Charlie Suisman

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BY Charlie Suisman • POSTED ON Oct. 13, 2021

There are strange goings-on in the little Hudson River town of Arnold Falls, where many of the denizens are also a bit odd.

In Suisman’s second novel about Arnold Falls, the first characters readers meet are Jeebie Walker and Will Shaffer, a gay couple who exude good will and curiosity. The audience views the story mostly through Jeebie’s eyes. Readers are quickly introduced to some other players, such as the curmudgeonly Judge Harschly (the author loves puns); Marvin the Hobo, hired as the town’s resident hermit; Bridget Roberts; Mayor Jenny and her adopted Haitian son, Wilky; Fayette de la Nouille; the ancient but still active Aunt Doozy; and a raft of others. And a plot—make that the main plot—slowly emerges. Objects around town have disappeared. This includes Bridget’s Martha Washington mobcap, the illuminated Schlitz sign from the Elks Club, Judge Harschly’s gavel, a vintage Princess phone, and the statue of the town’s “founder,” Hezekiah Hesper. There seems to be no rhyme or reason for these heists; most of the items have only sentimental value, if that. There is also a crew in town filming a TV series called Merryvale(that’s where Fayette comes in), a search for the rules of gumball, a slightly downsized version of baseball, and a demonstration of kulning,the ancient Swedish technique for calling the cows home. Oh, and in a desperate bid for fame—and money—the town agrees to change its name to Emollimax for six months. But the thief is eventually outed, an embezzlement scheme at the local hospital is unearthed and the culprits arrested, and serenity returns to Emollimax or, rather, Arnold Falls (which, by the way, does not have any waterfalls).

Suisman is clearly enjoying himself in this very leisurely paced and sprawling novel. Technically, the entertaining tale is probably a mystery, but instead of the standard fare of violence and dread, the best the author can come up with is low-level anxiety and befuddlement. No one even suffers a scratch. What will also strike readers is all the dialogue. Suisman’s characters just love to talk, whether it is gossip or ruminations on some perplexing mystery over a glass of wine or a stein of Clagger, the local brew. These are very laid-back people, but they’re also ecologically and socially conscious, whether it be looking out for friends—how is Wilky adjusting to his new life and his new mother? Just fine, thank you. Or searching for endangered species, like the northern cricket frog. Jeebie even turns a farm into an animal sanctuary called Fridstöck. And the author loves the odd fact. Readers will tie themselves to Wikipedia to verify things like lightning splitter architecture, Pepper’s Ghost, and a witch’s staircase. (Kulningis a real thing, incidentally.) The writing is clever, and readers get vivid character details, whether it be the cranky but good-hearted Judge Harschly or the sensitive Jeebie, who falls half in love with a cow and is always a bit on edge over his relatively new relationship with Will (he needn’t be). In this sequel, Suisman has again staked out Arnold Falls and a delightful cast. It is a safe bet that readers will be returning soon to the colorful town.

A witty and engaging read for those who savor quirky mysteries and likable characters.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-578-99328-7

Page count: 270pp

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2021



BY Charlie Suisman • POSTED ON Feb. 12, 2020

A debut novel about a small town and its fear of change.

Arnold Falls, a small town in upstate New York, is home to an array of residents, including celebrity chef Annie O’Dell, whose concerns are limited to the ratings of her cooking show and the state of her prune clafoutis; Bridget Roberts, the town pickpocket with a penchant for drinking Clagger, Arnold Falls’ infamous moonshine; and Aunt Doozy, the daughter of a brothel madam who’s plagued by uncontrollable flatulence. At the center of them of all is Jeebie Walker, a gay man in his early 40s who helps his friend Jenny Jagoda run for mayor against incumbent candidate Rufus Meierhoffer. Rufus is an incompetent politician who’s funded by a corrupt real estate developer who wants to replace Arnold Falls’ historic Dutch House with a rubber factory. Early on in the novel, Jeebie notes, “Incorrigibility is part of the Arnold Falls DNA,” and this assertion creates the story’s central conflict: Can Arnold Falls, and its residents, change for the better? Suisman’s prose is often incredibly funny, and his characters are charming in their varying degrees of ridiculousness while still maintaining a realistic, human sensibility. Scenes often feel like self-contained vignettes, highlighting the relationships between the various characters. This format mostly pays off, although some of the more emotional moments fall flat, due to a lack of exploration. Despite this, the community within Arnold Falls is as endearing as it is flawed. Readers will enjoy the ride, for example, when Jeebie debates the merits of Diana Ross in the local record store or Rufus unintentionally donates bomb-making materials to a city in Romania. As one character states, “The whole thing seems nuts but that’s Arnold Falls for you. You just go with it.”

An often delightful and engaging tale that will make readers want to move to the author’s heartwarming fictional town.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-79233-215-9

Page count: 274pp

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2020

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