A year ago, I moved from Minneapolis to Battle Lake, Minnesota, population 787 and dropping. Specifically, I’d developed a distasteful habit of discovering one corpse a month since arriving here in May. A lesser woman would think herself cursed. I’d been raised by a codependent mother eligible for sainthood and an alcoholic father who’d killed himself and the occupants of an oncoming car in a drunk driving accident while I was a sophomore in high school, and so I had a different perspective on life. I was, of all things, an optimist, though one who was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
The inaugural dead body appeared about the time I landed my first job in town. Both the job and the corpse were located at the Battle Lake Public Library. When the head librarian disappeared shortly after the murder, I’d been promoted to fill in for him until someone qualified could be found. A budget cut plus the fact that I kept “losing” applications kept that possibility at bay. The most recent carcass had almost been mine. Three weeks ago, right around Christmas, a serial killer, nicknamed the Candy Cane Killer by the press, had hunted me like an animal, stalking close enough to leave scars that I’d carry for the rest of my life, inside and out. I hadn’t slept a full night since, though I refused to reveal that when anyone asked how I was. Admitting it out loud would make it too real. Besides, to whom could I confess that I’d started sleeping under my bed instead of on it—that every evening before I drifted off for an hour or two, my nose inches from the box springs, I wondered if I’d gone too far to ever feel safe again? And so I kept my mental state to myself, I worked, I laughed, I played, and I watched the shadows.
On a positive note, I’d discovered more about myself since moving here than I could have imagined. My drinking was mostly in check, I had begun to repair my relationship with my mom and make peace with the memory of my dad, I was pursuing my PI license based on the belief that the Universe was telling me it was that or become a mortician, and I’d even fallen in love with a guy who walked upright. His name was Johnny Leeson, and he was a horticulturalist and the lead singer for a local band.
Tall, with strong hands, a great smile, and wavy blonde hair, if he was food he’d be chocolate, and if he was drink, he’d be a rare red wine. I still didn’t entirely trust that somebody as amazing as him was all mine, but I was willing to work on it. We’d been dating exclusively, more or less, for a few months. We hadn’t put any official name to the relationship, but three weeks ago, we’d finally consummated our union. It was everything I’d imagined, except for the location: my childhood bedroom. He’d been busy since then starting the spring seedlings at the local nursery and playing gigs all over the Midwest with The Thumbs. Subsequently, we hadn’t gotten to repeat the glory we’d first discovered under the Jimmy Page and Leif Garrett posters my mom still kept up in my room, though we did have a date planned for tomorrow night.
“You’re thinking about Johnny now, aren’t you?” Mrs. Berns said, interrupting my thoughts for the second time. “You better not take up poker. You’re easier to read then a comic strip. With large print.”
I realized I’d been smiling as I walked through the fairy snow, and that made me beam even wider. “He’s pretty cute, isn’t he?”
“You could do worse.”
Like all native Minnesotans, I’d been born knowing that you should never allow yourself to be too happy, but if you accidentally did, you should definitely not tell anyone. It was akin to calling Bad Luck on the phone and inviting him over for coffee. Still, I couldn’t resist this single, tentative, hopeful response. “You know, I’ve got a good feeling about this month. January’s going to be the end of my one-body-a-month streak. I feel it in my bones.”
I was wrong. Soooo wrong. Skating-over-a-frozen-corpse-wrong. My name is Mira James. Welcome to my life.
January Thaw hits shelves on January 8, 2014
When Mira James moved to a small town in Minnesota, she thought she left muggings behind her . . . until she’s jumped by two men in an alley. A third man saves her, but for all his trouble he’s found frozen under an ice-covered lake.
Meanwhile, Mira’s job as a private eye in training has her tracking down the family that built the Prospect House, home of the town’s new museum. Discovering a letter that dates back to 1865, Mira finds herself embroiled in a cold case of treachery and a hot case of drug trafficking that puts the whole town in danger.
“…wry…delightfully eccentric. Readers of small-town mysteries will be charmed.” –Publisher’s Weekly
GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by noon EST on January 15, and you will be entered for a chance to win a copy of January Thaw. Three (3) lucky winners will be chosen at random. Unless specified, U.S. entries only.
Meet the author
Jess Lourey is the author of the Lefty-nominated Murder-by-Month mysteries set in Battle Lake, Minnesota, and featuring amateur sleuth, Mira James. In multiple starred reviews, Booklist says of the series, “”It’s not easy to make people laugh while they’re on the edge of their seats, but Lourey pulls it off! Get started on this Lefty-nominated mystery series immediately!” Jess has been teaching writing and sociology at the college level since 1998.
When not raising her wonderful kids, teaching, or writing, you can find her gardening, traveling, and navigating the niceties and meanities of small-town life. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and The Loft, and serves on the national board of Mystery Writers of America.
Visit Jess at www.jesslourey.com