ONE FINE MESS by Mark  Petersen


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A former stripper kills her abusive husband in this debut novel.

Jules Nichols’ violent, drug-dealing husband, Eddie, has beaten her one too many times. With the help of her boyfriend, Wesley Torrance, she lures Eddie into the woods and riddles his body with a full clip from her Taurus Judge .45 revolver. Now she and Wesley can move on with their lives and Jules can have the babies she has always wanted. Except nothing goes as planned. Wesley has forgotten to get rid of the gun; Burlington, Vermont, Detective Denzel Burpee suspects Jules and begins nosing around. In addition, Wesley accrues a massive gambling debt with Cadillac Frank Cannizaro, who threatens to kill him if he doesn’t pay up by Thanksgiving, and Jules’ kid sister, Paige (a Navy dropout and drug addict), has been calling from San Diego, ominously accusing Jules of Eddie’s murder. Wesley hires a hit man to take out Cadillac Frank but doesn’t inform Jules; Jules doesn’t tell Wesley about her sister’s phone calls or the fact that the state police have found a single leaf with one drop of unidentified blood at the crime scene. Eventually, the couple find themselves, separately and together, in fights for their lives, including a chase up, down, and around Mount Mansfield, not to mention a major shootout at Jules’ house. Petersen’s novel, a cross between a breathless adventure and a slapstick farce, is action-driven from start to finish, with two-dimensional characters running the show. Jules is a can-do female lead, forever cleaning up after Wesley’s mistakes. Wesley is a simpering mess, torn between sheer terror and his desire to prove to Jules that he can protect her. After being grazed by a bullet, he assesses his condition: “God, he’d been shot! He was full of holes! He could sense all sorts of injuries: brutal entry wounds, fractured bones. Only his iron will kept him focused.” As the story twists and turns through one escapade after another, the dialogue unfortunately becomes laced with a barrage of expletives, finally rendering it meaningless and tiresome.

Despite a few flaws, a quirky, sometimes-funny, fast-paced murder tale.

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher
Program: Kirkus Indie
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