katie. "Randy was having a hard time looking at her. In a flash, it came to him. He was afraid of her, of her judgement. He felt suddenly old -- an old man sensing how impossible it was to reduce the truth of his life to something simple enough to satisfy a child." Have you ever felt that way?

13. Hart touches on race tensions during the Vietnam era. Did her portrayal seem realistic?

14. Hart's books have been called "Cozies with a Brain." Where would you place this novel within the context of mystery fiction? Cozy/traditional? Hard-boiled? Soft-boiled?

Recipe

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.

Customer Reviews

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Mortal Groove (Jane Lawless Series #15) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 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
Citizenjoyce on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Where has Ellen Hart been all my life? I finished The Mortal Groove and was very pleasantly surprised to find a new author to feel at home with. This Jane Lawless mystery combines some of the themes I've been reading about lately: workaholic restaurateurs who are so ambitious they leave little time for romantic relationships (in spite of their conscious longing for them), the value placed on ambition over human sensitivity, the effects on a mother of surrendering a child for adoption, lost children, politics, the life changing effects of impersonal violence, the solace of friendship, the love of family. I very much liked the fact that it's not only women who are the victim of violence. Obviously this is a book written by a woman. I like Ellen Hart's characters very much, except perhaps the wacky sidekick, Cordelia. Usually I love the lovable sidekick as I am supposed to, but Cordelia is too stereotypically narcissistic for my tastes. I thought this was the last in the Jane Lawless series, but, seeing that it's not, I've ordered a couple of the follow ups. I need to find out if Jane's dad becomes governor of Minnesota.
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.