4 out of 4 stars
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At the invitation of a master storyteller named Louie Stein, two couples attend the annual three-day storytelling festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Martha Todd, a lawyer for Triple-L Associates, accompanies her husband, Warren “Mitch” Mitchell. The latter works for the St. Paul Daily Dispatch newspaper and usually gets assignments by the side of a news photographer, Alan “Al” Jeffrey. Al and Carol, his wife, join Mitch and Martha on their well-deserved vacation. The entire festival is a delightful experience, so they anxiously wait for Louie’s final performance. During the after-party hosted by Louie in his motorhome the previous night, he had promised them a story they would never forget. Mitch thinks this is his chance of writing a catchy article about Louie and the festival.
Unfortunately, something unexpected happens: Louie does not show up for his scheduled performance. The vacationing quartet soon discovers that yellow plastic police tape surrounds the storyteller’s motorhome. Influenced by Al, who keeps quoting from Shakespeare because of a class he is auditing at the university, Mitch concludes: “Something was rotten in the state of Tennessee, and apparently it did involve murder most foul.” (p.22) Who could have savagely killed an 82-year-old master storyteller? Does the killer hold a grudge against storytellers? Is this a personal vendetta, or are more victims likely to follow Louie? Mitch and Al work together to solve the puzzle and find the truth about the storyteller’s tragic death.
Fans of murder thrillers will certainly enjoy Louie’s Last Story by Glenn Ickler. In addition to being fast-paced and suspenseful, it has all the distinctive features of a classic whodunit. I loved guessing the murderer’s identity, adding up clues, making assumptions, and putting all the pieces of the puzzle together again. Along these lines, Glenn Ickler’s novel was a treat. Although Mitch and Al are not detectives or police officers, they make a great investigative team. Due to the first-person perspective, the book makes us secret witnesses to their ingenious deductive game. Seconded by Al, Mitch proves that anything gets solved with lots of hard work and tenacity.
What I like most about this novel is the fact that it revolves around the art of storytelling. The featured storytellers are all picturesque characters described in vivid colors and reminiscent of medieval bards. Louie Stein is the most talented in this vibrant community. His collection of stories displays a wide variety, ranging from boyhood pranks to historical moments. His passion for storytelling goes to such extremes that he accepts getting a divorce rather than giving up the festival circuit. In the name of his art, he does not hesitate to tell stories that might offend or embarrass his fellow storytellers. Like any great artist, Louie is equally adulated and envied. In the end, I could not help but admire his incredible versatility and complex personality.
The author’s dry sense of humor is another delightful aspect of the book. The witty verbal exchanges between Mitch and Al add extra flavor to many scenes. Moreover, some of the characters have humorous nicknames that perfectly reflect their attitude and behavior. For example, Theresa Mudd, alias Thumbelina, tells stories in rhymes and has a penchant for poetic ghost tales. If Fiona/Tumbleweed gets her nickname from her wild hair, Henry James Taylor/Hank the Tank has a booming voice with an intimidating effect on other people. Last but not least, Mitch’s constant self-irony put a smile on my face even when he was facing some life-threatening situations.
Considering that there were fewer than ten errors, I could fully engage in reading the book. With only words of praise and nothing to complain about, I wholeheartedly give Louie’s Last Story 4 out of 4 stars. I recommend it to readers of murder mysteries who are also fond of storytelling and history. Despite its topic, the novel does not include graphic descriptions of violence. There are no sex scenes, but some of the characters make sexist remarks and use profane words. However, the author immediately sanctions them and downplays any side effects through irony and self-irony. Louie’s Last Story belongs to the Mitch and Al mystery series, so I can hardly wait to get my hands on the other books featuring the two friends.
Louie's Last Story
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