Lourey's lively fifth murder-by-month mystery (after 2008's August Moon) finds Mira James, assistant librarian and part-time reporter for the Battle Lake Recall, covering the beauty pageant to elect Milkfed Mary, Queen of the Dairy, at the Minnesota State Fair. Unfortunately, “drop dead gorgeous” Ashley Pederson, a native of Battle Lake, Minn., turns up poisoned to death in the refrigerated room where, as winner of the contest, she was having her head sculpted in butter. Mira, in her effort to solve Ashley's murder, uncovers smalltown jealousies, secret love affairs, embezzlement and a big dairy concern engaged in dubious practices. The author does a good job of presenting the fairground activities, even if some of them, like sheep riding (billed as “mutton busting”), border on the absurd. Cozy fans who aren't sticklers for credibility will be entertained. (Sept.)
Dairy cows and a dead beauty queen on exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair. The 54th Milkfed Mary, Queen of the Dairy, is having her likeness sculpted in butter when the lights go out and the tourists panic. Two minutes later, the lights come back on, but Milkfed Mary doesn't. She's been fatally poisoned with cyanide. Already on hand to cover the fair for the Battle Lake Weekly, Mira James (August Moon, 2008, etc.) snoops around the fairgrounds to find out who wanted the teen dead. Her busybody antics are both abetted and thwarted by rambunctious 84-year-old Mrs. Berns and Battle Lake mayor Kennie Rogers. In between sampling fried nut-goodies-on-a-stick, swooning over Neil Diamond in the fair amphitheater and e-mailing her latest fella, Johnny Leeson, Mira cultivates several suspects: the president of the State Fair Association, the official Milkfed Mary chaperone, the marketing director of Bovine Productivity Management and a vegan protester of animal cruelty. Embezzlement, growth-hormone experimentation and the competitiveness endemic to all the great American beauty pageants will come into play before the fairgrounds are safe once again for suicidally diet-busting behavior. So-so plotting, but it's hard to resist the saucy octogenarian and all that fried butter.